Fitness incorporates five different components. Most of us only focus on one or two, and that’s a mistake, especially as we get older. Officially (the correct answer on the personal fitness trainer certification test) these components are cardiovascular strength, muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility and body composition. But I don’t think that’s a very effective way to think about them.
In my mind, I think about four different ways to train my body so that I feel and look my best. My four are strength, endurance, flexibility and balance. Strength to me means muscle strength, which is developed by weight-bearing exercises that force your muscles to work harder than you think they want to. You can feel and see a difference when your muscles are stronger, not just the big muscles of the body, but also the smaller stabilizing muscles.
Endurance can refer to muscles but I think of it as cardiovascular fitness. How long can I keep going before I have to give up? It’s really a combination of both. A basic cardio workout covers this.
Those two elements are easy to remember. I don’t feel like I’ve worked out at all if I haven’t raised my heart rate for an extended period (as when running) or worked my muscles hard (doing lunges, for example, or working with weights).
It’s the second two that often get ignored. But they are vital, especially as we grow older. We lose flexibility and balance as a natural part of aging, but the loss doesn’t have to be total. With practice both can be maintained and even increased. I’ll be discussing this more in the weeks ahead. The important thing is to think in terms of the different things your body needs. And that will keep your workouts more interesting as well.
Remember, excuses are the enemy.