2013-03-13

Incremental Fitness

Lately, I have been experimenting with placing a greater emphasis on strength training than on endurance training. To that end, I have been adhering to a muscle-building workout regimen that will be the subject of a long post/review as soon as I am finished. (I am just over the half-way mark on this, and so far the program is delivering what it promised. But I will withhold further details until I have completely finished.)

Naturally and by design, I have had less time and energy to devote to aerobic activity. I have time only for short cardio workouts after my strength training sessions, and defer the longer and more serious aerobic activity to strength training "rest days." This has resulted in an anticipated trade-off; that is, my cardiovascular ability has suffered for the sake of better muscular fitness.

Well, everything is going fine, but for the fact that I am really starting to miss the feeling of having an endless supply of endurance. I'd like to recover a large portion of that, but at this point I don't feel as though I can because I am dedicated to my current fitness regimen.

Not only that, but I see the current regimen as part of a longer-term, more ambitious fitness plan that will encompass almost an entire year of working out. By this, I mean to say that my recent dedication to strength training fits in the context of an overall goal to achieve a much different kind of fitness profile this year than I have in the past. Where a runner might start by building an endurance base before gradually phasing-in ever-more-demanding speed training workouts on his or her way to the goal of running a personal best marathon, this year I am applying similar principles to achieve an overall sense of profound personal fitness.

Therefore, I have started out the year with what is essentially a body-building program to achieve a "base" level of muscle strength, size, and shape. Just as an endurance base serves to provide the underlying backbone of an athlete dedicated to achievement in the endurance sphere, a strength base should (conceptually speaking, at least) provide the backbone for more strength-related objectives. In fact, when I think back to my days of competitive running, seasons of competition tended to be preceded by "off-seasons" during which athletes would focus on the weight training and muscle building that was to be largely neglected during the days of heavy competition.

From there, I will phase-in ever-more-demanding plyometric training. Plyometric exercises aim to convert muscle strength into speed as efficiently as possible, resulting in some sense of muscle "power." The combination of strength and power should provide me with a very different kind of fitness than I am used to. In the past, "being fit" has meant being able to run a large number of miles (endurance training) in a very short period of time (speed work). If I achieve my goals this year, I hope to be very strong (strength training) and very agile (plyometrics).

Of course, just as there is an important need to maintain some strength training during an endurance training regimen, so I still have a need to maintain some endurance training as I pursue more strength-related goals.

Back to increments: The process of starting with one thing, and then gradually taking on more is what I mean when I say "incremental fitness." In this case, I start with some weights, and then I phase-in plyometrics and endurance workouts incrementally.