The first thing I want to say is that I'm not licensed or certified personal trainer. Personal experience has been my education. Consult a physician before starting any exercise routine.

Like a lot of people out there, I'm a fitness and exercise enthusiast. I've been working out since my high school football days. When football was over, I kept eating the same and became fat. I'm a shade over 6 feet tall and at my most I weighed 253 pounds. After high school I knew I had to loose weight and get in shape. I've tried and read a lot of different workouts, exercises and diets. I lost weight the right way. It took me almost two years, but I went from 253 to 178. A big difference for sure. I did that over my freshman and sophomore years of college. During that time I was also trying to, "Get Huge," muscularly. Try as I might I just wasn't getting big like Arnold. While I made some gains, I came to realize what truly decided the muscular disposition of a person. That thing is the, "G-word," Genetics. While anybody can improve on what they have, one just has to be realistic with what they'll end up with. For me, I knew even if worked as hard and as long as anybody, I wasn't going to, "Get Huge." Towards the end of my sophomore year, I was introduced to Wing Chun. And that started to change the way I looked at everything. As I started my Wing Chun training, it really made me take an honest look at was really worth while about working out. What was practical, efficient and functional? Enough with the history, let's get started on the tetrahedron of fitness.

First of all, what the heck is a tetrahedron? It's a four-sided pyramid. When trying to picture it, think of a three-sided pyramid, but now include the bottom of it and that makes four. If you've ever seen a four sided dice that's exactly what it is. The prefix, "Tetra," is Greek for four. The four sides of the tetrahedron are cardiovascular training, resistance training, stretching, and diet. To achieve true total fitness each side is as equally important as any other side is.

The first side I'll talk about is the cardiovascular side. This is my favorite aspect of the fitness tetrahedron. Simply put cardiovascular fitness means to raise ones heart rate so the heart will be exercised and eventually pump more efficiently. The limiting factor in exercise is cardiac output. Cardiac output is the combination of one's heart rate plus one's stroke volume. Stroke volume is the amount of blood pumped out of the heart during a heart contraction. Of these two things, heart rate and stroke volume, to increase one's stroke volume is the more effective way to increase one's cardiovascular ability. Why is this? Because if you get more blood to circulate with better stokes of the heart, you'll have more oxygen moving around the body. But to increase one's stroke volume, you have to increase your heart rate. There is a but, and that is you need to increase your heart rate to an efficient level. What is that efficient level? That level is between 60% and 80% of your maximum heart rate. To find your maximum heart rate you simply subtract your age from 220 and then multiple by 0.6 and 0.8 to find your 60% and 80% heart rate. Why these percentages? If you go under 60% you won't be increasing your heart rate enough to get an effective workout. If you go over this, your heart will be pumping to fast to efficiently circulate enough oxygen to the body. If you can stay closer to 80% that's great, but your workout can vary depending how you feel that day. Just as long as you stay between 60% and 80%, you'll have an effective and efficient workout.
That's enough of a physiology lesson for now, let's get to the fun part. What exercises should one do to get a good cardiovascular workout? Basically any will do, but there are a few that are more effective at getting your heart rate up faster and keeping it there better than others. The easy ones at doing this are running/jogging, swimming, cross country skiing, jump roping and the gauntlet Stairmaster are some of my favorites. When the whether gets warm, running outside, running hills, biking, hiking with a good load of weight are others that I love to do. Other good cardiovascular workouts include aerobic classes, Tae Bo, and Tai kwon do. If you're worried about impact on your knee's, biking, hiking, swimming, and cross-country skiing are great ones. Running in the swimming pool is another great low impact exercise. Basically, choose what you like to do from day to day, it doesn't matter, as long as you do something.
How long and how often should one do cardiovascular training? 4 to 6 days a week for 20 to 30 minutes a day is all need to improve your fitness. Unless you're training for a marathon, 20 to 30 minutes, 4 to 6 days a week in that target heart range will be more than enough. Also, start doing things like taking the stairs instead of elevators. Park your car further away, so you walk a little further. That way you're incorporating fitness into your daily life. Give it a couple of weeks and you'll not only not get winded when you climb those stairs, you'll feel great.

