Handbook Helps Improve Fitness, without Having to Be an Olympian Faster, Higher

Article excerpt

This summer represents great timing for a guide to physical fitness.

The 2012 Olympic games in London bring together thousands of finely tuned athletes from around the world. Less physically honed are the millions of spectators who will watch the events in front of their chosen electronic media.

We viewers revere the fitness and elegance achieved by the Olympian minority. Could we ever reach these heights?

Much of what was taught in our college gymnasiums or neighbourhood running clubs of past eras has been shown to be ineffective, or even unsafe. Thankfully, by 2012, sports science has grown with a hop, skip and a jump.

Enter Greg Wells, a Toronto PhD, physiology professor, sports scientist, coach and a CTV analyst for the London Games, which opened Friday.

In Superbodies, a handsome and colourful handbook of physical performance, Wells combines all of his credentials to advise us on how to succeed in our sporting activities.

Although Wells' teachings don't guarantee us a last-minute spot on the Canadian Olympic team, he would like us to learn about the modern, evidence-based exercise techniques of some of the world's finest sportswomen and men.

By adopting these training methods, we will become fitter and more competitive. We will also feel much better. We may even live longer.

The cover of Superbodies is rather intimidating, as it offers an idealized male figure with muscles literally bulging off the surface. While holding this heavy hardcover, readers may find themselves prodding their own biceps and wondering how they could match the guy on the cover.

Apart from this distracting start, Wells' review of modern exercise theory and practice is both welcome and fascinating.

His first objective is to dissect and explain human anatomy and physiology, focusing on those aspects that are relevant to physical activity. Using accessible terminology, colourful photographs and other digital images, he provides a chapter-by-chapter account of key organ systems.

Wells also describes what happens when normal processes become aberrant; he chooses examples from his experience as a researcher at Toronto's SickKids hospital. For example, by examining chronic diseases of the lungs in children who have undergone bone marrow transplantation, he sheds light on how our respiratory system must function under situations of extreme stress.

In so doing, he draws analogies to the voluntary stresses we place on our organs during periods of vigorous exercise.

Within each section, he then demonstrates how our enhanced knowledge of bodily functioning allows us to plan more effective preparation and competition. …