Human Performance

Analysing the FITT principle in Aviation: Part 3

By February 4, 2018 No Comments

Part 3: TIME 

We previously spoke about Frequency & Intensity of workout following the guidelines of ACSM ( American College of Sport Medicine) while attempting to integrate them in the challenging environment of an Aviator. I like to “dare”, by challenging the big “guys” in the sport industry research, against my own personal experience and knowledge as flight attendant, CRM instructor & personal trainer. I also have great respect for ACSM.

The next element of a workout is TIME ! Not solely intended as, how much time do we have to exercise?! Whiting the FITT principle we also intend “Time Under Tension”. How much time your muscles remain under tension during the act of exercising, enabling the necessary process of breaking muscle fibres to build stronger ones. But really, how long can a Pilot or a Cabin Crew can or will be able to do that ?

Time ( both ways) is a big issue for an Aviator. Our work day is typically longer than any other industry and much more challenging from a physiological perspective. Our routine has no consistency and only this in itself, make us feel mentally defeated. This will impact on the way we perceive physical exercise and the way we practically approach it.

So let’s cut to the chase! Use less time to exercise…..just focus on…”tension”!

There isn’t one set rule for how long you exercise !! Happy days! It will typically depend on your fitness level ( beginner v intermediate ) and the type of workout you’re doing ( resistance training v cardiovascular) your work ( shift pattern-lenght of flight duty- type of shift) and family commitment. ( good or bad)


For cardio: The exercise guidelines suggest 30 to 60 minutes of cardio but, of course, the duration of your workout depends on what you’re doing. If you’re a beginner, you might start with a 15- to 20-minute workout. If you’re doing steady state cardio, say going for a run or getting on a cardio machine, you might workout for 30 to 60 minutes. If you’re doing interval training and working at a very high intensity, your workout will be shorter, around 20 to 30 minutes. Having a variety of workouts at different intensities and durations will give you a solid, balanced cardio program.

…sound easy…for an office 9-5 routine …

For strength training: How long you lift weights depends on the type of workout you’re doing and “your schedule”. For example, a total body workout could take up to 1 hour, whereas a split routine could take less time because you’re working fewer muscle groups.

…that sound good enough, if you are talking from a general population “vantage point “

But let’s not forget Aviators are not the general population! When you are an Aviator, there is no 9-5 hrs. You are physiologically, psychologically and physically put under pressure by several hours, days, weeks of constant cabin pressure- recycled artificial air- hypoxia status, seating in a secluded environment for Pilots & standing constantly for Cabin Crew, delays, difficult passengers… and so on…

My experience as flight attendant and knowledge as personal trainer gives me few specific guidelines:

Long Late Shift: if you have part of your morning free before heading to work, than fit in 15-20 mins moderate cardio of your choice ( I love the step-mills machine) or 20 mins resistance/weight training ( when you do it correctly you don’t need to work 1 hour). If at home, access the TV and search the “5 minutes” burns-out / abs/ cardio etc ( many on youtube) workout and enjoy a quick ” core -abs-cardio”session!! I can tell you it really works!!

Short Late Shift; A nice slow paced 20 minutes step mill ( if available), treadmill medium pace with climbing set for15- 20 or max 30 minutes. If you are hardcore enough than, weight lifting is the great choice, try possibly compound movement. Less time using the whole body or multiple muscle groups ( BB front /back squat – barbells bench presses- dead lifts).

Long Early Shift: If you feel you just want to hit the cauch and is really late,( we know how WE feel) do a Youtube video “5 minutes” stretches/ Pilate/ Yoga/ Meditation/ and …..go to bed!

Short Early Shift : here you have much more choices…go out for a cycle- 20 minutes run or swim. You can increase weight lifting for 30 mins. If you feel like go to sleep first for an hour and go to the gym after. Don’t forget to re-fuel properly. Eat, drink, rest, and GO!! I suggest a short training session with compounds movement exercises.

So….No one fits all but no “general” fits Aviators! 

It doesnt matter how long you spend fussing in the gym! It matters how you activate properly your muscle and the “real time under tension”. Most importantly find your consistency within the inconsistency of our unique roster pattern. Just do what you can when you can! It’s better than simply doing nothing at all!

We are a distinguished population! As long as you do 2 workouts during your working week, you can use your days off for the big hard burning/ re-energising work-out!It will work phenomenally for you!!

As always ….just listen to your body and stay in tune with your own TIME!

If you need free guidance, information and help on physical exercise for Aviators please contact me at: