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National Fitness Day - a coach's perspective

As part of UK Active's National Fitness Day - 27 September 2017 - gym operators and physical activity providers across the UK offer a wide range of free taster sessions to raise awareness and encourage people to do more physical acivity.

For some people choosing to lead a more active lifestyle is a welcome decision; a recent poll showed that only a quarter (27%) of British adults say that, on average, they do more than 2.5 hours a week - the minimum amount of time the NHS recommends - of moderate physical activity.

As a coach with a passion for supporting the least active to create and maintain more active lifestyles, I often find that my participants want to 'just get a bit fitter' and my response to this is always, "Fit for what?"

It seems that for some, fitness is viewed as a finite ability, as if there is a standardised fitness test we all need to complete in order to say, I am fit! Cue flash backs to the bleep test in school. Perhaps this is part of the reason we need a National Fitness Day?

One definition of physical fitness that speaks to me is: 'The ability to carry out daily tasks with vigour and alertness without undue fatigue'. The reason this works for me is that it is by nature individual-centred and mirrors my own coaching philosophy.

This obviously changes when you put ‘fitness’ into the context of sport, for example to complete a marathon there will need to be a base level of physical fitness. However this is balanced with the motivation and aspirations of the individual, do they want to complete the distance or break a personal best?

So the concept of fitness is not only context specific but unique to the individual. A complicated challenge to meet then when helping someone to 'just get a bit fitter'. Perceptions play a big part here and a tool coaches can use to get their participants fitter is the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale.

As I explain to my participants: "I am going to ask you at points throughout the session to rate how hard you feel you are working on a scale of 1-10, for example five equals comfortable; seven, working hard; and 10 too hard."

The scale works to understand the perceived effort levels of participants and by keeping notes I am able to understand their fitness capabilities; moreover I can help them realise their goals and show them how they have improved over time.

Let's continue the conversation...what things do you do to help monitor the fitness levels of your participants? Why not share your practice and learn from each other.

Craig Blain, Development Lead: Physical Activity, UK Coaching

Follow: @CraigABlain