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Departments: Fitness Focus

The Tortoise Factor — Get FITT

DeSimone, Grace T. B.A., ACSM-CPT, ACSM-GEI

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ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: 3/4 2019 - Volume 23 - Issue 2 - p 3-4
doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000456
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The unsung heroes of the gym, in my opinion, are those people who show up week after week chipping away at their fitness goals. They become part of the fabric of the facility known as “the regulars.” They have maintained their weight over the years or made an initial loss and kept it off and made gradual progress in their endurance and strength gains. They follow what I call “the tortoise factor,” plodding slowly and methodically forward, focusing on long-term results. If you recall Aesop’s Fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the tortoise creeped along to the finish line while the hare sprinted and burned out before finishing, and we learned “slow and steady wins the race.”

In a world of hares bragging about instant gratification and quick fixes coupled with a trillion-dollar wellness industry with hares shouting ridiculous claims of six-pack abs, herculean strength gains, and a fast track to a lifetime of happiness, is it any wonder that our tortoise friends go unnoticed?

In a world of hares bragging about instant gratification and quick fixes coupled with a trillion-dollar wellness industry with hares shouting ridiculous claims of six-pack abs, herculean strength gains, and a fast track to a lifetime of happiness, is it any wonder that our tortoise friends go unnoticed?

Here’s how to be a tortoise and maintain a lifetime of fitness. Learn a very simple formula called the F.I.T.T. Principle. Whether you are just starting your fitness journey, are a returning veteran, or are a practiced enthusiast, you will benefit from these guidelines to keep on a slow steady track of exercise success.

Frequency: How often you exercise is a determining factor in how your body responds to exercise. Begin slowly to allow your body to adapt to the new stimulus. This allows your body enough time to rest, rebuild, and repair, which is a critical part of the fitness process. Once you have adapted, you can increase your frequency, keeping in mind that resting is a required component of the formula.

Intensity: This refers to how much effort your body requires for the exercise. Keep in mind that too much too soon usually ends in fatigue, injury, or low adherence. Start out with an intensity that is achievable and gradually increase the intensity over time. The more intense an exercise is, the less time it will require to achieve results.

Time: What is the duration of each bout of exercise? This will vary based on the intensity and type.

Understanding and applying the four pillars of the F.I.T.T. principle can help you plan your tortoise route though the menagerie of fitness information. If you are just starting out, your F.I.T.T. plan might look like this:

Once you have improved your endurance and strength a bit you can take it up a notch which might look like this:

Type: What type of exercise will you be doing? Will an exercise session be primarily cardiovascular, resistance training, or once your body adapts, a combination of both? And, what specific exercises will you perform?

ACSM identifies the F.I.T.T. principle guidelines as a goalpost in your fitness endeavors.

Once your body adapts to training, you can shorten the time you spend exercising by increasing the intensity. For example, instead of taking a 45-minute moderate walk, you can do a 30-minute walk/jog or a 20-minute jog. Using intervals in your cardio training is an effective way to increase intensity and decrease time while providing a fun and diverse way to get your body in great shape.

Here is a sample of an interval session:

60 seconds of moderate-intensity activity — brisk walking (type)

30 seconds of intense activity — running or jumping rope

30 seconds of light active recovery — easy walk

Repeat this cycle for a total of 20 minutes.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Set your goals using the F.I.T.T. principle, reevaluate every 2 to 3 months, and win the race of life.

Copyright © 2019 by American College of Sports Medicine.