Elements of Fitness: What Does It Take To Be Truly "Fit"?
When athletes think of the word “fitness”, most think of exercise or diet. While both are absolutely components of fitness, there is much more to becoming a physically fit person. In other words, think of fitness as an umbrella term; it encompasses more than just one element. There are varying accounts of what qualifies as an element or how many there are, but for our purposes, we’re going to talk about the 6 that we try to regularly incorporate into our programming at RF. Additionally, please note these are elements of physical fitness and physical skill. For the purposes of this article, we are only discussing fitness in relation to physical skill and ability.
The six elements of physical fitness addressed in this article includes:
Balance is the ability to remain upright and stable during different body movements. Balance can be static, meaning the body is not moving during a balance activity, or dynamic, meaning the body is moving during a balance activity. Balance is a critical component of not just physical fitness, but everyday life. Having good balance allows athletes to complete basic tasks, such as walking or going up stairs, all the way up to challenging, sport specific movements. If the athlete is not regularly training balance, it could jeopardize their ability to perform full range of motion movements safely and without injury.
Coordination is the ability to use the senses in conjunction with the athlete’s body parts in order to accomplish movements smoothly and efficiently. For example, when doing an everyday task like writing or typing, most people use their sense of touch and sight to coordinate finger and hand movements to produce words on the paper or screen. Coordination is also needed for other daily tasks, such as hygiene, walking, driving, and working. Training coordination in the gym by performing movements like bird dogs, dead bugs, or figure-8 swings will help with coordination needed in life outside the gym.
Power is the rate at which the athlete produces maximum force. In other words, think about power as a reflection of the body’s energy production. However, how power is expressed differs depending on the movement at hand. Power can be expressed in terms of mechanical power, such as an athlete using their energy output to move the pedals on a bicycle. Power can also be explosive when the athlete is channeling energy into force at a fast rate, such as during med ball slams or sprints. Muscles are made up of different types of muscle fibers that activate depending on the type of activity being done. Training for power utilizes these different types of muscle fibers during movement, which in turn can lead to stronger muscles, more resilient connective tissue, better force production, and increased hormone production, including hormones that perform muscle repair.
Agility helps the body to maintain proper alignment and posture during movement. Agility training encourages the athlete’s body to maintain correct body placement during movement inside and outside of the gym. Subsequently, agility also increases flexibility and control. Additionally, training agility also helps improve recovery time, coordination, cognitive function and balance. Agility is useful outside of the gym anytime there is a need to maintain posture during movement; going up stairs, jogging, hiking, or walking in new areas where you may not know the sidewalk.
Speed may seem like the odd man out in terms of physical fitness because if an athlete is not training for something sport specific, why would it matter how quickly they are performing the movement? Speed is an increase in muscle power and strength. As such, similar to power production, speed activates different muscle fibers. This leads to benefits such as increased flexibility and range of motion, bilateral muscle balance, and increased endurance levels because oxygen circulation throughout the body improves. Speed also helps improve the mind-body connection by promoting muscle memory that eventually becomes habit. Being able to move the body quickly can be helpful in various situations both inside and outside of the gym. Tempo lifts, AirDyne/rower sprints, and agility ladder drills are just a few examples of speed work we do at RF.
Reaction time is the ability to respond to stimuli in a timely manner; essentially, it’s the way athletes detect, react to, and respond to stimulus. A good reaction time allows athletes to be agile and efficient when responding to stimulus. This stimulus can be a car that cuts you off in traffic or a resistance band that your coach tossed to you. We include movements that require a quick reaction time to train and improve the ability to respond. For example, alternating single arm kettlebell swings force the athlete to have a quick reaction time when switching the bell from hand to hand. A poor reaction time means the bell will not be caught in time and will fall on the ground, while a good reaction time means the bell with be caught with the other hand and the movement can continue.
Overall, being physically fit does not necessarily mean we are only training for strength or to lose weight. In order to live a physically healthy life, it’s important to train all elements of fitness so athletes can complete daily tasks both inside and outside of the gym. By consistently training all elements of fitness, athletes can feel confident performing their daily activities safely and efficiently for as long as possible. Our goal here at RF is always to keep our athletes strong and healthy for life.