Fitness programmes usually contain exercises such as sit-ups, stomach curls or some sort of jumping activity. That is what you would expect, right? But have you ever stopped to consider if these sort of exercises are the best way to get fit? Or that they are even good for you? Do they really help with your sport, lose weight, stay supple or keep in shape? We have come to accept the exercise is the only way to train if we are serious about our health, fitness and performance.
I would like to suggest there is another way, and a far better way for you to get what you want from a fitness plan. What is this way? Well, what about playing a sport? When you were younger did you go down the park with a few friends and just kick a ball around? Just think how much exercise you got from doing that. Calculate how many calories were used up in one hour of playing a game of football. And don’t forget the cardio-vascular benefits.
But, more importantly, just how much more fun is playing a game than doing exercises? When did fitness begin to mean exercise in place of sport? Just how many more types of exercise do we really need to learn? Surely there are only so many different types of exercise our body’s can perform!
One of my main interests is the state athletes call The Zone. People describe putting in the performance of their life as one of the easiest, effortless things they have done. Everything just comes together, their body feels light, their mind clear and the whole experience is one of pure joy.
If the sensations experienced in The Zone are what it feels like for every part of our body to be working at its optimum, then our fitness programmes should surely work to replicate this. Many of today’s popular methods in my view do not encourage what I think of as total body integration. Muscle isolation training, core strengthening and postural exercises are some of the main culprits that ignore some of the basic principles of human movement and therefore likely to obstruct your path to true fitness.
Does your body benefit from performing specialist exercises that work individual muscles? It sure wasn’t designed to work in this way. You may argue that traditional fitness programmes have exercises that are specifically designed to build strength in your core, thigh muscles or your upper back. But lets stop and consider this, do you ever use your body in your sport or everyday activities that look anything like these exercises?
Do you perform a movement like a stomach crunch at work or on the playing field? Probably not! I believe that traditional exercises can set up performance-limiting habits that will adversely affect your movement. We develop these habits unknowingly until our movement is compromised to the point it will damage out fitness. If your body is not moving as well as it should then your chances of getting a sports injury are increased.
So I would argue it is better for us to use our body as a whole playing a sport to engage the mind and body. All of your muscle groups will be worked, your heart, lungs and circulation get a great workout, but best of all, it is so much more fun! If it is enjoyable, you will be more likely to continue being active and stay fit and trim at the same time.
Roy Palmer is a teacher of The Alexander Technique and has studied performance enhancement in sport for the last 10 years. His new book ‘Zone Mind, Zone Body’ looks at how you can take your fitness and performance to a new level by doing less. This doesnt mean putting your feet up, it means learning to train smarter. More information about his unique approach to training can be found by clicking Zone Mind, Zone Body