Fitness vs. Athletic Achievement
"Getting Involved" in a
general fitness regimen often leads to a complete and
wonderful change in life and lifestyle.
Matt Russ - The Sports Factory
I started my career in the fitness industry
almost 15 years ago working with the general fitness
population that desired to lose weight / tone up / get in
shape. What I
quickly learned is that it is very difficult to get people
to change their habits and that true motivation must come
from within. Even
the best road map to fitness will not necessarily be
was a competitive runner at the time and often encouraged
my clients to join me for a 5k race.
Many of them had never completed a race in their
lives, and I took it for granted that for them, simply
finishing a race was an accomplishment in itself.
We are all familiar with the post race
is the blend of endorphins and achievement that so
motivates us to keep racing and reaching new levels of
many of my clients this 5k led to another, then a 10k, a
half marathon, marathon, and a complete change in
only were they able to achieve their fitness goals but
they developed a change in attitude; a sense of pride and
a new realization of their capabilities. This also caused me to switch my coaching methods and
ultimately to start my own endurance sport coaching
I noticed my athletes (no longer clients) began
to immerse themselves in their race culture. They enjoyed learning about their sport and studying new ways
to improve. We
often discussed the latest equipment or an article in Triathlete
or Runners World.
Participating and competing in endurance events
became a hobby and way of life for them. Many planned trips around upcoming races and involved their
spouses and families in their sport.
Others moved on to different endurance sports such
as adventure racing, duathlon, triathlon, and road
today we have more options than ever before and
participation in endurance sports continues to grow.
Setting and achieving goals is a powerful
thing. If you
tell someone to spend an hour on a stair stepper it is
more of a sentence than a goal; but crossing a finish line
is a real accomplishment-- and you get a t-shirt.
People need challenge in their lives and endurance
sports deliver. Unlike
team sports the achievement is individualized and the
individual gets to own their finish, PR, or placement.
Success can be found at any level and at any age.
There are very few physical barriers in life.
This was aptly demonstrated in my last race as I
watched the double (leg) amputee briskly crossing the
finish line. Our
barriers are mainly mental and we often need a small
personal fulfillment to start the process of change.
Setting a reasonable and attainable race or event
goal can jump start this process.
I have personally witnessed sedentary individuals
achieve a complete physical transformation in as little as
fittest of the fit
Something else happened to my athletes along
the way, they got fit; really fit.
Preparing for a specific event provides the
motivation to train longer, more frequently, and more
intensity pays dividends off the race course as well as
on. There is
recent evidence that shows those who exercise intensely
have a significantly lower risk of many diseases compared
to their moderately exercising counterparts, including
diabetes and coronary heart disease (CHD).
A recent study of 44,500 health professionals
showed coronary heart disease risk was reduced by 18% in
men that walked 30 min. per day, but men who ran for just
one hour per week decreased their risk by 42%.
The men that engaged in ANY form of vigorous
exercise enjoyed a whopping 30% risk reduction.
Unfit men that became fit had a 52% CHD reduction
A Stanford study of runners found that those
who run habitually enjoy a relative disability free life.
Contrary to the popular belief that runners “wear
out” their bodies, runners enjoyed a lower disability
score at every age level and delayed disability in
performing everyday activities by nine years when compared
It stands to reason that the more fit a person
is the less risk they will have of developing certain
diseases, but it appears that vigorous exercise has
specific health benefits. Intense exercise burns more calories and does a better job of
keeping weight off. Intense
exercise also depletes glycogen stores; this in turn
increases insulin sensitivity and decreases risk of type-2
intensity exercise also increases cardio respiratory
fitness which is directly linked to coronary heart disease
What about the risk of sudden death during
intense exercise? It
is very low when those with congenital heart defects are
removed. The risks associated with being overweight and sedentary are
far greater. However,
when starting an exercise program or increasing exercise
intensity, it is important to visit your doctor first or
when any cardiac symptoms occur when exercising.
Any exercise is good for the body but it would
seem that like a lot of things in life the more you put in
the more you will get out.
I recently participated in a challenging race that
included two rough trail runs up a very steep incline of
almost one mile. I
was amazed at the fitness level of some of the athletes
competing in their 50’s and 60’s and the disparity in
mobility and fitness between these athletes and most
persons in their age range.
If I had to pick one objective for my own training
it would be to still be enjoying competition at their
ages. To have
this quality of life is true athletic achievement.
Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from
around the country and internationally for over ten years.
He currently holds expert licenses from USA
Triathlon, USA Cycling, and is a licensed USA Track and
Field Coach. Matt
is Head Coach and owner of The Sport Factory, and works
with athletes of all levels full time.
He is a free lance author and his articles are
regularly featured in a variety of magazines such as
Inside Triathlon, and Triathlete.
for more information or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Performance; number 229: 8-11