The next side of the tetrahedron I'm going to talk about is the resistance training. Just briefly I'm going to talk about the mechanics of muscle contraction. Contraction – the active process of generating a force on a muscle
Tension – the force exerted by a contracting muscle on an object
Load – force exerted on a muscle by the weight of an object.
There are three types of muscle contractions
Isotonic – the length of the muscle shortens, tension is constant.
An example of this would be to lift a load, or even body movement.
Isometric – muscle length is constant, but tension increases
An example of this would be a load greater than tension produced, Supporting the body in a fixed position is an example of this.
Eccentric (lengthening) - this occurs when an unsupported load on a muscle is Greater than the tension generated. This occurs when an object supported by a muscle is lowered. Such as sitting down from a standing position
Enough with the physiology already. The crux of this is to do some type of strength/resistance training. What to do? Like I was saying, I like to do what is practical, efficient and functional. Shortly after I got into Wing Chun, I also got into rock climbing and that really helped change my perspective. Doing lat pull downs weren't going to help me get to the top of the wall. Doing a workout that simulated the task I was going to do was really going to help me. Personally I like compound movements. Those are movements that involve multiple muscle groups at the same time. You get more bang for your buck and it's a time saver because instead of doing separate exercises for biceps, back, and rear deltoid; I would do pull ups. In stead of doing separate exercises for pecks, triceps, and front deltoids; I would dips or a form of push up. If you can't do a dip or pull up, many gyms have a pull up/dip assist machine. These are great things to do to build up your strength so you'll be able to do unassisted pull-ups and dips. A realistic resistance/strength training routine shouldn't take more than 20 to 30 minutes. Keep the repetition range at ten. And only rest 1 to 2 minutes between sets. Start out easy and work your way up. You're in this for the long term, not the short term. A sample beginning exercise program could be three sets of pull-ups (palms away from the body), three sets of dips, two sets of chin-ups (palms toward the body), and finish with two sets of push-ups. For abdominal, start with two sets of crunches. What about legs? You'll get that when you do your cardio workout. Simple right? Unless you're training for a power-lifting contest I don't believe you need to try to push insane amounts of iron. 2 to 3 times a week will provide you with positive results. Try to give a day or two rest in-between workouts. Remember if something starts to hurt you, stop what you're doing and consider seeking medical attention.

The next part of the tetrahedron is stretching. Stretching improves health and fitness. Stretching also reduces the risk of injury. Lots of times everyday injuries happen by overextending a joint, muscle, and connective tissue. These overextensions can result in muscle pulls, strains and sprains. The difference between a strain and a sprain is a strain is an overextension of a muscle, a sprain involves an overextension of tendon and/or ligaments. In martial arts flexibility is a premium.
Stretching is a great way to warm up and cool down before and after a workout. It feels great to stretch after a workout. It will help one prevent soreness after working out and promote faster recovery. No one wants to be tight, especially a martial artist. Stretching will help alleviate that tightness.
What, when and how to stretch? What to stretch would be all the muscles and body parts you can. When, stretch early and stretch often. Try to hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. After a workout you should realistically allocate 15 to 20 minutes to stretching. Stretching is as important as any other component and it's the one that is done the least. Stretching should be enjoyable. Go to the local bookstore and get any good yoga or stretching basics book, or read Sifu Ed Basile's article on stretching to get some ideas.
A thing to remember is not to bounce. This can injure your muscle and then you'll be going backwards instead of forwards in your fitness goals. Ease into the stretch. Just like with the other components, stretching will be a progressive thing. Give it a chance, it will be to your benefit.

The final component in the tetrahedron of fitness is the diet. People think this is the easiest to change, but it might possible be the hardest. Why? Because people love to eat, not only for necessity, but because there's a lot of good tasting food out there. I'm not going to go to in-depth about eating habits, because a lot of it is common sense. Let's start with things that are not healthy to eat. All fast food places should be avoided. Even Subway? If you get one of there low calorie subs that could be acceptable. Going out to eat in general in my opinion isn't to great for you. You just don't know what that restaurant is adding to your food. I'm not saying never go out to eat, but try to keep down to once or twice a week. It's the everyday eating that you run into trouble. To stay fit one needs to eat none calorie dense foods. Surprise, these foods would be your everyday fruit and vegetables. For protein stick with egg whites, skinless chicken, tuna. Those are some of my favorites. If you eat salads, don't add dressing, or else you're defeating the whole purpose.
Here's a list of foods that's easy to stock your house with
Everything for Energy

Simple Carbohydrates – apples, banana's, berries, cantaloupe, cherries, grapefruit,
Oranges, pineapples, plums and watermelon.

