Thursday, November 27, 2014

Countdown to 100

The walking challenge is going well enough and barring some major interruption I should make my 100 day target on December 9th. Do I feel fitter? No. Do I feel healthier? Again, the answer is no. Odd really, but there you have it. If feeling either fitter or healthier were the goals, then I'd be somewhat disappointed at this stage, but given that neither were of great importance when I set out, I'm not underwhelmed by the outcomes!

The goal was simply a matter of being active. I'm already pretty active, playing and coaching tennis, but I wanted to make sure I was being active everyday as far as that was possible. For me, tracking the level of that activity is a great motivator to keep going. Setting a goal like my 100 consecutive day challenge means that I can't start tomorrow or miss a few days and pick it up again. It means I can't get to 8 o'clock in the evening and think I'll do the missing steps the next day. It all helps to get me in the trainers and out the door.

I guess the obvious point is that you need not only a goal but also to know what will help you achieve that goal. If, having completed my challenge, I decide the next step is to improve my fitness, I will need to do two or three things. First, I'll need to measure my current fitness somehow. This can't be some subjective thing alone like how I feel after playing tennis or walking to the gym. It will need something a little more objective than that. There are some basic fitness tests you can do that measure things like strength, flexibility and endurance. Whatever you choose as your baseline criteria probably depends on what you're trying to improve.

From a tennis playing perspective for example, you might want to try and measure explosive power by using a jump test or endurance by doing short shuttle sprints. One test I used when I first did the 100-day walking challenge was to see if I could maintain 6.5Km/hour for an hour. I'm sure you get the point.

Once you've got your goal, and you've made it realistic and achievable (remember the SMART principle), you'll need a simple plan and a way of testing your change over the period of the plan. Simply repeating whatever you did to measure your starting point is the obvious way to do that. Thirdly, to get an improvement you will need to make a change to some aspect of what you are doing. The training principle is called progressive overload. In training terms you do this through changing one or more of the FITT principles. These stand for:

  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Type
  • Time

To get an improvement you need to vary one or more of these aspects of your routine. If you only ever do the same thing over and over again, you won't get any training benefit. You won't get fitter or healthier. Some are easier to do that others. If you walk 3 times a week you can increase the frequency by walking 5 times a week. If it's 30 minutes, you can increase the time by making it 40. Intensity goes up by walking faster or uphill, and changing type might mean running rather than walking.

My favourite approach is to use intervals. Intervals are simply alternating periods of high and low intensity activity. These can be evenly spaced, 2 minutes fast walking, 1 minute slower walking, or randomly spaced, 5-3-4-2-6-1. Each of the FITT principles are covered doing this type of training.

With the New Year fast approaching, don't just make some bland resolution to get a bit fitter or become a bit healthier, make a definite plan. You could even start right now and beat the New Year rush. Be the person who goes out on New Year's day for your mooring walk with a smug look on your face as you pass all the folk who've just started out!

You could even put in a request for an activity monitor for Christmas as I have done! That way you'l be able to track your activity everyday!!

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