Attributes of fitness
by Paul Mealling on 25 July, 2018 in Training and performance
Fitness is not a singular thing. It comprises of different attributes. The mix of these attributes is what you then think of as your fitness. Understanding this, and what these attributes are, can help you take your rehab, everyday fitness, or sports performance to the next level. And it can help you prevent a lot of problems and limitations down the line.
I've noticed that most people tend to think of their fitness in terms of their sport or activity and not in terms of attributes. In my experience this limits people. It leads to people lacking in attributes that would make their training capacity increase, their injury rates reduce, performance increase, and general health and fitness longevity improve.
Now, let me introduce you to the attributes. There are different ways of categorising these but the way I've put it below is my preferred way.
The list of fitness attributes:
- Muscular strength and power
- Muscular endurance
- Aerobic capacity and power
- Aerobic endurance
- Anaerobic capacity and power
- Anaerobic endurance
- Agility and speed of movement
These attributes can be written about at length to explain the physiology behind each, which activities demand which, how to assess them and how to train them in isolation and combination.
All of that is very interesting, but for now, let's keep things simple. The main point of this article is to make you aware of these attributes and to encourage you to think more in terms of attributes. Perhaps you'll ask yourself which are most relevant to you and, importantly, which you may have been neglecting. If you are an athlete are you aware of how you have been training your attributes specifically?
Many of these attributes are just as relevant to the average person as they are to an to an athlete, especially if we wish to keep active as we age. Think for example of balance, flexibility, co-ordination, strength.
To train and improve an attribute you need to place a demand on it - a demand great enough to set the body adapting. For example, to increase your strength you can lift weights towards the limits of your ability to lift. To increase your muscular endurance you need to work your muscles towards the limits of duration (with an appropriate resistance). Your aerobic capacity is trained by working near the limits of your aerobic capacity. (This is your maximal ability to use oxygen and is well trained through interval training.) Your anaerobic capacity is trained through challenging your maximal anaerobic output. (Repetition training can be used - in running it could be 400m reps* for example). Flexibility requires going towards the end of ranges of movement. Balance requires challenging the balance. And so forth.
There is obviously a lot more complexity to all this. It is a science and an art. And to make matters worse there is overlap between the attributes when it comes to physiology and training. But still, it is a very helpful model.
A very important point is that you mustn't overtrain. You only need to do enough for the body to adapt as a result of your exercise.
In my observation most athletes do not optimally target attributes in their training. Perhaps they train with generic training sessions or they don't apply training principles correctly to isolate the attribute they were after. In most cases they are also missing focus on one attribute or another.
Interestingly, most sports require a mix of attributes, even where there appears to be a bias towards one. For example middle distance running is often thought to require "aerobic endurance" but it really requires each of the top 6 in the list to be very well developed for best performance, while the other attributes are very important for keeping the runner's body 'fit to train'.
In everyday life many people 'keep fit' by doing a regular similar activity, but if it doesn't challenge their balance or flexibility this is how people become unstable and inflexible over time. If you don't challenge your leg strength your leg strength will probably suffer..
With an understanding of the attributes and how to train them you can become more conscious of how your fitness is made up and what you can do to keep it or improve it.
You can greatly increase your overall fitness, function and performance by simply starting to take care of attributes that you had been ignoring.
You really can become very fit when you know the possibilities and take action.
If you would like personal guidance on applying this to your unique situation be in touch and we can arrange a session!
*Warning! Interval training is often confused or lumped together with repetition training. They target different attributes and there are key differences between them in the intensity of effort and the rest breaks required in order to work at the required effort in the next bout.