A relatively new way of approaching fitness is to first adopt a sport that you’d like to play, and then train for it. Fitness coaches are increasingly looking at this method to ensure that people get the best training they can get, according to their specific needs. In an fitness article for Lounge last year, physical therapist and trainer Minash Gabriel wrote that fitness for him is defined by, in his words, “the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task”.
In other words, you need to approach fitness in a pragmatic manner, setting yourself tangible goals that you can then work towards. Playing a sport helps in this goal-setting. To quote Gabriel again, “For example, a fast bowler needs to acquire fitness that’s specific to his skill; a long distance runner needs to build cardiovascular endurance; a sprinter needs explosive strength; a gymnast needs to build a robust torso with incredible whole-body proprioception (awareness of the position and movement of the body). Each of these fitness abilities come from performing very different exercises that target different energy systems in the body.”
For me, the sport of choice is trekking. It’s this activity that governs how I train, both for better strength, but also for cardio. Now, if I’m lucky, usually I can squeeze out a couple of hikes a year, involving variable distances and terrain. But even through the pandemic, while travelling was out of the question, I kept up my training assuming that I could go on a fairly strenuous hike any day.
Now when it comes to hiking, in my experience, the two most important points of fitness are how strong my legs are, and how my cardiovascular capacity is doing. For leg strength, I ensure that I have one dedicated leg day every week. Apart from this, even on other days, I try to perform other training activities as “athletically” as possible. Which means that a majority of my training is done on my feet, so that my legs (and the lower body in general), get exercised nearly every day.
For the health of my lungs, I set aside one day just for cardio training. Typically, this involves HIIT workouts that leave me panting and demolished after about 30-40 minutes of intense work. On the other days of strength training, again, I get knock-on benefits for my cardio because of the type of exercises I do.
Apart from this, I ensure that I train my core for better balance and stability, my shoulders and back so that I’ll be capable of walking over steep and difficult terrain with a 10kg backpack on my back. So, in a way, I do all the normal fitness things that everyone does through a week of training, but I do it with a goal in mind. So ask yourself, what’s your sport? And train accordingly. You’ll be sure to see the benefits.