PART 4: TYPE
Finally! We are at the end of our journey to dissect the FITT principle of exercise, and its realistic applicability into the lives of Aviators. The type of exercise you do is the last part of the F.I.T.T. (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type) principle of exercise, and an easy one to manipulate to avoid overuse injuries or weight-loss plateaus.
The ACSM (American College of Sport Medicine) Guidelines refer specifically to cardio exercise and strength training. These can be re-applied and adjusted for the unique lifestyle of an Aviator irrespective of a long-day, short-day or day-off.
For cardio exercise: Cardio is easy to change, since any activity that gets your heart rate up counts. Running, walking, cycling, dancing, the elliptical trainer...there are a wide variety of activities to choose from. Having more than one go-to cardio activity is the best way to keep your body guessing and avoid becoming bored. Also, I would encourage 20-minutes cardio 3-4 days x week, purely as a realistic method to improve lung capacity and counteract Hypoxia. We are constantly flying in a state of lack of oxygenation due to cabin pressure. Increasing lung capacity and oxygen in our blood can help add vital time in the event of a “Decompression”.
For strength training: Strength training also has a lot to offer. I personally love it! It includes any exercise where you’re using some type of resistance (bands, dumbbells, machines, etc.) to work your muscles. Bodyweight exercises can also be considered a form of strength training (as US military will testify to), as well, although building strength will likely require more resistance. You can easily change the type of strength workouts you do, from total body training, to adding things like super-sets.
My advice is to be honest with yourself and your level. Don’t be fooled by the “media” and don’t look at the very small population of “elite sports competitors”. We are not comparing ourselves to anyone out there! We are possibly so unique, that we have our own set of rules and we are initiating the process of writing our ‘own’ book of rules regarding fitness & wellbeing. Stick to simple and achievable goals. At least when you start! Hopefully you will want to take part in a fun competition and challenge yourself while socialising and boosting your immune system. Women in Aviation especially need to consider weightlifting from a “bone density”/osteoporosis risk point of view. We are more likely to be prone to osteoporosis, and simply (light) weightlifting can help to prevent osteoporosis from occuring, plus maintain a healthy weight and become stronger than ever!!…also physically! Female Pilots should prioritize resistance training & weightlifting, but this rule is valuable for all Aviators! Strong is the real beauty and comes in a variety of magnificent shapes! It is amazing to feel physically strong.
In my personal experience I tried to balance my days off and some of my short flying shifts, and use them to positively support my mental health. Sometimes you might not feel great and you might not know that you are actually experiencing some symptoms of depression. Physical exercise and social wellbeing might not be a magic wand to solve all our problems in life, but it is backed up by hundreds of studies in its support towards better mental and physical resilience. Many times I felt so fatigued and exhausted – to the point of feeling my “core of sanity” being deeply shocked.
It is not magic! It’s consistency within our uniquely dynamic and beautifully un-balanced lifestyle as Aviators. Let’s face it – we cannot change our environment, but we can change the way our body responds to its challenges.
So, what else can I say? Just have some fun in between challenging times, and stay in tune with your own…..TYPE!!