Complete Fitness - The Total Body Workout


by Anton Maartens

Exercise is a vital part of enjoying a healthy life. The body is made to move and actually craves physical challenge. Most of us realise this and do participate in some form of fitness activity.

But to achieve total fitness and enjoy more of the health benefits that exercise can offer, some exercisers may have to consider a more holistic approach. Without it you may never achieve yout true fitness potential.

Too many fitness enthusiasts tend to focus on just one or two favorite activities. Men usually prefer weight training and regard stretching and cardiorespiratory exercise as a complete waste of time, while women crowd into aerobics studios and will not be caught dead in the free weights section of a health club.

Runners and walkers often spend most of their training time on the road or on a treadmill. Swimmers and  cyclists tend to be ‘allergic’ to putting their feet down on dry land. And to top it all, yoga and martial arts fans sometimes view the whole 'gym scene' as somewhat ridiculous.

Unfortunately a single fitness activity cannot provide you with all the health and fitness benefits that exercise has to offer.

Activities like jogging, cycling or skating promotes cardiorespiratory fitness but it does not really improve muscle, strength, posture and body alignment.

Weight-lifting is great for building muscle mass, but does little to improve your flexibility and range of motion.

Some forms of mind-body exercise, such as yoga or Pilates-based exercise, offers the ultimate workout for increased flexibility, isometric strength and mental focus, but does little to improve you aerobic capacity and burn body fat.

So what is the solution?

The aim of anyone who exercises regularly should be to achieve ‘complete’ or ‘total’ fitness. This requires a more balanced
fitness program, which includes a larger variety of activities.

This concept is known a ‘cross-training’. In cross-training different types of exercise are performed in the same workout or are done alternatively on successive days. For instance, a cyclist could also do stretching exercises every day of the week, strength training twice a week and intense running sprints one day of the week.

Cross-training can offer you the following:

  • Reduce the risk of injuries
  • Prevent repetitive stress on specific joint
  • Counter the possibility of boredom
  • Add variety to your workouts to keep you motivated
  • Develop the entire body, rather than specific areas
  • Improves more than one energy system

Your cross-training exercise program should involve a combination of different types of exercise, such as:

Cariorespiratory (aerobic) exercise. Walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming, aerobics, aqua aerobics, cross-country skiing, rowing, skating.

Anaerobic conditioning. Same activities as above, but done at much higher intensities for shorter intervals. In other words short bursts of intense muscle activity. Also known as ‘sprinting’.

Muscle strength. Strength training (weight lifting), calisthenics (push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups), isometric exercise (contracting the muscles against a fixed resistance, such as pushing against a wall)

Muscle endurance. Same activities as above, but using lighter weights or less resistance together with more repetitions

Flexibility. Passive and active stretching, yoga,  PNF (advanced flexibility training tecnique)

You can easily tailor cross-training to suit your needs and interests. Your program can include one type of exercise per day or even more than one on the same day. If you do both on the same day, you can change the order in which you do them or do alternative combinations on different days.

Once you have tried cross-training you will never look back!

NOTE: Cross-training is often not recommended for serious athletes. To achieve the highest possible level in a sport, the athlete should train with a specific focus. Runner should  run, swimmers should swim and bodybuilders should ‘pump iron’. However, sport scientists and coaches do not agree on this controversial matter and recommendations often differ considerably.

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