An Unexpected Encounter – Conditioning for Physical Fitness (Part 1)

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We are always in constant pursuit of fitness and health, at least for Jian Yang and I who have always been trying new workouts to break the monotony of our training routine. However, despite going through a multitude of rigorous training routines and programmes since our Canoeing days, we have never actually got to understand some of the basics of physical fitness.

Last semester in school, I was doing some interval training at NTU when I noticed a man dressed in sports attire carrying a stack of cones and placing them on the running track and field.

“Are you using the track?” I asked as I passed him on my third round, to which he replied with a smile, “Don’t worry, they won’t start so soon.”

And just as I had expected, some students emerged later from the new Sports and Recreation Centre (SRC) building and began their warm-ups for some workout, which turned out to be RUNNING. Curious to find out more, I walked up to the man-in-charge and came to know about this module offered by NIE – SS9001, Conditioning for Physical Fitness. Fast-forward one semester later, I found myself sitting in for my very first lesson in NTU that required me to be dressed in my running attire – best decision ever.

Much to my surprise, the man behind this course, Mr. Steven Quek (his profile), happened to be the current Head Coach of the Cross-country team at my alma mater and has many other accolades under his belt. Cool beans~

Starting with the Basics

In this 4-part series, I will be covering the key learning points that I have captured from this course, and hopefully, give you a better understanding on the theoretical and practical aspects in improving your health and physical fitness. More emphasis will be placed on the health-related components of physical fitness, which is catered to everyone in general.

#1 PLAN, COMMIT, REPEAT

When it comes to exercise and fitness in general, starting with a PLAN in mind is probably the best way to aid you in your fitness journey. If you are going to spend time working out, might as well MAKE IT COUNT!

Planning a workout is not complicated. You may choose from (but should not be limited to) the following types of exercises based on your preference and convenience:

Aerobic

Purpose: To increase cardiorespiratory endurance and weight loss

  • Walking
  • Jogging / Running
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Stair-climbing
  • Skipping rope

Anaerobic

Purpose: To strengthen and tone the muscles and increase bone strength

  • Strength training
  • Resistance training

Both require the use of either of the following:

  • Body weight*
  • Free Weights
  • Weight machines

(*highly recommended, if you have no access to the gym)

Flexibility

Purpose: To increase the range of motion of the muscle and joint movements, and to prevent injuries  

  • Stretching – e.g. Yoga, Pilates

Just like how a story has an “introduction, “body, and “conclusion”, a workout should have a “warm-up”, “exercise”, and “cool-down”. It is common for many to neglect the warm-up and cool-down segments, which are important for safety and recovery purposes:

  • Warm-up: This helps to prepare the body for the main exercise, which demands much more energy, by increasing the circulation of the blood to the working muscle, as well as increase the heart rate and body temperature.
  • Cool-down: This helps in gradual reduction of the workout intensity, heart rate, and lactic acid levels. It also prevents fainting by ensuring sufficient blood circulation and supply of oxygen to the brain.

You can follow this template below to plan your training, which includes a complete example of a training plan for a total time of 45 minutes. Having a training plan can be useful in helping you to COMMIT to the workout. Once you have a proper training plan to work with, you can just REPEAT it, which saves you the time from having to think of another workout each week.

Training Plan Table.jpg#2  BALANCED WORKOUT

Very often we tend to focus on what’s visible while standing in front of the mirror – abs, chest, and maybe for some, the butt. On the other hand, our other muscle groups are neglected, such as the back, sides or legs. How would you know? Well, if you are experiencing back pains, this could be one of the reasons. When planning your weekly workouts, try to ALTERNATE between a variety of exercises that target DIFFERENT MUSCLE GROUPS in your body.

A good example of a balanced workout would be:
Example Alternate(REPEAT)
  

#3 DEBUNKING THE RUNNING MYTH

“Will running cause knee injury?” | “Running will spoil my knees!”

Both of these are common questions and statements from those who are wary of engaging in running or are just making excuses to avoid the activity at all. Running itself will NOT cause knee injuries, but you must have the discipline to go and do some STRETCHING to loosen up the muscles. As you engage in frequent running, your quadriceps grow stronger, and without ample stretching, the muscle becomes shorter and stiffer, which might be harmful to the knee joint.

Now that you have a better idea of the basics of physical fitness, I encourage you to take the time to PLAN, COMMIT and REPEAT – as simple as that. Good luck with your road to fitness, and I would love to hear about your experiences too! Comments are welcomed below. 😊

 


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