Fitness Corner: Improving Health & Fitness

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We have received a lot of great feedback from the 49ers loyalist who have been reading The Fitness Corner. I have decided to write a general column geared toward helping you improve your overall health and fitness.

Often, our readers have questions about their own fitness level. A frequent question that I am asked by individuals seeking to enhance their overall fitness level is how to get the most from their workouts. Many times these adults have a workout routine, but they are just not seeing the results they want (i.e. the reduction in body fat percentage). If you are one of those adults struggling to determine how to make your workout work for you, this article will help you.

Our body follows three basic principles of training in response to exercise: overload, specificity, and reversibility.

Overload is exercising at a level beyond what your body is accustom to in order to feel the effects of training and to see changes. After 3 months of consistent training using the same workout routine, your body adapts to the physical demands required by the routine you are implementing. Once the body has adapted to your routine, it is time to overload and increase the demands on your body in order to see more changes. Even though you may not see the results you want by implementing the consistent routine with no overload, you are more physically fit than when you started exercising; therefore, you can handle more difficult activity.

If you participate in the same activity every time you do cardiovascular work, the principle of specificity is illustrated. Specificity is the result of your muscles adapting to your type of training/activity. Doing the same exercise consistently for a long time will make your muscle fibers adapt to that type of activity and can increase the risk of injury. Cross training, or participating in many different types of activities, will work more of your muscles in different ways and also decrease your chance for injury. If you choose to participate in only one activity and not place overload on your body, your body may experience reversibility—that is, the loss of any physical gains your body has made.

Adjusting the frequency, intensity, time, and type of exercise you execute will help you to keep overloading your body. For example, if your regular routine is to execute a cardiovascular activity 2 times per week and lift weights 2 times per week, the frequency and duration of your cardiovascular activity can be increased to 3 to 4 times per week, at a minimum of 30-45 minutes per session. Your weight training can also be increased to 3 times per week. Cardiovascular activities can be performed every day, however, lifting should be executed every other day to give your muscles time to recover.

Another way to get more out of your workouts is to increase the intensity of your cardiovascular activity. If you are using machines such as treadmills, elliptical riders, or cycles, try increasing the resistance. You can also manually control your resistance and speed and set yourself on an interval training routine. For example, run on the treadmill for 5 minutes, at level 1 or 2, then increase your platform level to 5 or 6, increase your speed and "power walk" for 2 or 3 minutes. This will be more of a cardiovascular challenge and will work your muscles in a different way. If treadmills and bikes are not your favorite types of activities, try new activities—for example, step aerobics, spinning classes, in-line skating, tennis, etc. In all of these activities, you can control your intensity and have fun!!

Whenever trying to lose weight, exercise can only take you so far. Nutrition is important as well. If you take in more calories than you expend, you will never lose body fat. Evaluate your diet and try to cut down on high-fat foods. Keep a "food diary" to help you get started and keep track of your food intake. As a guideline, stick to the Food Guide Pyramid. Suggested servings are 6-11 servings of grains, pastas, and breads, 2-3 servings of meats, 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruit, and 3-4 servings of milk/dairy products. Use all other sugary and fattening products sparingly.

Featured Q&A with Parker

Q: I am very interested in being a strength and condtioning coach. I would like to know what were some of the "paths" that you took to be a coach on the 49ers. What programs actually helped you get to where you are now?

A: You need a basic foundation of course work which includes anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics. There are even universities that offer courses in strength and conditioning, and some even offer majors. Back when I started, all of those resources weren't available. I traveled twice to the Soviet Union to study strength and conditioning and I went to every college and pro team that I thought was doing a good job to observe and to question. I took courses at the universities where I worked and constantly asked people that I think might have answers to questions that perplexed me. The most important thing is to get hands-on experience. If you can volunteer your time, it doesn't matter if it's at a junior high school or high school and get hands-on experience working with players. There has to be a foundation of academic background, but the most important thing is knowing how to apply your knowledge to people. What supersedes all else is to coach people and not weights, to love people and not weights. Your players won't care how much you know until they know how much you care about them. The goal in your profession is the accumulation of knowledge but in actuality it should be helping young people make their dreams come true. That's what I do and that's the way I see it.

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