Balancing your 5 Components of Fitness

There are 10,005 different ways to be active and 10,006 different ways to get fit (hyperboles, but you get it), but according to ACSM there are just 5 components of physical fitness and their order of importance may differ for everyone. Throughout your life, I’m sure you’ve been measured on some of these components in some twisted manner during P.E. These five components are…

  • Muscular strength
    This refers to the force your muscles are able to exert over a short period of time. A way to measure muscular strength may be to perform a 1-rep max test for a specific muscle group. i.e. bench press to measure muscular strength of the chest muscle group.
  • Muscular endurance
    This refers to your muscles ability to contract over an extended period of time. A way to measure muscular endurance for the chest muscle group may be to perform as many push-ups as you can.
  • Flexibility
    Flexibility is just like it sounds… your muscles and joints’ ability to move through full range of motion. This can be measured in a sit-and-reach test to measure hamstring flexibility or a reach test to measure shoulder flexibility.
  • Cardiovascular endurance
    This is also just like it sounds… This may make you think of running, biking, etc., but it refers to your cardiovascular system and its ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your body to maintain these activities for a period of time. Measuring cardiovascular endurance usually requires more high-tech equipment and can be measured by completing a VO2 max test (not the most fun if you’ve ever done one), or for a general estimate- completing a mile run as quickly as you can.
  • Body composition
    Good thing they made these terms pretty straight forward–Body composition refers to the lean mass and fat mass that your body is made up of. Imagine that– the mass the your body is composed of. High-tech equipment is also required for an accurate measure of body composition such as a DEXA scan and are typically performed by a health professional.

As I mentioned, you’re probably familiar with each of these to some degree, but what should you be doing day in and day out? Just like most trick questions, the answer is “it depends.” Your goals will dictate how much time is spent training each component, although there’s a reason that fitness is defined by five components, and not just one or two. Each of these is important to overall fitness and while these components are interdependent, they may be prioritized differently throughout various periods of your life.

Here are some examples. A bikini competitor may be incredibly focused in muscular strength and muscular endurance during the training period, and body composition clearly becomes the top priority towards the end and during the competition. A runner may be primarily focused on cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Flexibility, muscular strength, and body composition are still important factors for a runner, but are secondary to the obvious cardiovascular and muscular endurance that take priority during a run. Lastly, a cirq du sole performer may prioritize flexibility, body composition, and muscular endurance in able to perform the way that they do. Obviously these are all extreme examples, but it truly depends… What are your goals?

Maybe you don’t have any specific fitness goals, and are feeling a little lost and confused. My whole point with this post is to consider how to balance and incorporate these five components into your current fitness routine, because it is incredibly important. If you’ve read my 0 to 26.2 post on running, you know that the first half-marathon I ever ran was a nightmare. I wasn’t incorporating any strength-training  into my routine and hardly stretched– my body suffered for it, and the race was just sad. I felt broken (literally…like my body was crumbling) and it was by far my worst race. Hey, you live and you learn– since then, any time I’m training for a race I am sure to include yoga at least once a week, and full body strength-training at least once (hopefully twice) a week. I’m a better athlete, and injury-free because of it. Now that I’m not training for anything in particular, I’ve been enjoying the freedom of trying different activities but still try to balance these 5 components to feel more well-rounded– Loose, limber, light, and strong all at the same time.

How am I working towards my balance?

First of all… I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, planning for the week ahead is uber important especially when engaging in different exercise regimes. So! My balance each week looks like this:

2 runs, 2 HIIT workouts (or 1 HIIT workout, and 1 strength workout. Sometimes this ends up as a combination of the two), 1 yoga session, and 1 active day.

Whatever your goals are, they should be intentional and all of the components of fitness should be considered. If you’re looking for a more well-rounded fitness routine or just need some ideas, below is an example of what my weekly fitness routine might look like.

Monday- HIIT workout (combines muscular strength and endurance)
Circuit 1- repeat 5x
10 rows (ea) in a plank position
12 kettle bell swings

Circuit 2- repeat 3x
40 mountain climbers
10 (each side) jumping lunges
10 (each side) shoulder presses

Circuit 3- repeat 5x
12 (each side) single-leg dead lifts
10 squat and press

Circuit 4- repeat 3x
10 box jumps
12 push-ups
12 leg raises holding weight

Tuesday- Long run (combines cardiovascular and muscular endurance)

This varies, but I’ll do anywhere from 4-7 miles at a nice and easy pace.

Wednesday- Yoga Day (focuses on flexibility primarily and a little muscular strength/endurance)

I like a good yoga day in the middle of the week to loosen things up and decompress. Especially after a longer run and to break up any soreness, yoga helps keep my hip flexors limber.

Thursday- HIIT workout (combines muscular strength and endurance)

Circuit 1-repeat 4x
12 deadlifts
10 skaters
12 pull-ups (using the pull-up machine for me)

Circuit 2- repeat 4x
30 second sprint
30 second rest

Circuit 3- repeat 3x
10 burpees w/ a push-up
1 minute bear crawl
15 front raises
10 upright rows

Circuit 4- repeat 4x
30 second sprint
30 second rest

Circuit 5- repeat 3x
90 second plank
15 knee tucks (using a yoga ball or TRX)
15 leg raises holdinga weight

Friday: HIIT run (combines cardiovascular and muscular endurance)

Some weeks I’ll run 3 miles as quickly as I can, other weeks I’ll do an interval run on the treadmill. My interval runs are 25-30 minutes alternating from a base pace (a pace you’re comfortable running >30 minutes at) to a push pace. For example:

5 minute slow jog to warm up
90 second push pace (i.e. 80% of your max pace)
1 minute base pace (this is your active recovery)
Repeat this 4x

2 minute push pace (i.e. 70% of your max pace
1 minute base pace
Repeat this 4x

1 minute push pace (i.e. 90% of your max)
45 second base pace
Repeat this 3x

45 second sprint
30 second rest
Repeat this 3x

5 minute cool down

Saturday- Active Day

Going for a long bike ride, a long walk, a game of tennis, etc.

Finding balance. What are your goals? Some will be more important for others. How cool is it that you can train and adapt your body. Working towards my balance (2 runs, 2 hiit, 1 yoga, 1 activity day)