Towards the end of a patient’s treatment in our facility we are frequently asked how can someone continue to build on their positive experience from Physical Therapy into the gym or a work out regiment afterwards. First we might discuss wether an exercise program is appropriate for them from a medical background and if there are any issues that arise recommending they see their MD. After that I will just as frequently discuss the FIT principle with them.
FIT is an acronym for Frequency, Intensity, and Time. Frequency represents the number of times a week that you would be exercising. Intensity represents the exertion level that you are performing, while Time represents the duration that you would be working out for. All 3 aspects are elements of a good workout program and provide a safe foundation for progression of any program.
Implementing the FIT principle is very easy as well. When starting a program or progressing a program one would start with the first letter of the acronym and at each progression move to the next then repeat. For example, If I wanted to begin a running program with a goal of competing in my first 5k but I currently only run under extreme duress. I could start with a realistic attainable frequency per week. In this example I know I can commit to running 2x/week (F). So far I am not committed to breaking any world records so my pace will be at a tempo where I can still carry a conversation with someone (I). Finally, since I haven’t been physically active for a long time I am going to start with just 10 minutes each time (T). Viola! the FIT principle at work! All three elements of the principle contribute to a safe, reasonable exercise program.
Progressing any program becomes an extension of the same pattern. So in the above example let’s say that after about 3 weeks of consistently running 2x/week I am feeling less tired and ready to progress, but where to begin? Should I increase my frequency? Should I pick up the pace? Or should I stretch out the time? Looking at the FIT Principle we should start with Frequency first. Now that I know I can run twice/week without issue/limitation I will progress my program to 3x/week(F). While doing so I am keeping my pace (I) and duration (T) the same. I will maintain this increase in my program until I feel confident that I am ready for another progression. Lets say 2 weeks later I am ready to make the next jump. Now I will increase my pace from say my 10 min mile to a 9:30 mile (I) but now I leave both my runs/week (F) and my duration (T) alone. At my next progression I will increase the time frame that I am running my 9:30 min mile from 10 minutes to 15 minutes (T) and I will leave both the times per week I run (F) and my pace (I) the same.
Moving forward this pattern would repeat now that I have increased each Frequency, Intensity and Time once. Again, I will increase my running sessions per week from 3 to 4 (F). After that is no longer an issue I will then speed up my pace from 9:30 to 9:00 min/mile (I), and once that gets comfortable I will increase my duration from 15 minutes to 20 minutes(T). So forth and so on as my schedule allows.
Eventually, I won’t be able to increase the frequency as there are only so many days in the week and rest days are vital as well. Additionally, my schedule may only allow for a certain time frame to work out, or in this example run, and therefore my Time component may max out as well. But generally speaking the FIT Principle is an excellent way to safely start and progress an exercise program when someone is just starting out for the first time, getting back into a work out program after a long hiatus, or when returning to exercising after an injury.