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Practical Considerations for Developing Fitness

Updated: Sep 2, 2022

A poor level of fitness can lead to poor decision making and technical ability and increase the risk of fatigue-related injuries. There's no doubt about it, fitter athletes play more and play better. In this blog, i'll explain how to get fit while training for your sport and what variables you should consider.

Generally speaking, the more intense the conditioning program is, the less of it you need to do to improve your fitness. Lets look at an example:

  • Group 1: 30 seconds of all out cycling with 4 min of recovery (rest or light cycling). 4-6 rounds. 3 sessions/week (HIIT, Hight Intensity Interval Training)

  • Group 2: 90-120 minutes of continuous cycling at around 75% of MHR. 3 sessions/week (LISS, Low Intensity Steady State)

Who got fitter? Group 1 or 2? Both got fit, But group 1 was able to achieve similar improvements in 1/5th of the time it took group 2.

The above is just two examples of how to structure a conditioning program, the combination of intervals are endless and it's important not to get too caught up in them. Just know that harder intervals get you fit in less total training time than easy intervals/continuous training.

So with that example we can see that both HIIT and LISS work well to improve fitness and that our choice will likely depend on several factors:

Current Level of Fitness

If you're very unfit (eg. Coming back from a long break), either HIIT or LISS will work. Your choice will depend on how much time you can commit to your conditioning work. For example, you may only have time to go to the gym 2x a week for 1 hour and have to squeeze in your strength and cardio work into the one session. Therefore, some form of HIIT might be the best option.

Current Training Loads: LISS or HIIT?

Firstly, we need to think about what you may already be doing. Let's look at wrestling as an example. Wrestling training sessions are in essence a form of HIIT. Multiple 2x3 minute rounds, explosive actions occurring every 6 to 10 seconds and for every 2-5 seconds of explosive action there is less than 1-2 seconds of rest. So very intense, especially when you take the agility and power demands into account. This will get you fit over time and in a sport-specific way.

If youre wrestling this way often, the last thing you probably want to do is head into the gym the next morning and go balls to the wall with a HIIT session you don't need. In this case, it may be better to do some easy HIIT or cruisy LISS while you do some film study, listen to a podcast or watch some netflix. This way you're able to preserve your vigor for the sessions that matter most and are more likely to stick to it.

Mode of Delivery

Building on our previous example, wrestlers, like most combat athletes, are always on their toes and probably beat up or sore somewhere.

So for supplementary conditioning, you may be better off choosing a mode of delivery that promotes recovery and doesn't add any additional physical or psychological load. For these reasons, the best mode of delivery would be a bike. This is because a bike gets you off your feet, involves concentric actions only and allows muscles and joints to recover as opposed to something like a weights circuit, sprinting, road running or skipping for long periods. These modes of delivery may make athletes unnecessarily sore, or worse, cause a load issue like shin splints which would make it impossible for you to stay on your toes during skills training. If you do decide to incorporate them, use them judiciously and monitor recovery or split the mode of delivery up across the week (eg. 2 road running sessions and 3 bike sessions instead of 5 road running sessions).

Tracking Progress

Keep it simple, for example, do the same workout (distance, time, intensity/pace) for 3-4 weeks and see if your average heart rate drops each week. If it is it means it's getting easier which means you're getting fitter. You could also monitor pace or time to complete a certain amount of work (eg. time trial on a 2000m row).

For individualised advice, send me a DM on instragram @walidhouli or send me an email @

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