Updated: Nov 5, 2021
OK, so I guess the first thing to cover is what exactly is meant by a fitness "toolbox". Well, put quite simply, a fitness toolbox is the collection of exercises, disciplines, sports, physical and mental activities that one performs. This includes any activity which is physically or mentally demanding whose aim is to bring about a positive change in ones physical and mental well-being. No single sport or discipline challenges or improves every aspect of physical and mental health, so it is important to have a wide range of tools at your disposal to cover all bases.
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Let's take a look at just a few of the elements of physical health (mental health is beyond my scope of expertise, but I will touch on it later):
Cardiovascular fitness - The ability of the heart, lungs and blood vessels to supply the muscles with oxygen-rich blood, and the muscles' ability to use oxygen to produce energy for movement.
Muscular endurance - The ability of working muscles to exert force against resistance over an extended period of time.
Muscular strength - The ability of working muscles to exert maximal force against resistance.
Flexibility - The end range of motion of a joint OR the ability for a muscle to passively lengthen through a range of motion.
Mobility - The ability of a muscle or joint to actively move through a range of motion.
Balance - The ability to maintain the bodies' centre of gravity within the base of support.
Coordination - The ability to move two or more body parts under control.
Of course, many of these elements work together to form other elements such as agility, speed and power, and many of these elements are complementary to each other. This is why it is important to address all of these elements.
What does this mean
What this means is that it might be time to evaluate your training regime and identify areas where you may be lacking. If you perform lots of endurance-type activities it would be good to include strength and power exercises. If you perform a lot of muscular strengthening and endurance work it might be good to include some mobility and flexibility work.
What About Mental Health?
Before getting into this section, it is important to define what I mean by mental health. Often, when speaking of mental health, many seem to associate this with mental health disorders. For the purpose of this article, mental health relates to one's overall mental health and well-being.
The link between physical health and mental health has long since been established. Regular exercise has a positive effect on mental health (1) and there are other mental health benefits to exercising as well. Sports improve tactical thinking, martial arts improve focus and discipline and yoga can help to relax you. Finding disciplines that challenge you mentally will have a positive effect on your overall mental health.
4 Tools To Add To Your Toolbox
Taking part in traditional martial arts such as Kungfu or Karate will teach you many important skills such as discipline, patience and humility, not to mention giving you the confidence to be able to defend yourself should you so need to. Martial arts help build stamina, flexibility, mobility, speed and strength, the whole package! Find a class of students and teachers you like and be disciplined in your attendance.
Yoga helps to re-establish the mind-body connection. Not only will you learn to relax your mind and body, but you will also build some muscular strength, and improve your mobility and balance.
Being part of a team or group working towards competitive common goal taps into two of our most primal instincts: being part of a tribe and striving to dominate. Team sports obviously help you to get fitter, but also gives you a feeling of camaraderie, support and fun! Find a team sport which you enjoy and also is physically demanding.
Hiking either on your own or with friends is a fantastic way to experience the great outdoors - being outdoors has its own health benefits. The challenge of the tough terrain will challenge your cardiovascular system and the undulating terrain will help to improve your balance and agility. Being with friends whilst performing a challenge helps to build rapport and friendships.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Maitland is a personal trainer with over 13 years of experience. He has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEO's, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.