SCI and Fitness: You may be fitter than you think

Category: Motivation / Training Tips

More than once I’ve sat down with a client during their first assessment and when I ask them what their fitness goal is, they respond with “I want to be fit”. 

Now, this answer isn’t incorrect and most of the time I can actually understand what the client is visualizing when they say ‘fit’, but beware:

If you choose this as your end goal, you will be setting yourself up for failure.

I can’t stress how important it is to have a specific and measurable goal. You cannot measure the word ‘fit’ because it is an ever-changing variable depending on who and what context it is used in.  Let’s look at some definitions:

Fitness (noun): The condition of being physically fit and healthy.

Fit (adjective) 1. Of a suitable quality, standard or type to meet the required purpose.

                           2. In good health, especially because of regular physical exercise.

I’m going to use my good friend and para athlete Jared (name changed for privacy) as an example. 

When he was training for wheelchair basketball at the Paralympics, Jared was training for a few hours every day with one scheduled recovery day per week. 

Leading up to the event, his nutrition was on point and because of his training periodization, he was at the peak of his stamina and strength for the game. He was in outstanding shape and was very fit for the Paralympic Basketball event.

Let’s fast forward to a few years later when Jared has since retired from para sport.  He still trains regularly in the gym (2-3x per week) and does some wheelchair basketball coaching on the side.  He is also balancing a part time job and a family.

At this time in his life Jared isn’t fit for a Paralympic athlete.

But what if his goal was to be consistently in the gym 3X per week and keep his body within a specific weight range? With consideration to this goal, Jared is now fit.

If Jared’s goal was to compete again as a Para athlete, he would need to follow a program that gets him faster, stronger, more agile and probably lighter (to be faster in the sports chair).

This training program would look much different than the one that keeps Jared going to the gym X amount of times per week and staying within X-X range of body weight.

Everyone wants to be fit. This isn’t new news. Being fit looks different to everyone, depending on the person, the circumstance and the goal.  So, before you get started on a new fitness venture or program, ask yourself:

What does it mean for me to be fit? What does it look like? How can I measure it?

Maybe it’s being able to complete all your transfers in one day without relying on a transfer board.  Maybe it is completing a 5K wheel in under X amount of time.

Maybe it’s getting enough exercise every week to be within the International SCI Exercise Guidelines (click on the link to learn more).

Whatever your fit looks like, make sure to define that first so you know which way to go with your dedicated efforts.

Your Coach,
Megan Williamson

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