Given the information that exists through courses, the Internet, books, etc., we can easily lose sight of our reasons to be physically active. But when we step back and reflect on the reasons why we exercise, it likely boils down the picture below. Ultimately, we train, exercise, become educated, etc. to ensure that we have sufficient capacity to meet the demands of our lives.
Your demands reflect the activities that you need, love or want to do. For a physical active population such as firefighters, they reflect the skills necessary to safely fight a live fire and effectively assist at the scene of an accident, but also encompass those activities performed at the end of the day such as going for a run, doing chores around the house, or playing with their kids. Every one of these activities imposes demands (physical, psychological and emotional).
Your capacity can be viewed as your ability, (e.g. strength, endurance, flexibility), desire (e.g. motivation) and awareness (e.g. perception of risk) to perform, safely and effectively. The DEMANDS – CAPACITY framework can be used as a foundation to make your exercise matter!
What would you do if you had the ability and motivation to perform every activity you’ve ever wanted to try?
In the unfortunate situation that an individual’s demands exceed their capacity, their risk of injury and cardiac or respiratory distress will go up, their performance will go down, and quality of life will suffer. In these situations, we can reduce life’s demands (e.g. no more golf, no more lifting…and yes, this also applies to playing with your kids), but this is no way to live!
How you would feel if you were told that you could not participate in an activity that you really enjoy?
Most of us want to be active today, tomorrow and 10 years from now, and therefore we need to look for opportunities to build our capacity to meet the demands of our lives. This approach also offers an excellent strategy to enhance motivation and adherence to exercise in the long-term.
To gain a better appreciation for the demands of your life (i.e. your reasons to exercise), begin by asking three simple questions.
- What activities do I need to perform, love to perform, or want to perform? Consider work, life and play?
- In general, what frequencies (how often), intensities (how hard), and times (how long) are the activities that I need, love or want to perform?
- In general, what movement patterns are associated with the activities I need, love or want to perform? In general, each of us should exhibit the control and coordination to squat, lunge, hinge push and pull.
While your demands can offer insight into how “fit” you need to be, your capacity highlights where you are now. As a first step towards establishing your capacity, pose the same three questions from above, albeit in the opposite order.
- In general, what movement patterns are associated with the activities I need, love or want to perform? This question will help to establish the types of exercises or activities that could be used during an assessment.
- In general, what frequencies, intensities, and times are associated with the activities that I need, love or want to perform? This question will help to establish the frequency, intensity and duration of the exercises or activities that will be used during an assessment. However, as a rule of thumb, start low!
- What activities or exercises will provide me with an opportunity to assess the movement patterns, frequencies, intensities and times listed above?
Using this framework, your exercise programs can be created to progressively build your capacity to meet or exceed the demands of your life!