The Coach Speaks Out |
with Mike Lushington
Coaches are trained to work with athletes. Whenever I venture to offer a bit of advice on physical fitness, for example, to someone who does not consider him- or herself an athlete, I am reminded of that. For some reason, many people think that athletes are a different breed of creature and that what works for them will not for ordinary people. Of course, that isn't the case; all of our bodies work in the same way, even if some are trained to do it more efficiently.
This argument seems to present itself annually. Many people make resolutions to become more active, or to get into better physical condition, with the dawning of the new year. Almost as many drop the resolution within a discouragingly short time as they realize that the trip back to physical health and vitality is not as short or as easy as they might have thought when they made the resolution in the first place. I thought that it might be beneficial to have a look at some of the reasons for this, and possibly a few suggestions, over the next little while.
First, it is important to clear up my initial point. Physical fitness is a concern for athletes and non-athletes alike. The only difference is one of degree rather than kind: because athletes are in better condition to begin with, their activity, as well as their approach to nutrition and other related considerations, is at a more advanced level. However, the same physiological factors apply: they must exercise regularly and eat and rest properly if they are to continue to be fit.
Secondly, just as it takes some time to fall out of shape, so it does to get back into it. If you have not done a thing for your conditioning for several years, you have to accept that it is going to take some time to turn that around. One of the major arguments that I have with most promotional programs is that they present a false picture of what one has to do to get back into shape. Twenty minutes a day of moderate exercise, three or four times a week, will do little more than maintain the level of fitness that one has at present. Granted that that is better than nothing, it is still not going to provide a shortcut to the fitness and vigour that one might desire. The same applies for weight loss programs. The sensible ones realize that weight loss is a long term project; others are simply being irresponsible, if not dangerous, when they promote large losses over short periods of time.
Thirdly, it is essential for anyone contemplating a fitness program to accept that this is a long-term project, one that is most positively encouraged as a change in lifestyle rather than a short term sacrifice. The road to physical fitness is lifelong. Following it does not guarantee that the road will be longer, but it does promise a much more enjoyable and invigorating journey.
Fourth, it does not matter what your present level of fitness is because it can be improved. But, and this is essential, it is necessary to begin slowly, sensibly and, especially if you are over forty or have a serious health problem, to begin only after you have talked with your doctor about what you intend to do.
Finally for today, I have to stress that physical fitness means cardio-vascular fitness, or, as it is often called, aerobic fitness. That long walk after supper is going to be much more beneficial than spending the money to buy a set of weights for your basement gym. That will be an idea that I will develop more thoroughly in the next column.
And guess what? There are about thirty(!!!) days to the opening of the Canada Games!
Mike Lushington, Dalhousie