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Articles > Other Resources > The Fitness Lifestyle - Are You Fit?
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Because you're a bodybuilder, does it mean that you're fit? Maybe. Fitness is more than exercise. It's a way of life.

You've seen guys in your gym whose development is uneven who may have one or two bodyparts that lag behind the rest. Well, unless you make a total commitment to the Weider Bodybuilding Lifestyle — unless it means more to you than just a couple of hours in the gym, followed by a protein shake — you may find yourself in the unhappy position of lagging behind in one or more aspects of fitness.

All the elements of fitness can he achieved through exercise and proper nutrition. When we have them all, we think of our physical state as holistic fitness. Fitness is more than a physical phenomenon, however. When you are fit, you're more comfortable with yourself, more clear of mind, less prone to anger, anxiety, depression and despair. Fitness is your best disease preventive. Obesity, stress and depression are all linked to various diseases. Fitness maintains the integrity of the immune system. Research in Japan has shown that exercise can even make you far more resistant to cancer.

If you lack one or more of the necessary elements, you cannot call yourself fit. We think of all athletes as being fit, but usually they are not in the true sense of the word. Distance runners, strong on cardiovascular endurance, have relatively weak upper-body musculature. They also lack flexibility. Weightlifters possess bruising strength but lack endurance. Football players are often overweight.

CARDIOVASCULAR ENDURANCE

Cardiovascular endurance is the most important element of fitness. It is the ability of the heart, blood vessels and blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to the cells and to carry away waste products. Having a fit cardiovascular system lowers the risk of heart disease. It is the base on which all other elements of fitness rely.

The muscles, like any motor, combine fuel and oxygen to produce energy; naturally some waste products result. When a muscle is exercised, it takes more oxygen from the red cells in the bloodstream. The blood vessels surrounding the muscle tissue dilate to allow the passage of more blood. Both the heart and the lungs step up their output to accommodate the muscle cells' need for more blood and oxygen.

Training increases the output of your cardiovascular system just as it increases the strength and power of your muscles. Even though you are young and apparently healthy, your cardiovascular system can be out of shape if you don't exercise it routinely. If you regularly engage in endurance sports like running, cycling, swimming or cross-country skiing, you will likely have an acceptable level of cardiovascular fitness. If, on the other hand, a flight of stairs winds you, you are in need of aerobic training.

If you are under 35 with no record of cardiovascular disease, it's probably safe for you to start an exercise program without a medical examination. In any case, as a beginner you must start slow and easy, and progress according to intelligent training procedure.

Aerobic exercises such as swimming and running build a bigger and stronger heart, the muscle that pumps the oxygen-laden blood through the body. Muscles can function anaerobically (without oxygen) for a couple of minutes on energy sources within the muscle cell itself. Without that capability your heartbeat and breathing would step up with every movement, no matter how slight.

When involved in prolonged, vigorous effort, the muscles require delivery of oxygen. Aerobic training builds the body's ability to transport ever larger amounts of oxygen to the system. Aerobic exercise performed continuously for 20 minutes or longer creates a "training effect," a level of exertion at which your heart functions optimally. Achieved at least three times a week, this effect will maximally build the cardiovascular system in the same way a weight-training program will build the muscles.

You slow down with age, so in order to determine the heart rate at which you will achieve a training effect, subtract your age from 220 and multiply the remainder by 80%. For example, if your age is 40: (220 - 40 x .80 = 144, the heart rate that you should work up to).

The beginner should start at the lower end of the zone and gradually work up, regardless of age. The training effect can also be achieved with less vigorous exercises like walking, hiking and excursion cycling. Adequate benefits can be achieved when any of these exercises are engaged in three times a week. You don't have to stick with one exercise. You can prevent boredom by engaging in any or all of them at the recommended frequency and pace. With the more vigorous exercises like running or climbing the best pace is one at which you can breathe easily enough to talk.

While you're building your cardiovascular fitness, don't neglect these other components of total fitness:

STRENGTH

The level at which muscle can exert the greatest force is called strength. It's the ability to perform a single movement through a range of motion against maximum resistance. It's the powerlifter setting a world-record bench press. It's the baseball player hitting a home run.

There are many ways to build strength. The best and most popular is the progressive resistance method of weight training. As the muscle grows stronger, resistance is increased. Maximum strength and size can be achieved more rapidly doing few repetitions with heavier weights. In general, 5-6 repetitions on an exercise against maximal resistance, four sets at least three minutes apart, with 48-72 hours of recuperation between bouts with the same exercise, should produce maximum strength for its range of motion.

ENDURANCE

Power is another word for muscular endurance. It is the time rate at which work is done by muscle. It is the ability of a muscle to repeat a movement as many times and with as great a force as possible for more than a couple of minutes.

Muscle strength and endurance are closely interrelated. The bicyclist needs power for the thousand-meter race. The linebacker needs strength to block an opponent and power to catch the man with the ball heading for the end zone. The very strong athlete will necessarily also have endurance. The great reserve of strength allows him to repeat the effort many times before his strength is exhausted.

Bodybuilders have a high degree of muscle endurance/power. The key is short-term repetition, done at sub-maximum levels of strength with increasing resistance over extended periods of time.

FLEXIBILITY

The ability to use muscles and joints through their full range of movement is called flexibility. Flexibility enhances movement and reduces the chance of muscle and joint injury.

No single exercise or sport can make you wholly flexible. In order to become flexible, you have to follow a regular routine of slow, gentle stretching. It is a form of exercise and must be practiced separately, preceded by a brief warm-up from another activity such as jogging or cycling, and not as a warm-up for other activities.

Weightlifters are more flexible than runners, and bodybuilders are more flexible than either of them. A regular bodybuilding program consists of exercises for all parts of the body performed through full ranges of motion.

WEIGHT CONTROL

Each pound of bodyfat stores 3,500 calories of energy, more than enough to run a marathon. The hazards of obesity are many, yet a certain amount of fat is vital to the body. Fat pads the internal organs against shock, provides energy for extended aerobic activity, insulates against the cold, and helps absorb vitamins that are not water soluble.

Excess fat, however, offers no benefits to the health. Normal bodyfat accounts for 15% of body composition in men and 19% in women. More than half the bodyfat is stored just beneath the skin. Since muscles weigh more than fat, normal weight charts are poor indicators for physically active people, especially for muscle-building bodybuilders.

A simple pinch-test can determine if you are too fat. Raise one arm in a relaxed biceps pose and pinch the skin under the triceps. If the skin-fold is more than one-half inch thick, you are clinically overweight.

A reduced daily calorie intake and a regular program of exerise is the surest way to normalize and stabilize your weight.

Fitness, then, is more than what you do in the gym. It's your nutrition, it's the avoidance of voluntary poisons (we're talking cigarettes, drugs and alcohol here, folks), it's getting enough rest and enough exercise so you can achieve fitness in all its elements. In short, it's a lifestyle, and it's a 24-hour-a-day affair. If you're not already living it, you're taking chances with your health and strength.

 

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