Skills and Fitness

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Do not confuse skills with your fitness level

If you do an activity regularly, you become more skilled at that activity. If you become skilled at one activity, you will quickly learn the skills of similar activities.

A test of this is to teach one hand to perform a simple skill (such as juggling a ball), and then try and learn that skill with the other hand. Whichever one you start with, the second hand will always leam more quickly!

However, with exercise and training, as you become more skilled, it takes more work to get the same physical response (such as increase in heart rate) from the exercise.

If you want to increase your fitness, you have to work harder as you get more skilled and efficient at an activity, which means that it requires less effort to produce the same amount of work output.

Take a good look at your instructor next time you are being led in an exercise class or training session. Are the instructors really leading you through exercises and routines which are physically demanding, or are they just exercises that appear hard to the inexperienced?

Instructors usually don't teach exercises that are physically demanding, but instead they teach exercises that require specific skills, such as coordination, reflexes, or a memory for complex movement patterns.

If you teach classes day in, day out for years, or participate regularly, you learn lots of skills (tricks) for lessening the workload. Have you noticed that even if someone is fit, they become clutzes in an aerobics class, because aerobics requires lots of skilled coordination.

Skills and fitness: skill is often mistaken for fitness. The problem here is that exercise and training are all about making your body work harder. The more work your body can perform, recover from, and adapt to, the fitter it gets. However, developing skill in an activity means that you become more efficient at that activity, and it requires less work to produce the same result.

So a skilled sports participant will require less effort for success. Winning at a particular sport doesn't necessarily mean you are fit. We can see this often with some older people playing squash.

They have been playing the sport for a long time, so they are skilled and cunning. But as they age there are more demands on their time, so they train less for fitness, and play less often. Because they still regularly win games, they have a mental picture of themselves as still being fit.

Each game that they play puts more and more stress on their body. One day they push themselves too far, and end up with a serious injury. Remember, physical prowess, or skill, doesn't equal fitness.

Skill involves the brain, and the nerves and muscles (neuromuscular). The mind thinks ahead, the spinal cord processes signals from the senses such as your eyes or sense of touch, the nerves send signals to the muscles, and the muscles respond in a trained way.

If you have a good brain for a sport, good reflexes, and good responses, you can "cheat" a bit in the area of fitness. You have to be fit to put in the effort needed to practice and train for new skills. To practice new physical skills, you have to have some aerobic fitness.

When you have aerobic endurance, you can move on to developing muscle endurance, strength, and finally power. Once you are fit in all these areas, use this fitness to allow yourself to train hard enough, without injury, to develop skills.

Skills and stress: If you are not fit, then the stress of competitive sport or training can:

      Increase blood pressure (such as a heart attack),

      Increase core body temperature (such as heat stroke),

      Place excessive stress on weak blood vessel walls (such as a stroke),

      Place excessive forces on muscle connective tissue (such as torn muscles, or sore muscles the next day),

      Tear soft connective tissue (such as a knee or ankle sprain), or

      Disrupt bone connections (putting your back out, for example). The formula for sporting success combines a good level of fitness with the pressures of the sport and the skills specific to that sport.

This formula can be summarised as: Fitness + pressure + skills = success. If you are starting back at a sport, remember that the mind remembers how fit you were as a youth, but your body has forgotten.

Spend three to six months getting fit before you start serious training or participation in a sport, and you may survive to experience some of the lost sporting joys of your youth.


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