It has always been believed that to have all round fitness, a person must be fit across seven components.
These components are: flexibility, endurance, stamina, skill, strength, speed and power.
Whilst one component may be more important or relevant to a specific sport, ignoring any of these factors and not having them in balance can often lead to injury.
Whether you are training for health, fitness, weight-loss or peak performance, a program that covers all seven factors will provide you with the best chance of success.
Flexibility entails having the maximum range of movement around a joint allowed by the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Every training session should involve a comprehensive warm-up including mobility work and dynamic stretches and end with a comprehensive cool-down and static stretch session. Repeatedly carrying out this process will ensure a marked improvement in recovery time and help to produce strong, healthy muscles.
Separate stretching exercises are also greatly beneficial, either in the evening after a hard session or on a rest day. Sitting on the floor in front of the TV in the evening is a perfect time to perform a stretch session, but always remember to warm the muscles first.
A lack of flexibility can injure muscles and tendons. Inflexibility can effect the curve of the spine, which in turn can have a dramatic effects on the safe and correct performance of exercises, which can injure or fatigue muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Over flexible joints can also be problematic, as they can become unstable and damage surrounding tissue. Flexibility is particularly important with older athletes as it can significantly offset the normal affects of aging.
Endurance is the body’s ability to resist fatigue whilst performing relatively prolonged exercises of low to moderate intensity.
Runners (except sprinters) require a high level of endurance fitness. In fact it is probably the most important component, as having good endurance ensures you can run for a long time.
The easiest way to train for endurance is to go on long slow to medium paced runs. This should be treated as a gradual process with either time or distance used as the marker with which to build up endurance levels. For example, running 20 minutes on session, then 25 the next and so on or 2 miles, the 2.5 miles, and so on.
It is important to note that the efficiency of you heart in pumping oxygen may limit your ability to endure and perform during endurance activities.
The heart is a muscle, and just like any other muscle must be trained if it is to strengthen and grow.
The heart is the most important muscle to train in any fitness regime so train it well and it will not only support you to reach higher levels of athletic performance but you should also live a longer more healthy life.
A skill is the ability to know when and where to use a specific technique that is required to complete an activity and to also be able to use that skill repeatedly and successfully.
Whilst skills are clearly very evident in most sports, the dedicated runner will also have to perfect many types of skills and techniques if they are to run economically, quickly and without incurring injury. Any competitive runner for example will have to develop a good knowledge of when to use their “kick” to win a race.
When it comes to skill development the adage “practice makes permanent” hold true. Whether you are a musician, a public speaker or an athlete, practice, practice, practice and the skills and techniques will become second nature to you.
Stamina is the ability of the body to resist fatigue whilst performing high intensity work.
This type of training is important to middle and long distance runners, sprinters and players who participate in sports such as soccer, rugby and hockey.
The best way to train stamina is to perform repetitive sprint/intervals a set number of times. Training stamina is an essential building block of all-round fitness as well as being an excellent way to lose weight since sprints and interval training raise the metabolism and burn a lot of calories in a short space of time.
Strength is said to be the maximum force that a specific muscle can generate against resistance.
Strength training is often neglected in many sports and especially with runners who see the “pumping iron” approach as a second best to running miles on the road or the treadmill.
However any serious athlete looking to progress only has to look at Usain Bolt or Michael Johnson to see the correlation between strength training and performance. Even the best marathon runners need strength training to build up their muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Above all, good strength throughout the body can minimize injury. Repeated pounding on tendons and ligaments can take its toll if they are not trained to physically cope with the demands of uneven road surfaces and long running programs.
Speed is said to be how quickly the muscle can move given a set objective.
We all initially think of this as our sprint speed however it can also be analysed as our reaction time in ball sports. To train speed you need to do repetitive drills when not overly fatigued. Doing so when fatigued will lead to bad technique and possible even injury. Plyometric exercises and the use of plyo box sets are a great way to develop speed and fast twitch Type II muscle fibres.
Speed training is quite similar to the sprint drills laid out for stamina work, but concentrating on technique and training over shorter distances so that it doesn’t become interval training.
Speed isn’t just important to sprinters – any runner who has been caught in a sprint finish to the lean will know what I mean. How many times have we seen a marathon won over the last ten meter sprint. If you lose a race in the last few meters, think whether you are putting enough thought and effort into your sprinting.
Power is the functional relationship between strength and speed. It is a key component in athletic performance, and especially in sprinting. However endurance running is also greatly enhanced by increased power.
By improving power the efficiency and quickness of muscle movements is maximised, which in turn creates further efficiency and greater VO₂ max for endurance. So whether you are a sprinter, a middle distance runner or marathon runner, your personal best times will benefit from increasing your power.
To train power properly you require some muscular strength beforehand. This means that the prehab and conditioning for running that you have been doing is more beneficial, by increasing your strength levels with resistance exercises and strengthening tendons, ligaments and support muscles to limit injury. Furthermore, for power training it is important to have a strong core, so ensure you do core abdominal workout exercises to stabilise those muscles.
Lastly, it is also important to take up power exercises slowly, as they can easily cause injury if done incorrectly. Always progress with power exercises slowly and always be realistic about your capacity to take your power training to the next level. Our own genetics can be a limiting factor to our progress so always be realistic about your goals.
It is important to design a training program that encompasses all-round fitness and doesn’t concentrate on too much a specific event.
Obviously to complete a marathon, running training has to take place but strength work, flexibility, skill and stamina sessions are all important too.
Although it isn’t important to train all seven components of fitness every day or to even train the evenly, it’s important that all get some attention over your training program.