8 Factors To Take Your Fitness To The Next Level & Beyond - Part 1 of 3

Feb 12, 2019

Do you feel vibrant, energetic, confident, and full of life regularly? If you answered 'no', does your typical day involve movement, or lots of sitting? Do you know that working out will make you feel awesome, but you just don't know what to do and how to do it?

Well you're in luck, because today's post is designed to teach you all about fitness, and how to keep growing!

Despite the consistently growing trend of obesity across much of North America, a decent proportion of people have taken to fitness. Social media is the perfect place to see this. I have my thoughts about how fitness is displayed on social media – I’ll save those for another post though!

The 8 key factors to take your fitness to the next level & beyond, are comprised by the acronym FITT-VP (as per the American College of Sports Medicine, a.k.a. ACSM), plus two that I personally find value in – WW.

  1. F = Frequency
  2. I = Intensity
  3. T = Time
  4. T = Type
  5. V = Volume
  6. P = Progression
  7. W = When
  8. W = Where

General Thoughts:
a. These variables apply to both aerobic and strength training
b. It is important to track at least some of these variables to monitor your progress, prevent both over training and under training, and to maximize your performance.
c. Finding your optimal levels of FITT-VP-WW takes time. Once you develop an understanding of your body and how it responds to each of these variables, you can time optimal performance (i.e. peaking) with more ease.
d. If you’re a committed athlete, you need to be very thorough with tracking these. For non-athletes, if you wish to get fitter, you should at least track your frequency, time, and intensity to some degree.
e. Updating a training log should become a part of your daily routine.

1. Frequency = the number of exercise sessions per week

The best way to track this is by creating a training log: Training logs serve several purposes:

  • They serve as a record of what you have done in the past.
  • They serve as a place to record and plan future workouts, based on analyses completed on historical workouts.
  • They are a source of motivation when you’re working hard. Alternatively, they provide a reality check when you’re slacking off but think you’re working hard.

Note: You will find a robust sample training log that captures the majority of the FITT-VP-WW variables at the end of this blog post series.

2. Intensity = how hard the exercise is

There are several ways of tracking intensity depending on whether you are completing cardiovascular training or strength training.

Cardio Intensity:

Talk Test: this simple test is used to determine whether you are exercising in an aerobic or anaerobic zone.

  • Researchers have shown that the talk test is quite effective at estimating your lactate threshold (i.e. the transition from aerobic metabolism to anaerobic metabolism) – ref #1. Basically, if you are able to carry on a full conversation with someone while exercising, you’re in the aerobic zone. If you’re huffing and puffing, and unable to complete full sentences / carry out a conversation with someone, you’re in the anaerobic zone. 

sRPE: This acronym stands for session rate of perceived exhaustion. Just to be clear, this is asking you, “how hard was my workout?”. If you felt that you had a very hard workout, you would assign a rank of 7 to that workout. If it was easy, that would rate it a 2.

This measure commonly leverages a 10-point scale (0 to 10).






Very, very easy






Somewhat Hard






Very Hard







Note: several studies including ref #4 and 5 have shown that RPE correlates well with true physiological work load – i.e. RPE correlates well with heart rate, lactate, etc.

% of Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) – This is similar to V02 max (ref #3)

Exercise HR = {(HRmax – HRrest) x (% of target exercise intensity)} + HRrest

HRR is a way of determining your cardiovascular exercise intensity, and can be applied as follows:

  • You need to know your max HR – there are maximal and submaximal tests to figure this out. If you’re supremely fit you can push yourself and try a maximal test. If you’re a normal person like everyone else, try a submaximal test. I’ll share more information on how to carry out these tests in the near future. If you can’t wait, please send me a message here and I’ll share some resources with you.
  • You need to know your resting heart rate. It is best to measure this by finding your pulse, and timing the number of beats in a minute. Do this first thing in the morning after waking up.

An example: Say you want to exercise at 70% intensity. Your max HR is 200 beats per minute (bpm), and your resting heart rate is 55 bpm. The formula works as follows:

Exercise HR = {(200-55)*70%}+55 = 157 bpm

Strength Training Intensity: % of 1 RM (rep max)

1 RM (or 1 rep max) is the amount of weight you can lift once, for any given exercise. E.g. My 1 RM for a trap bar Deadlift is around 385lb. I have not tested it recently, hence the ball park figure.

Lifting at different % of 1 RM yields different physiological benefits. Lifting at 85% of 1 RM and above stimulates Type 2 (or fast twitch) muscle fibers. Lower intensities (below 75-80%) will predominantly use slow twitch muscle fibers.

Paul Chek has shared a test to estimate the percentage of your fast and slow twitch muscle fibers (for large lifts – e.g. deadlift, bench press, squat). Set up the bar with 80% of your 1 RM, and complete as many reps as possible (with good technique). If you complete fewer than 7 reps, you’re fast twitch dominant. Between 7-9 means a balance of fast and slow twitch. More than 9 means slow twitch dominant. 

Further along in this blog, I have created a time-intensity relationship chart for strength training. Here you can see how the # of reps relates to the % of 1 RM.

Caution: Determining your 1RM is extremely challenging. If you are not highly conditioned, DO NOT try this. If you do attempt this, ensure that you are doing so with correct form, and with someone there to spot you in case you are unable to lift the weight.

See you at part 2 of this series!

Much love,