The balanced physical fitness equation

Innocent Choga : Fitness

The story of human trafficking that is currently making headlines in the news reminds me of how we enslave our bodies by not balancing the fitness equation. The balanced physical fitness equation is easy to achieve: Adequate and appropriate exercise + A good balanced diet + Enough rest = A fit and highly productive individual.If any of the above elements is missing, health is compromised and there is no fitness at all. I just wonder what the motive is when one enslaves someone making them work for twenty two hours straight without rest.

Certainly one cannot expect quality output from such a working arrangement and in such a scenario an individual cannot be expected to be highly productive even in terms of quantity.

At entrepreneurship/business workshops individuals are trained to occasionally expect crises and work long hours, but this is an occasional thing. After working like that for a while there is a point of diminishing returns. Continually adding working hours to a tired employee will in the end yield negative output from mistakes and shoddy workmanship. The only thing that can be achieved is to sap the energy out of the individual and slowly rob them of their health.

The same thing applies to fitness training. Continually exercising and depriving oneself of the desired rest will negatively stress the body, affecting one’s performance and even social life.

The amount of energy being invested in the sessions in the end is not quality energy. Rest means taking some time away from a physical activity, giving the body sufficient time to replenish its fuel supplies allowing the body to fully recover from workouts.

Most people ignore the resting part of the equation. We already have stressful lives with social and work problems. It is important that if we overload the physique with exercise we should also overload it with rest.

Three stages of response to lack of rest

According to Selye’s book The Stress of Life (1956) lack of rest stresses the body and there are three stages of response to this situation. At first the body is alarmed, resistance drops then bounces back, putting up its defence mechanism in readiness to fight or flight.

The blood sugar is elevated, the pulse rate increases and the flow of blood is redistributed. In the second stage, as the stressful situation continues the body adapts and the resistance arises enabling the body to increase its capacity to perform.

In the final stage the body bows to the continued exposure to the stressful condition. Resistance drops and the end result is energy exhaustion leading to reduced performance levels, injury or even death.

Pushing beyond the limit

Some of the issues that contribute to eagerness and over exercising are positive or negative comments, positive or negative results and setting unrealistic goals. When we receive positive comments we tend to want to do more to increase the benefits. The same applies to results when things are working out the way you did not expect you want to see more results.

I will be honest to say as a teenager my friends and I were victims of this over exercising. We started weight training to gain strength and condition ourselves for other sports. We did not expect the results we got and we were motivated by the cosmetic fitness we attained in a short time. When we started making these physical changes we would occasionally get a lot of positive and negative comments and this drove us to train more, spending almost half the day in the gym and not wanting to skip a day and training with very heavy weights.

In the process of learning we suffered a lot of injuries knee injuries, elbow injuries, shoulder injuries, constant weariness. Luckily for me these healed and in the process I learnt how to do things properly.

There are some individuals who get fired up to do more if they get negative results. They want to prove a point. This eagerness will lead to exhaustion, injuries, and the negative results and may result in giving up the physical activity. Some of my friends dropped out because they felt they were not making enough progress compared to the energy we were putting into the exercising.

In the case of athletes the enthusiasm can also be fuelled by the desired to win at all costs and setting up unrealistic goals.

This tendency to overdo things can interfere with one’s sleeping patterns. Taking sleeping pills will merely induce the pineal glands to make us sleep.

At the same time taking large amounts of energisers to work long hours will also suppress this gland to keep us awake when we should be sleeping.

Thus this interferes with our natural sleeping patterns. Sleeping is the main activity that provides us with rest. We need eight hours of sleep along with a good balanced diet and perfect eating habits to replenish our bodies with fuel and energy for the next workout.

It is important to use one’s instinct and to listen to the body. Sometimes we feel like we are tired and we do not feel like training. There is need to distinguish between being just lazy and being tired and in need of rest.

It can be a problem when one works out with partners who may not be understanding of different needs in each individual and may push one beyond their capacity.

A good trainer is able to distinguish and tell whether one is just being lazy or weather it is a mental issue that can be worked out through exercise.

Rest to recover from injuries

Injuries also require us to rest. However, this depends on the degree of injury. When we have less severe injuries complete rest may not be necessary. A few days’ rest followed by light exercises will assist speeding up recovery by increasing blood circulation.

This blood brings nutrients to the injured area and flushes away injury-produced wastes allowing for a faster return to prime exercising form. Sometimes taking advantage of an injury to lay back will pave way for cessation of exercise forever. It will require further motivation and it means starting afresh.

Rest is work

Body-builders understand the concept of rest so much because it is a very important component of the sport. It makes the difference between winning and losing. The equation creates a state of hypertrophy; enlargement of the muscles. Exercising provides breaking up of body cells, nutrition will feed the cells and together with rest they will volumise the cells thereby enlarging them strengthening them for the next exercise session.

Lack of a few hours ‘rest can result in a body-builder looking deprived and flat. This can lose one a tournament after months of perfect preparation.

It is common to hear body-builders say: “You should have seen me two days ago I was looking big and defined I do not know what happened.” It may be a lack of a few hours rest that will put all the year’s work to waste. Normally body-builders take the last few weeks off from all work to rest properly.

A sleeping athlete is an individual at work. Athletes need adequate nourishment and rest to maintain the intense level of exertion that characterizes successful exercise session and matches. Sleeping (rest) is the opposite of over-training it a for complete recuperation.

It is necessary to avoid enslaving our physiques if we are to last long in a sport and get the most out of our bodies when we retire as athletes.

Fitness should be a marathon and not a sprint as I have heard so many of my guests on this column say. We need to work with our bodies and not against them.

Meet the Chanakiras: Fitness for the family

My guests for this week are Kudakwashe Chanakira, his wife Ivy and their children; a 12-year-old boy called Tavonga and a nine-year-old girl Tamiranashe. I met the Chanakira family at the launch of the Borrowdale Surburban in October last year, where they were taking part in the aerobic event.

It is impressive and encouraging to witness the large number of families that are participating in such events. These parents are creating a good foundation for exercising for their children. Children who grow up like this are most likely to continue exercising and living healthy lifestyles well into their adulthood.

Mr Chanakira is a contractor and his wife is a marketing executive. Mr Chanakira says he brought the fitness lifestyle home after taking up exercising for work stress management. He found he benefited a lot from exercising and there after his family decided to join him.

He has also been in the dojo as a judoka but because of time constraints he has had to switch activities. Regularly on Saturday and Sundays the Chanakira family walks from Hellensville to Mount Pleasant. They occasionally take part in aerobic events such as the one I met them at. Last week Mrs Chanakira and her daughter were involved in the Bon Marche run/walk event.

Mrs Chanakira works for an ambulance services company so she has easy access to the diary of such fitness events. It is just a matter of selecting which ones to attend. Both Tamiranashe and Tavonga also have swimming sessions during the week. Tamiranashe also takes part in track events.

According to the Chanakira family these activities are simple activities and to them they require no conscious effort. They take them easy and they do not put themselves under any pressure so at times they do not even finish the events. The main benefit according to Mr Chanakira is that such quality time, exercising together creates a strong bond for his family and becoming good friends with the children is easy.


Email: [email protected] Innocent Choga is a six-time National Bodybuilding Champion with international experience. He is studying for a science degree in Physical Education and Sport.

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