Introduction to Fitness

Wrong. A lot of people seem to be confused as to what the word "Fitness" actually means.  I read an article the other day about a dietitian claiming that exercise makes you fat because you eat more.  Common sense tells us instead, that we eat more because our body requires more calories to work out then to watch TV all day.  We USE these calories, instead of them turning into fat.  People don't use common sense with fitness.  They want the newest, best, thing out on the market.  There just HAS to be something out there that will solve all your fitness problems over night.  The problem?  There isn't.  So, to get rid of any possible confusion, I'm going to explain fitness.

There are six main components of fitness.  Muscular Strength, Muscular Endurance, Cardiovascular Endurance, Anaerobic power, Flexibility, and Body composition.I will explain all of these. Now, everyone wants to know which one is the most important right?  "Should I lift weights or run???"  We hear it all the time.  The answer?  You're only as strong as your weakest link.  You should focus on all of these components.

Muscular Strength

The definition of muscular strength might seem to be apparently obvious.  You might say "it's how much weight you can lift!" Wrong. There are three parts of muscular strength:

 1)Concentric contractions
 2)Isometric contractions
 3)Eccentric contractions

Concentric contractions are what power lifters use when they throw up 350lbs off their chest.  It is the shortening of muscle fibers.  The explosive part of the lift.  The part that does the most work, and generally leads to the most results.

Eccentric Contractions are what the power lifter uses when he brings that 350lb bar slowly to his chest to avoid crushing his sternum.  It's the lengthening of muscle fibers.  Now, eccentric training alone will not make you much stronger.  However, combining these two together will lead to the best results.

Isometric, or Static Contractions are where your muscle resists moving.  Basically, you're holding it still.  Go to a pullup bar and hold yourself up above the bar for as long as you can.  You're using an isometric contraction to keep from falling from the ground. If you try to lift too heavy of a weight and can't, your muscles are trying to contract but are instead, remaining Static.  This is also an isometric contraction. Now, you may not see as much results from Isometric contractions as other contractions, but it is my firm belief that you're only as strong as your weakest muscle.  Therefore, you must train every muscle in just about every way possible -- Including Isometric contractions.
Cardiovascular Endurance

This is your physical ability to maintain aerobic exercise for long periods of time.  Such as, a marathon runner. Or, in smaller terms, the average Joe running a mile.  Anything over around 90 seconds is usually considered to use cardiovascular endurance.  For a good comparison:  A 1 mile jog is cardiovascular endurance, while a 100 meter sprint is not.

Cardiovascular Endurance trains your heart, lungs, and vascular system to work more efficiently.  The more efficiently these work, the better off you are in general.  

Muscular Endurance

This is similar to muscular strength, except it concerns your ability to KEEP doing an exercise over an extended period of time.  Look at the marathon runner.  He can run for 26.2 miles non-stop.  Here, he is utilizing his muscular endurance to keep up the exercise of running for a long period of time.  While this may seem similar to Cardiovascular Endurance, Cardio concerns your heart, lungs, and vascular system.  Muscular endurance concerns your skeletal muscles that initiate and control movements.

Muscular endurance bridges muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance.  You MUST have muscular endurance in order to have cardiovascular endurance.  It doesn't matter how well you can breathe if your legs can't keep pumping.

Anaerobic Power

Aerobic means "with oxygen."  Anaerobic means "without oxygen."  Basically, anaerobic power is how well you can keep doing an exercise when your body uses more oxygen then it can take in.  For example, a 100 yard sprint uses anaerobic power.  The better you can work without oxygen, the better your body can work with it.  When you train for anaerobic power, your body adapts to better utilize oxygen at all times.
STRETCH STRETCH STRETCH.  We hear it all the time, but WHY? Flexibility has been shown to help reduce injuries and increase the abilities of your muscles to perform.  Also?  It feels good when you're sore.  Do it. 

Body Composition
Basically?  This is your muscle:fat ratio.  The other components to fitness basically control this.  The gist?  You want less fat, more muscle.  The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn day by day (because it takes more energy to keep muscle alive than fat) and the easier it is for you to stay lean, or lose weight.  Also, fat is bad for your body.  We all know it.  And plus?  It looks bad.  Let's lose it.  It's hard.  I know.  But all of fitness is.  That's why you have to be DEDICATED to be FIT.