"What the heck are you talking about?" Deciphering the fitness jargon.

Megan Dahlman
December 19, 2016

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​I catch myself sometimes throwing around terminology that I assume everyone knows. I talk about metabolism, sets, reps, conditioning, mobility…these terms are all second nature to me. Yes, I am a nerd. (I guess it's some weird form of gym-jock/nerd.)

But you might be wondering what the heck I'm even talking about, sometimes.

For you to get the most out of your fitness program, you should know what all of these terms mean. Having a good baseline knowledge of fitness terms will give you more clarity and purpose in your workouts.

You're going to be so smart by the end of this...here we go!

Metabolism – This might be one of the most confusing terms.

Metabolism is the combination of all the living processes in your body. It’s not just “calorie burn”. It’s a bone cell regenerating. It’s the transfer of oxygen through your lungs and into your bloodstream. It’s the building of muscle. It's EVERYTHING. And yes, it all requires energy. And yes, the more processes that are occurring, the higher your metabolism will be and the more energy (calories) it will require.

It sometimes slows down as we age because we stop moving as much, which equals fewer living processes. It can also slow down if we're sedentary or have poor nutrition.

Calories – No, these are not little elves that sneak in at night and put fat on your body!

A calorie is simply a unit of heat that provides energy for metabolic processes. Food provides this energy. We need these units of heat to survive. 

Metabolic conditioning – A.K.A. the hardest kind of workout; the workouts that leave you wallowing in a puddle of sweat and zooming for hours later. My specialty. 

It's a type of training that generally increases the metabolic processes in the body. It’s characterized by a faster pace with minimal rest times. It sometimes uses weight or just bodyweight. The increased metabolic “burn” is usually noticed hours and sometimes days after the workout.

Metabolic strength training – A.K.A. taking the hardest workout you've ever done and adding weight. Yep, it's that fun!

Similar to metabolic conditioning, but it includes loads moved quickly with minimal rest. The demand on the body is very great.

Cardio – Pay attention here. It's not just running!

Cardio is any type of activity that increases the rate that the cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) is working.

Usually “steady state cardio”, like jogging, cycling, or spending time on an elliptical, is what most people refer to when they think of cardio. However, it’s important to notice that many methods of training can increase your heart and breathing rate. You can achieve a “cardio” workout at the same time as a “metabolic conditioning” workout.

Don't believe me? Try this workout. You'll see what I mean. 

Strength training (or Strengthening) – The bread and butter of any good workout regimen. This is the backbone, a necessary component!

Any type of activity that makes you stronger. It requires pushing against a load, whether the load is just your bodyweight or external weight, like dumbbells. Generally, this type of workout is not as fast paced as a metabolic-style workout.  

Power - You need this, you just don't realize it yet. 

Power is the ability to move a load quickly. It's not just pushing 20 pounds overhead. It's pushing 20 pounds overhead fast, like a push-press. Most injuries occur because a muscle doesn't have enough power...it can't contract quickly enough while under a load. Ouch! 

Bodyweight workout - Bonus points if you weigh more.

Any type of activity that only uses your own body to do the work. This can be bodyweight strengthening, bodyweight metabolic conditioning or bodyweight mobility (yoga-style). 

Intervals – Go hard, stop, go hard, stop, go hard, stop. Having fun yet?

A type of training that starts and stops. For example, you would sprint hard for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds, and repeat. The impact on your cardiovascular system is generally far more than “steady state” cardio.

Tabatas - Just like your friend Tabatha, but without the H. She loves these.

Interval training done with strength training exercises. Traditionally, a Tabata workout means that you work for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. However, I like to play with the work and rest periods to make workouts harder or easier. 

Passive rest – Taking a nap.

Complete rest. Standing still between work bouts, or even having a “passive rest day” of lounging on the couch.

Active rest – Sounds like an oxymoron, right?

Light movement while resting. Walking, stretching, and performing any low intensity activity to encourage recovery in between bouts of work. It's more effective than passive rest to help you get ready for the next bout of work. So, in between sets of work, try to move around. 

