Fitness Truths: seven steps to super fit

Fitness Truths: how to get super fit
Credit: REX

Getting 'super fit' is a bit like building a house. You have to lay solid foundations and work upwards, paying attention to the quality of the work, making sure not to skip to the roof before the walls and floors are stable. Fitness is the same – it should be done in stages, the tricky part being that getting super fit is not as simple as achieving one thing, and then moving on to the next.  Rather, you move back and forth between levels, from beginner to advanced, working towards the end goal.  

But there are seven steps to getting super fit that I tell everyone who walks into to the gym to follow.  Yes, the process will vary from one person to the next, depending on ability, needs and goals, but the overall principle is the same.  You won't get super fit without this secret seven.  

Step One: Eat well
We've heard it all before, but what you eat and how you treat your digestive system determines how much you can put your body through long term. The usual rules apply: go for foods that are close to their natural form, basing your plate around lean protein and a variety of different vegetables. Add some pulses and legumes, fibrous and nutritious carbs like brown rice and quinoa, and good quality fats and oils from foods like avocados, raw nuts and seeds, and coconut oil.

If you want to get in serious shape, you need to get your nutrition dialled in.  I'm not necessarily talking calorie counting for fat loss, rather eating for optimal performance. Your body needs adequate and appropriate fuel to create the conditions for peak fitness and to get the best results from training. Fat loss is the by-product of fuelling the body correctly. 

And don’t forget to stay hydrated; choose plenty of water and herbal teas over sugary drinks or alcohol.

Step Two: Sleep well
The changes in your body happen in the recovery phase of your training program, and sleep is a crucial element of getting in excellent shape. If you don’t get a decent amount of sleep, you’ll be fatigued and lethargic during training sessions and unable to put in the push you need to reach the next level of fitness. As with most things, the amount you need depends on the individual, but you should be aiming for at least seven hours a night.

Step Three: Get mobile 
Trying to build strength on top of a system that doesn't move is futile, and a recipe for disaster. Healthy joints can move through a given range, and in today’s sedentary society most people will need to work on their mobility to achieve this. Without proper mobility, you’ll find it difficult to perform exercises with good form, which will exert incorrect stresses on your joints, muscles, and tendons, leading to injury. Try soft tissue work, stretching, and forms of bodyweight training, such as yoga, to help.

Step Four: Build stability
Having good mobility is great, assuming that your joints are stable through this range.  If not, you're asking for trouble. Where mobility is the ability of a joint to move through its full range of motion, stability is the ability of the surrounding tissues and neuromuscular system to maintain and control the movement of that joint. You can see why having mobility without stability would be a problem. A system that has a decent platform of mobility and stability is one with correct posture, and is more likely to stay injury free.  Try bodyweight movements, paused exercises, Pilates-based stuff and isometric training to get the body stable during certain movements.

Step Five: Stay strong
Once you have a good base of mobility and stability, you’ll have a decent foundation upon which to build strength. Strength can mean different things to different people, but whatever your take on it, strength can be defined as progressively challenging the body to do more. Try and do this without a solid base, and you’ll find yourself out of action sooner or later.

Being strong means increasing your capacity to improve your fitness, in whatever direction you’re choosing to take. There is no point being fit if the rest of the system keeps breaking down.  Once you're stronger, you can go faster, for longer with far less cause for injury.  Increased strength equals increased muscular endurance which equals increased fitness. Choose compound exercises to get your body balanced and functionally strong, then move on to target specific muscle groups or movements depending on your individual focus.

Step Six: Get fit
Having fuelled, rested, balanced and strengthened your body, you can continue to increase your endurance and cardiovascular fitness. The work you’ve done already will have put you well on the way towards this goal. Continue your strength work, including things like core training, specific hip strengthening and single leg exercises for explosive power, as well as lifting some heavier weights in your compound exercises. Becoming leaner will really help here too, so hone in on nutrition to lessen the amount of weight your body has to haul around when you’re training. Add some interval training and sprints as well as carefully placed longer runs or cycles to reach your peak endurance, and focus on technical proficiency to maximise your results.

Step Seven: Be specific 
Once you have a good base of general fitness, you can look to specialise your training to work towards a particular event or sport.  But remember, you must become a rounded athlete before becoming a specific athlete. The wider and more stable the base training, the greater the platform for excellence in a given discipline.

Jean Claude is founder of W10 Performance . Follow the team on Twitter @W10Performance