A few conversations last week came back to the issue of exercise and the appropriate approach for the kind of exerciser you are. In general, there are two types of people, those who are inconsistent with exercise / never do it and people who pretty much exercise all year round and enjoy it.
The biggest error I see with the first group is following a plan suited for the consistent exercisers. I have discussed this numerous times such as here and here>>. If you are not overly consistent with exercise then you need to find a way that allows you get it done week in week out in whatever form.
Once you have solved the consistent exercise problem you are now a regular exerciser. The main problem for you now is continuing progress. If you have consistently been training for a year plus you should focus on how to develop your fitness levels.
This sounds easy enough, I will just keep exercising surely? Sadly that is not how the body works. The body responds to make you fitter in the face of a new exercise stimulus. However, once the body has adapted to this new stimulus though you will still sweat, feel the burn and get out of breath during your sessions your body will not actually create any new enzymes or muscle tissue as it is bored of the current plan. To create a fitness response you need to give it a new exercise stimulus.
One problem you run into is the element of how to balance your exercise targets. Fitness is very specific to the area you focus on. Compare what is needed for you to be a good 10km runner vs a strongman vs a super flexible yogi, these are all fitness traits yet are completely different. For me personally I encourage everyone to have their bases covered so you are not completely one mode dominant, e.g. you are not a great 10km runner who cannot squat or touch your toes. Alternatively you are not one of those strong guys or zen like yoga enthusiasts or could not even jog for 5 minutes up the road.
For year round consistent exercisers they will want to increase the level within each of the different aspects of fitness. The first step in this is usually getting some data. It is very hard to chart progress without having some fitness data. Most people judge it by how many sessions they have done per week. This is a great method for new and inconsistent people but for those who train all the time it does not help your progress.
This is how I help a lot of my clients, I put some data over their routine, sometime though using my fitness profile test. other times through simple fitness tests. With some data in hand we can then design a plan to increase fitness and re-test in time to see progress.
More advanced fitness programmes will probably involve having to emphasise certain elements over others for short periods of time, this may mean dropping certain sessions or exercises to allow time to develop others elements.
Let’s put this into some real life examples –
– You do 3-4 Exercise Classes Per Week – Goal – Fat Loss + Fitness
Start out by taking some measurements, the simplest step forward would be to pick out a goal clothes item followed by some simple fitness tests. e.g. how far you can run in 10 minutes, how many press up can you do, plank you can hold etc. Adapt this to your needs, if you do spin then maybe take a ftp test. Make the tests as brief or as comprehensive as you desire. From here the simplest way forward is to commitment to testing each month for a few months. Let the data guide you.
Training plan wise, you could continue simply repeat the tests themselves once or twice a week, maybe elect to swap a class for an individual session working on these elements. Alternatively you could change the types of classes you do or add some of these exercises before or after each of your current classes. Either way, the monthly testing for the next few months will tell you all you need to know.
– You Run back from work a twice a week + do gym 1-2 / week – Goal – Health
Once again get some data to work with. Get a 5km or 10km official run time. Park run is free and every Saturday morning. Do some rep max lifts in the gym (choose any target you would like from 1 rep max to a 10 rep max e.g. the most weight you can use for your target rep number).
You will need to break your commutes home from work into intervals, e.g. instead of 6km run home, one day do 3 x 1.5km with rest in between, on another day 10 x 400m with 100m walk in between. This will stimulate the body to become fitter.
Weight training, experiment with using a different rep scheme, e.g. if always lift with 8 reps try 4 reps for a month. Also make use of supplemental exercises to the tested lifts, e.g. flat bench is aided by incline bench and dips.
– You are a triathlete – Train 5 Times A Week – Goal – Set A New PB
Assuming you have competed regularly in triathlon then reaching the next level is about making use of quality focus. Firstly you must have data on your three disciplines. From there you need to be focusing on doing quality work. How much time per week is spent at higher than individual event personal best time in your running / cycling and swimming?
For some people they may want to employ a periodized block focused on a specific element. This could mean instead of 5 sessions a week between the three modalities for a month you do 3 sessions a week on one element e.g. 3 swims and then 1 maintenance session each for cycling / running. The following month you could change the focus say to cycling 3 times a week. This method is effective for developing your weaker areas while maintaining fitness in the other elements. It would also be wise to put in some strength and flexibility sessions at some point during your year if not weekly.
– You Run 4 Times A Week – Goal Marathon
For best results here you would need to follow a specific plan to prepare you to run the big race. Almost all my marathon clients have done it off running three times a week max and even less sometimes. The key to your structure is changing the sessions. Ideally you would do one long session a week (this could be every two weeks when you are up to the 20- 25 km ranges in training) and two shorter faster sessions.
For most people that 4th session should be a injury prevention & strengthening session. This is because injury is the main reason people fail to complete the marathon or do not run it in their goal time. I discussed everything you need to know about marathon training previously.
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