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Exercise is vital activity in which all adolescents should participate. The action of physical exertion is not only beneficial for the physical health of teenagers, rather it is also crucial to their mental wellbeing, especially during stressful periods of their life. I am reflecting on my personal experiences over the past few weeks of the fitness program and how the sessions have been fundamental in maintaining a good physical state and a clear state of mind.
While planning the fitness program, it became very clear that many threats would arise in my attempt to improve my fitness levels. A major threat was that the overwhelming schoolwork, portfolio tasks and eventually studying for prelims would use up most of my time during the day. However, this created an opportunity to adopt key time management skills, which are instrumental in completing a successful matriculation year. The large portions of schoolwork lead to another threat, where I found that the stress created by projects and studying was causing me to turn to unhealthy snacks to combat the pressure. This is where I saw an opportunity in the fitness program: to adopt healthy eating habits which has been proven to evoke a more positive mood and to reduce stress levels substantially. Another threat that I predicted to arise was that I would push myself too hard early on in the program or even lose interest in the program completely. The opportunity that I had was to set realistic yet challenging goals within my limits, thereby teaching me how thorough is necessary, while understanding that commitment to my goals is a quality that will be useful for the future.
Before beginning the fitness program, I felt that it was necessary to set myself goals for the duration of the program. I set my goals in accordance to the SMART Principle, which allowed my goals to be clear and concise while also achievable according to my physical ability. My first goal was to train consistently while also increasing the intensity and duration of each session as the program progressed. This would allow me to settle into the program at the start while also building up to a climax of maximum exercise. My second goal was to improve my fitness statistically in terms of my resting heart rate, exercise heart rate and recovery time, no matter how great the improvement. These figures would be clear indicators of any progress in my fitness levels, and thus I decided to record these thoroughly and carefully. My third goal was to maintain a healthy diet and to keep track of my eating habits that were likely to become unhealthy during stressful periods of the year. In particular, I aimed to cut down on any sugar intake and focused on keeping my diet balanced with different proteins, carbohydrates and fresh fruit. My final goal was to enjoy the program and complete sessions that were worthwhile, as this is ultimately what keeps interest in maintaining a healthy physical state.
My fitness levels before starting the fitness program were satisfactory, with my average resting heart rate being 66,67 beats per minute and my Body Mass Index (BMI) being 17,59, which is just within the ideal range of 17,5-24,9 for a 17 year old boy. These fitness levels are relatively good; however, I knew that I could improve on these figures after completing the fitness program. Before beginning the program my resting heart rate varied between 66 and 70 beats per minute, while my resting heart at the completion of the program varied between 63 and 67 beats per minute, with it even reaching a low of 59 beats per minute. Even though this is not a substantial improvement, this data suggests that the exercise was slowly making a positive impact on my health, and it is possible that with further training in coming weeks, I can lower my resting heart rate even more. Another discovery was that at the beginning of the program, I was tiring very easily within 25-40 minutes and was very reluctant to complete sessions of lengthy durations. However, as the program came to a conclusion, I was able to complete longer sessions that spanned up to 50-60 minutes with ease and my recovery time also decreased in proportion to the intensity of the exercise. This shows that I got into the exercising mode much quicker towards the end of the program and the ability to complete longer sessions is a clear indicator of the progression of my fitness levels.
It is expected that the matriculation year is bound to cause stress for all students, however exercise has been suggested as an effective activity to combat stress. During the program, I was very busy with portfolio tasks, projects and studying for prelims, yet I definitely felt that the exercise I completed amongst the schoolwork was a crucial break that was helpful in lowering my stress levels. I completed my sessions in between my studying, which I thought was beneficial as the stress built up from the first set of work was released during the exercising period, allowing me to continue my work with a clear mindset and fresh state of mind. I felt that the most effective activity in releasing stress were the Karate trainings, as this activity involved the highest intensity and this physical exertion was key in lowering stress levels compared to other less intense sessions.
The exercise completed in the fitness program was beneficial to my social wellbeing as I was able to meet with friends and play sport instead of staying at home and choosing other antisocial activities that have somewhat become the norm in modern times for adolescents. It was fantastic to have fun and experience the enjoyment factor of exercise during a period of frustration and stress leading up to examinations. I also thought that the exercise had a positive impact on my emotional wellbeing, as I did not feel tied down or burdened by my schoolwork or studying. I was able to get onto the treadmill or play outside in the fresh air and leave the work behind. The exercise acted as a release where I could relax and not worry about the stresses of my work. I could rather feel free to enjoy the exercise and return to my studies with a clear mindset.
Sport has the ability to teach an athlete how to keep committed to goals, to stay determined and to shoulder the responsibility of your actions while also being able to unite people from different groups, to embrace multiple cultures and to introduce people to new pathways. This is the beauty of sport, as it can be characterised by its social aspect and also its importance to the development of the individual. I have participated in both solo and social sports and can confirm that both varieties can provide different benefits. I have been doing Karate for several years now, and I feel that this sport, just like all solo sports, has enlightened me about self-discipline, commitment to my goals and the responsibility that must be adopted, as no-one else can cover up your mistakes. Social sports such as cricket and rugby have taught me the values of respecting team mates and opponents alike while also ensuring that the game is played fair and with the enjoyment factor constantly incorporated.
While reflecting on my performance across the fitness program, I am pleased with my commitment to my goals and feel that each of my goals I set at the start of the program have been satisfied. I met my first goal by consistently increasing the duration and intensity of my sessions during the program, with the two weeks including low and moderate intensity sessions of 25-40 minutes while the last week involved high intensity sessions of 40-60 minutes. I met my second goal as my general resting heart rate decreased from 68 to 65 beats per minute and my exercising heart rate was not elevated too quickly towards the end of the program. However, my recovery time after each session stayed in proportion to the intensity of the session throughout the exercising period. My third goal was also satisfied to a partial extent as the last two weeks entailed healthy eating habits with a balanced diet, yet I was not pleased the sugar consumption in the first week. I feel that my final goal was also met as I enjoyed the majority of my sessions, which included my favourite sports of cricket and Karate. I think that I stayed committed to my goals as they were achievable yet challenging, which enticed me to train harder every session which ultimately enabled me to meet my goals. I also feel that setting specific goals for a certain timeframe also played a role in this regard.
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