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Fitness Glossary

Fitness Glossary

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Electrolytes - Minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium that act to keep your nerves firing and muscles moving, especially during exercise. They are lost through sweating and can be replaced by drinking sports/energy drinks.

Endorphins - Any of a group of proteins with potent analgesic properties that occur naturally in the brain. These are the brain chemicals that contribute to the "runner's high" or good feelings during and after exercise.

External obliques - Muscles running diagonally downward and inward from the lower ribs to the pelvis that allow you to bend forward and twist at the waist. These lie on top of the internal obliques. The kayaking stroke uses these muscles much more than the arms!


Fartlek - Swedish for "speed play," a type of loosely structured interval training for runners, cyclists, and in-line skaters. It combines high-intensity segments with your regular training pace in order to build strength and speed.

Flexibility - The range of motion around a joint. This can be increased with stretching and yoga.

Free weights - Weights not attached to a machine nor driven by cables or chains. Barbells and dumbbells are examples of free weights.


Glucose - A sugar, the usual form in which carbohydrates are assimilated by the body.

Gluteus maximus, medius and minimus or "glutes" - The 3 muscles of the buttocks and hips that extend your thighs forward and to the side (abduction) and rotate your legs at the hips. Walking, running and climbing all work the gluteus maximus. Side movements such as skating or dance work the abductors.

Glycogen - The form carbohydrates take when stored in the muscles.


Hamstrings - The group of 3 muscles on the back of your thighs that runs from the lower part of the pelvis to just below the knees. They allow you to bend your knees and straighten your legs at the hips. Climbing, hiking uphill, running and cycling all work the hamstrings.


Internal obliques - Muscles that run upward and inward from the hip bones to the lower ribs, allowing you to rotate and bend at the waist. These are located underneath the external obliques. These muscles are used when you paddle a kayak.

Intervals - Speed workouts, usually run on a track, with distances and target paces decided before you run. They typically consist of relatively short sprints of 220 yards to 1 mile interspersed with rest periods of slower running.

Isometrics - Exercise or a system of exercises in which opposing muscles are so contracted that there is little shortening but great increase in tone of muscle fibers involved.


Kickboard - Small foam board used for short sprints to develop leg power and speed when swimming. Held under the chest so that the arms are not involved in the swimming stroke.

Kilometer - Metric measurement used in athletic events. One K equals 0.62 miles. A 10K race is 6.2 miles, and a 5K is 3.1 miles.

Kinesiology - the study of the principles of mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement.


Lactic acid (lactate) - A byproduct of anaerobic (or high-intensity) exercise that collects in the muscles and causes soreness, stiffness and fatigue.

Latissimus dorsi or "lats" - the pair of fan-shaped muscles across your middle and lower back that attach the arms to the spine. They work to pull your arms down and back, and give you good posture when they are toned. Rock climbing, swimming and rowing all use these muscles.

Ligament - A flexible, non-elastic tissue that connects bone to bone. For example, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of the knee connects the kneecap to the femur (thigh) and the tibia (shin). Ligament injuries can be sprains or tears.

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