?Starchy? Complex Carbohydrates – Barley, oatmeal, rice, squash, sweet potatoes,
Yams, whole grain breads, bagels, cereals, pastas And pancakes.

Legume Carbohydrates – black eyed peas, black beans, kidney beans lima beans, lentils
Pinto beans read beans, navy beans

A good way to estimate the portion size you should have is an amount equal to two handfuls. Limit yourself to 2 to 3 portions of carbohydrates a day and try to have them between 6am to noon. This is because carbohydrates are the body's fuels. You need to fill up your tank to start your day. If you can, taper off around noon. What carbohydrates you don't use for energy get turned into fat. So if you have a regular healthy metabolism like me, you can get all the carbohydrates you need before noon. Why complex carbohydrates, because they stay in your system longer than simple carbohydrates do.

Everything to Build

Protein sources – albacore, skinless white chicken breasts, cod, egg whites, orange roughy, Shrimp, tuna (fresh or water packed if canned), non/low fat yogurt/milk/Cottage cheese

A good way I estimate how much protein to have is 0.5 grams of protein for every body pound I weigh. This is a good amount. With out getting into more physiology, too much protein can be hard on the kidneys.

Everything Else
High fiber vegetables – alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, bean sprouts, broccoli, cabbage,
Carrots, cauliflower, celery, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, Onions, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, spinach and zucchini
Sweet things (all should be sugar free and fat free) Cinnamon sticks, cocoa (Swiss miss items), gum, Jell-O, nutra sweet, Popsicle's, Pudding, slushies, vanilla extract
Flavored Water, low sodium bouillon, coffee, diet soda, teas, vegetable juice
All spices (salt free), fat-free mayonnaise, fat-free dressings, garlic, herbs, lemon
Juice, mustards, peppers and vinegar.

You can eat as much in the, ?Everything else,? category you want at any one time. Just try to have high fiber vegetables with all your meals.
A final few things on nutrition
-it's ok to have the occasional fast food, candy bar, etc, it's when it's an everyday/every meal event that you'll have trouble maintaining health
-Drink plenty of water, 8 glasses a day, at least. The body is 60% water; you need to stay hydrated.
-Try to eat smaller meals, 4 to 6 a day, I know this is hard sometimes, but it's easier on the digestive system
-Stay away from full fat cheeses, butters, and margarine's, nuts and seeds, full sugar jams and jellies, whole milk, whole eggs, sandwich meats, cookies/candy, cakes, chips, microwave popcorn, fruit drink (not juices, drinks), carbohydrate drinks, dried fruit (they're high in sugar), canned vegetables (frozen are ok), ice cream, pork, syrup, full fat mayonnaise, dark meat poultry, alcohol, fast foods.
-Try not to eat 4 hours before going to sleep
-Try to workout in the morning if possible. This way you'll be burning your calorie reserves.
-Don't keep bad foods in your house. If there's no temptation, there'll be no overindulgence.

What about olive oil? Isn't that good for you?
Well, yes and no. Yes, because you do need fat in your diet. Two tablespoons a day is enough. I use an arousal pump sprayer. You put the oil in, pump it up and spray it out. I use it for lubricating pans or to lightly put oil on food. The No part is because olive oil is fat, and you'll get plenty of fat, protein and carbohydrates in a well balanced diet.

What about vitamins and supplements?
When I was in college at the University of Illinois at Chicago, one of the nutrition classes was taught me the truth about vitamins and supplements. The professor of the class had a PHD in biochemistry. He taught biochemistry in Germany to German medical students (he's an American who speaks German). He worked for the RDA for seven years. He led an expedition to Mt Everest to study the effects of how the body burned calories at different altitudes. In other words, he knows his stuff. I asked him this very question. From all his research and understanding he said that with a proper diet, the only item that might be needed is a multivitamin. That's it, a single multivitamin a day was all he said people needed. Eat healthy and you'll be fine.

Nutrition isn't hard it's just common sense. Eating right can be hard the hardest part, but it's important.

Well, that's it. That's my tetrahedron of fitness. Four aspects of fitness that will make you a healthier person. Train well and train safe.
Written by Sifu Ken Weingart
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