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To improve endurance fitness, perform one or a combination of the activities mentioned below three times a week in sessions lasting 20-40 minutes. If you have not exercised regularly, begin with gentle continuous sessions of 15 minutes and build up to 20 minutes or more over a couple of months.
The extent and rate of improvement in endurance fitness from participating in sport depends on your initial level of fitness and how hard you play. Any sport that causes you to get out of breath and lasts 30-minutes or more will be of benefit.
Rapid improvements in endurance fitness are made by doing rhythmical exercises that create aerobic demand by using large muscle groups. Such activities include jogging, cycling, swimming and rowing.
The following three training methods will improve your level of endurance fitness using rhythmical exercise. They refer to running - but can be adapted to other forms of rhythmical exercise.
Continuous training involves either exercising continuously for 20 minutes or more and recording the distances covered; or exercising for a set distance and recording the time taken. In running, the more popular option is jogging a set distance while attempting to reduce the time taken.
A recommended heart ratelevel ipf between 130 and 160 beats per minute is a good indicator for controlling the intensity of continuous exercise (you are able to sustain a conversation at this intensity). Heart rate is measured by taking the pulse. Place two fingers on the underside of your wrist in line with the base of your thumb and count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this figure by four to give an estimate of your heart rate per minute.
Varied pace training rhythmical exercise steady continuous running is interrupted with occasional sprints. This must be well planned in order to be effective. For example, a typical varied pace session could consist of:
- Jogging (five minutes)
- Fast evenly paced running (three minutes)
- Brisk walking (two minutes)
- Evenly paced running with 50-60 metre sprints every 200 metres (five minutes)
- Jogging (two minutes)
- Evenly paced running with occasional small acceleration sprints (three minutes)
- Jogging (five minutes)
- Rhythmical exercises, skipping and gentle knee raises and stretching to cool down (five minutes)
Interval training involves running a specified number of times, for a set time or distance, with periods of recovery in between. For example, you could take your normal course and run at 75% effort for three minutes followed by a jog or brisk walk (depending on your fitness level) for two minutes. Repeat this for the whole course. The duration of running and recovery can be varied as your endurance fitness improves. Alternatively, run a set distance within a set time, e.g. 800m in four minutes with a timed recovery rest in between.
Improve dynamic strength in the upper body muscles by performing resistance exercises, using body weight, free-weights or resistance machines. The following exercises will improve the muscles tested during the Dynamic Strength test.
Full, kneeling and extended kneeling press-ups Perform conventional press-ups, ensuring your hands are shoulder width apart with arms vertical. Your head must be fixed with eyes looking directly down at the floor. Maintain a straight body position throughout the action, ensuring that you go all the way down so that the sternum touches the floor. Fully extend the arms on recovery. Breathe in as you push up; breathe out as you lower yourself down.
If you find it difficult to sustain a succession of press-ups, begin with less strenuous kneeling press-ups. With arms in the same position for full press-ups (described above), kneel with knees immediately below your hips and feet on the floor.
Bend your arms to lower your chest to the floor and return to the front support position. Once you have developed sufficient strength to do ten or more, move on to extended kneeling press-ups - with knees positioned back from the hips, feet raised and lower legs crossed.
Performing regular extended knee press-ups will develop strength enough for a standard press-up with the feet on the floor. Breathe in as you push up; breathe out as you lower yourself down.
Reverse pull-up This requires a bar securely fixed approximately three-feet from the floor. Lying beneath the bar, take a firm grip of it, ensuring your palms are facing your body. Keeping your body straight, pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar. Slowly return to the start position and repeat the procedure. Breathe in as you pull up; breathe out as you lower yourself down.
Perform three or four sets or as many repetitions as you can of each exercise with a two-minute recovery period between each set. Record the total amount of repetitions and aim to improve this in succeeding sessions (but always ensure you have the same recovery period between sets).
Strength training A high degree of strength in the arms, shoulder, and chest and back muscles is required to pass the Dynamic Strength test. Improved strength is also of benefit in the Grip test.
To improve strength, the muscles must be overloaded against a resistance not normally encountered. In order to maintain the muscle overload, progressively increase the weight as strength improves. This is called progressive resistance.
The following progressive resistance methods are ideal for strength training and can be used with any weight training exercise. Begin by establishing the maximum weight at which you can perform ten repetitions (10-RM repetitions at maximum weight). Then perform three sets of ten repetitions as follows:
Set One with 50% of the 10-RM
Set Two with 75% of the 10-RM
Set Three with the full 10-RM
When you attain 13 repetitions on the final set, a heavier load must be used.
Ideally, this training programme should be followed three times a week with a full day´s rest between sessions.
There are many other exercises that will build up strength. A qualified gym instructors or the Force Physical Training Instructor (PTI) will give the best advice. Many gyms offer induction courses and information about using various weight training, resistance exercises and resistance machinery.
Shoulder, bench presses; lap pull-downs, seated row and squats are good for overall strength development. Bench press and seated row exercises are the most effective weight training exercises for the Dyno machine (used to test dynamic strength).
Train with friends if possible as this will make your exercise programme a safer and more enjoyable activity. Monitor your progress by recording times taken, distances covered, recovery times etc. This will provide feedback on improvements and give you an incentive to continue training. Setting realistic personal targets will help to motivate you.
Never over-do your training. Start gently and build-up gradually over a period of months. Spread out fitness sessions - rather than, for instance, playing squash, weight training and swimming all in one day and then doing nothing else for the rest of the week.
Warming-up It is vital to warm-up in preparation for any exercise. By increasing muscle temperature and blood flow and stretching muscles and ligaments, a warm-up not only readies the body for physical work it also decreases the risk of injury. Warm-up activities should be relatively slow and rhythmical such as light jogging or cycling.
Adopt whole body warm-ups that gradually increase body temperature and heart rate – slow running is a good example. Carefully stretch all the major muscles, paying particular attention to those that will be used during the activity.
Ensure the warm-up lasts approximately ten minutes and doesn´t leave you feeling fatigued. Avoid a time-lag between warm-up and activity.
Cooling down and recovery time Adequate recovery time is a vital factor in overall physical performance. Cooling down after exercise removes waste products from the system and helps prevent muscle soreness.
Your cool-down should consist of a light exercise that gradually decreases in intensity - and gentle stretches, particularly of the muscles worked.
After training, the body needs time to recover. If you don´t allow sufficient recovery time, you won´t get the full benefit of training. Ensure a 24-48 hours recovery period following any form of strength training such as preparation for the Grip test and press-ups. If you haven´t previously engaged in strength training, or not trained for a while, then extend the recovery period to three days.
Following speed training ensure at least 48-72 hours of recovery, depending on your initial fitness level. Expect some muscle soreness following strength and speed training. This can be minimised by cooling down and stretching after exercise.
Safety & Health It is advisable to gain medical approval before commencing any exercise programme. The benefits of exercise should far outweigh the risks, but if you have concerns about your health either before or during your programme then consult your GP.
Avoid exercising if you have a cold or infection.
Suitable clothing and footwear must be worn when training.
Exercise should be brisk, but don´t overdo it. Exercise at a comfortable level for longer rather than intensely for a shorter duration.