The twin pillars of fitness
I was privileged to witness a number of events in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, among those being the decathlon competition, won by Dan O'Brien of Klamath Falls, Ore. The decathlon, as track and field fans know, consists of ten events which must be performed over a brief two day period. The events demand a range of athletic skills and abilities -- speed, coordination, flexibility; but most of all, the decathlon demands strength and stamina.
It is not the intent of this column to create Olympic-calibre decathletes. It is the intent, however, to remind all of us that everyday living demands our participation in, not just 10, but hundreds, of activities and 'events.' We, like the highly trained decathlete, will be more successful and more efficient in our life tasks when we also bring strength and stamina to the business-at-hand.
The primary purpose of strength training is to improve muscle function. It will also develop stronger bones, tendons and ligaments, enabling you to perform better in all physical activities. In addition, strength exercise reduces the risk of many medical problems, including low back pain. And, it will improve your self-esteem, confidence and overall body image.
While it is obvious that fit muscles enhance personal appearance, strength training has another great benefit that often goes unnoticed -- weight management. Regular strength training increases your daily expenditure of energy, and the resulting burning of calories; but stronger, firmer muscles increase your basic rate of metabolism, and that means you are burning more calories all day long, even when you are resting. A pound of muscle burns 20 -- 30 times as many calories as a pound of fat.
Now, does strength training mean you have to look like Arnold "what's his name?" Absolutely not! Determine your own goals and get committed to a program that helps you accomplish them. There are numerous options (strength machines, free weights, isometrics, etc.).
The primary purpose of stamina training is to strengthen the cardiovascular system, including the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Some of the more obvious benefits of cardiovascular conditioning include a reduction of the risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular illnesses; a lowering of your resting heart rate; a healthier resting blood pressure; effective weight management; improved exercise performance; a reduction of rapid fatigue; and a faster physical recovery after exercise of any kind.
Studies also show that stamina or endurance exercise often improves the ratios or good cholesterol (HDL) to bad cholesterol (LDL), which leads to more desirable lipid profiles. And many report important lifestyle benefits including improved sleep, digestion and higher levels of energy.
As with strength training, stamina training can be done in many ways: aerobics classes, walking/jogging, cycling, rowing, cardio equipment (bikes, treadmills, stairclimbers, etc.) and swimming, just to name a few. Choose what works for you and stick to it. You'll be glad you did.
A vital part of our YMCA mission is to help build a stronger and healthier community. We have a world-class facility here in Brewton with the most up-to-date fitness equipment. We have a competent and committed staff. And we have a genuine desire to help you with your fitness goals. Give us a call at 867-9622 and let us assist you with your strength and stamina: the twin pillars of fitness.
One final word: no program of strength and stamina is complete without the spiritual dimension. That's foundational for us here at the Y where, with strength and stamina, we fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith, (see II Timothy 4:7).