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Fitness 101: A Practical Guide to Mastering the Fundamentals of Fitness

Updated: Feb 14

The foundation of fitness


When it comes to fitness, there’s no shortage of information available. No matter where you get your facts it's important to recognize, that at the heart of any fitness journey, are the basics that form the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.

The benefits of exercise are becoming more evident; from increased energy and stamina to reduced risk of chronic diseases.

By building a solid foundation, you can achieve long-term success. Avoid the temptation to jump on the latest trend and instead, create a sustainable and enjoyable routine that will help you reach those goals and maintain your health for years to come. The fitness basics include:

· Components of Fitness

· Principles of Fitness

· FITT Principle

· Routine

In the following sections, our goal is to help you understand these basics with practical tips so you can start to incorporate these into your routine to help you achieve the results you're looking for!


At its core, fitness is about taking care of your body and improving your overall health and well-being. It's about challenging yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally to become the best version of yourself.

Strength training for your health

The basics can be broken down into several components that make up “fitness”:

· Strength

· Endurance

· Mobility

· Flexibility

· Body Composition

Strength: Simply put, it’s your ability to overcome resistance. It is the max amount of force your muscle can produce. We work in ranges of our 1 rep max (max muscle force). Say, for example, a bench press done at 75% of 1 rep max, we are working at 75% of max force for that muscle.

Endurance: The ability to sustain an activity at a certain level. In muscle endurance, that muscle can execute repeated contractions over time to cause fatigue (ex: bodyweight squats). In cardiovascular endurance, it is the lungs and heart that provide fuel and oxygen to the body during those sustained workloads (ex: running).

Mobility: Range of motion through a joint actively, and how the joint moves and relies on other structures during those movements. A hip exercise called "90-90" is a great example of this where we actively move our legs from 1 side back to the other in a short time.

Flexibility: This is the ability of a muscle to lengthen passively through the range of motion. We can use the same 90-90 stretch but now we sit in that position for an extended period in a relaxed state gradually increasing the stretch.

Body Composition: Described as the percentage of body fat, water, bone, muscle, and skin that make up the body. When we test, we are usually looking for the amount of fat mass we have compared to lean muscle, bones, and organs. Many methods can be used, the more expensive route being a DEXA scan, or cheaper by using skinfold readings.

These components can be broken down even further but for now, let us get a hold of the basics. We can use the basics above to start incorporating the principles of fitness in order to further our understanding!


The next building block in our foundation is the principles of fitness:

· Progression

· Specificity

· Overload

· Recovery/Rest

Progression: Relates to overload in the sense that an increase in time, weight or intensity should be gradual, around 10% or less each week to allow for gradual adaptations while minimizing injury risk. This allows for muscle strength increases and avoids plateaus with too big of a weight increase.

Specificity: Exercise should be specific to your goals. Want to increase distance? Run longer at a slower pace over time. Want to squat more weight? Focus on leg strength. How the body responds to an activity is specific to the activity itself.

Overload: The body adapts to the demands imposed on it, so the activity will be easier next time. If 20 lbs is your max, over time you can lift 25 lbs or 20 lbs for more repetitions. This must be done slowly and progressively over time to avoid injury.

Recovery: We’ve all been there before… not enough rest and recovery can lead to fatigue, burnout, or long-term overtraining. You can exercise daily but make sure to switch up the type, intensity, and time. Allowing time to recover allows muscles to repair and rebuild.


Now that you understand the basics and principles, let's shift our focus on how to effectively incorporate these. How often should I work out? How long? This is where the FITT principle comes in.

The FITT principle is used to progressively overload the body so adaptation can occur. It can be broken down into:

(F) Frequency: This can be how often you work out, how often you work out a body part, or how often a certain exercise is performed. This is an important aspect you must consider. You want to find a balance between work and recovery for you to adapt AND recover for the next session.

o Full body training 3x/week (ex: chest worked 3x/week)

o Upper/lower body split, each part is worked twice a week (chest 2x/week)

(I) Intensity: Amount of effort (low vs high intensity), or work completed for an exercise. Intensity can be altered in strength training by changing the weight, sets, reps, tempo, and reduced rest times. Cardiovascular intensity can be altered by increasing distance, and pace, or by incorporating HIIT.

(T) Time: Simply the duration of the exercise, which can be altered by increasing sets/reps (weights) or by increasing distance (cardio).

(T) Type: Type of exercise. Can be strength or cardiovascular or a combination of each. It can also mean doing different strength exercises for the same muscle group. Performing an incline bench press instead of a flat bench press.

Remember these are based on your goals, if you don’t need to train hard every day, don’t. Find the right balance for you, to help you stay committed and maintain success.


Creating a balanced fitness plan is important for health and wellness. One study looks to break down the overall benefits of exercise and how balance is needed.

A fitness plan should include cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Strength training is great for boosting confidence and increasing muscle mass. Cardio can help you sustain work for longer, get more done in a day, and feel more energized. Flexibility can help make daily tasks more tolerable, and help you feel more relaxed.

Injuries are no joke, and even the smallest injury can keep you down. That’s why it’s important to build a routine that incorporates all of these training components as a preventive measure. Better to sit out, than stay out. Taking the time to rest and recover is just as important and should be prioritized.

Make sure to rotate in new fitness routines, and switch things up when you notice your progress slowing. A varied fitness plan helps to avoid plateaus and keeps challenging the body for better performance.

Cardio can help decrease body weight which means less pressure on joints, and you can perform tasks longer with lower effort. As you fatigue, your movement patterns change creating stress on other body parts as form breaks down. Find a form of cardio that works for you and stick with it; consistency here is key.

Strength training can help build a stronger musculoskeletal system leading to less stress on joints.

Flexibility can make the tendons more compliant, increase the range of motion, improve the circulation of blood for nutrients, and removes waste by-products in tissue.

Create a fitness plan that aligns goals with personal preferences, tracks progress, and incorporates fitness principles. Are you training for an event? Trying to build muscle? Having these goals will allow for better adherence. What do you and don’t you like doing? If you hate cycling or running then skip that, and find something that you do enjoy and will stick to. Try the activity in a group setting for extra motivation and accountability.

Set goals!

Short-term goals help with motivation which leads to long-term success. Accountability can be achieved through sharing goals with others. Understanding your current fitness level and slowly adjusting your workout intensity can prevent injuries and improve adherence.


Now that you should have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of fitness, remember it takes time and dedication to achieve your goals, but the rewards are worth it.

So, what's next? Now that you have the knowledge and tools to create an effective workout plan, it's time to act. Set realistic goals for yourself, track your progress, and stay motivated. Remember to listen to your body, prioritize rest and recovery, and seek guidance from a qualified fitness professional if needed.

Understanding the basics of training is important, this when paired with proper nutrition, will set you up for long-term success.

Above all, find a routine that lets you have fun and enjoy the process. It should be a positive experience, so find activities that you enjoy to help you achieve your goals and live a happier, healthier life!

If you have any questions regarding how and where to start on your fitness journey, follow this link. Train hard and stay safe!

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