Active recovery – My favorite thing in the world. Besides naps.

Similar to active rest. Encourages a faster return to high intensity activity. Positioning a yoga-style workout in between hard training days would be considered active recovery. Active recovery helps your muscles heal faster and can reduce soreness. It works so much better than just passively resting.

Balance – Not falling over…Haha!

It’s having the ability stand on one leg or be positioned on one arm without tipping and losing control. Usually your center of gravity is not perfectly centered so it makes it very difficult.

Stability – "Wow, that single leg burpee looks really stable!"

Similar to balance, but refers more to a joint itself. For example, having a stable ankle joint can contribute to better balance. Certain joints are meant to be very stable, like the ankle, knee, hip and shoulder. Strong muscles, ligaments and tendons surrounding a joint contribute to its stability.

Flexibility – Can you do the splits? 

Having muscles that can lengthen appropriately.

Mobility – Think of being good at yoga. It's not just flexibility.

Similar to flexibility, but it refers to how the full joint and body part moves. I have seen individuals with very flexible hamstrings that cannot touch their toes. Joints that can move through full ranges of motion with control is far more important than basic flexibility.

Circuit – Bootcamp classes, Curves, and pretty much every one of my workouts. I'm a huge fan of circuits.

A group of exercises performed in succession. Picture a circuit as if there were stations set up around the room of different exercises and you are moving from one station to the next. Working your way around the room would be a circuit. It can be a small circuit (just two exercises) or a big circuit (8-10 different exercises). You’ll know it’s a circuit if the group of exercises are written as 1a, 1b, 1c, etc.

Circuits allow you to keep working a body part while another one is resting. It makes a workout more efficient.

Supersets – I like to call these "couplets". They're cute. 

A small circuit of just two exercises performed back to back with minimal rest.

Sets – Circuits with 5 sets are the worst. Sets add volume. So much volume.

The number of times you see and do an exercise. It’s the first number listed here (2 x 10). If performing a circuit, the set number tells you how many times through that circuit you need work.

Reps – Or repetitions. The harder the exercise, the less likely you'll lose count!

The number that you count to while you’re doing an exercise. It’s the second number listed here (2 x 10). 

If you see a list of exercises like this:

     1a   Push-ups     2 x 10
     1b   Squat           2 x 10
     1c   Bridges        2 x 10

This means that you have a circuit of 3 exercises (1a, 1b, 1c). You need to do the circuit 2 times through (2 x 10). And you need to count to 10 (2 x 10) when you do each exercise. 

You're now a pro.
So, now you are "in the know".

When you are performing a metabolic conditioning workout, you'll know that the purpose is to increase your metabolism by moving fast with a lot of intensity. And you know it's going to be hard. Really hard.

If you're doing a bodyweight mobility workout, you will know that the purpose is to improve not just your flexibility, but the ability of your joints to move through their full ranges of motion while maintaining control...and you're not using any equipment. Think yoga.

If I say you need an active recovery workout, you'll know that the purpose is to encourage faster healing and reduce soreness.

And then you also know all the itty-bitty details of a workout like circuits, sets and reps. 

Look how knowledgeable you are now! Fun!

So here is my challenge to you: this week at a Christmas party, if you're asked about your workouts, don't just say "I workout". You can now say, I do metabolic strength training in combination with intervals and bodyweight mobility. Your audience will either be impressed or think you're a nerd. Either way, you win!

This was a lot of technical stuff, and you shouldn't be expected to put it all together into a perfect workout routine. I can do that for you! The Strong Mommas Membership gives you up to five different workouts to try each week: strength training, metabolic conditioning, bodyweight mobility, and interval workouts. They are prioritized so you know exactly what to do and when. No more guesswork! 

And right now is the best time to join! Sign up now and receive $10 off your first two months in the membership. Hurry, offer ends January 15, 2017! Click here to learn more and register today!

Hey, guess what? You can start showing up for your body in simple ways, right now.
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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
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