Whether training for strength, weight loss, power or endurance it is important to continually update and improve your training program. I have many clients approaching me to help kick-start a stagnant routine that they have been following for months with very little improvement. The reason is simple, if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got. You have to constantly push the body harder and further to achieve results. Top athletes will have a plan for the year and if you want to look and live like an athlete why shouldn’t you train like one?
Any good program should have a long-term basis with an end goal. This could be 6 months to 1 year down the line but the subsequent workouts that will get you to this point should already be in the planning stages from the get go. This does not mean the plan won’t change. Workouts have to adapt and evolve with you. You may improve quicker, you may get injured and therefore have to take a step back but the end goal will remain the same.
Each training program needs to have a periodization plan. So how do you do this? First, what is it you want to achieve? List your goals and plan around them. For example, if you are a regular skier but this year you want to hit the black slopes or learn to do ski jumps then you would need to tailor your training to this. If you regularly run but want to improve your marathon time then you would need to train for endurance with speed. This works for weight loss too. If you plan to lose 30 pounds, break down the training to ultimately reach that end goal with maximum results.
Plan your training as macro, meso and micro cycles. A macro cycle is the long-term goal, such as your ski trip in a year’s time, the Olympics, or your final weight loss goal, to name a few. Break this into meso cycles. This could be a month, since one month is a sufficient amount of time to build up to the next phase of training with 3 weeks of intensity and one week of adapting and recovering. For example, if your plan is to go skiing for the first time then break it down into 4 months of training. Break each month into a micro cycle of weeks at a time. The first 3 weeks should steadily build up in intensity, with the 4th week allowing the body to adapt and respond to the positive stresses being placed on the body.
This month is for general fitness and strength. If you are new to exercise or new to skiing this phase should focus on increasing your Vo2 max, figuring out any weaknesses and trying to build on particular strengths. Training will initially shock the body and create maladaptations such as soreness. We are waking up the muscles needed for further training. If you are on a weight loss plan, this month will focus on long, steady state cardio and full body resistance training to figure out any weaknesses and increase the metabolism.
This month you will look to build on that fitness base, adding in extra sessions with harder intervals and anaerobic training. In terms of skiing, you would start to focus on leg strengthening exercises and core stability. On a weight loss plan, this would include adding in shorter cardio sessions with more specific resistance training and intervals into circuits. The body will start to adapt to its new training and performance will be increased.
This month you will really start to focus on the sport specific aspects of training. The body will have started to reach a plateau so additional stimuli must be added such as unstable surfaces. Again with skiing this involves legs with predominantly quads and glutes. Functional training such as one leg squats and core balance on a Bosu ball along with agility based anaerobic exercise such as side steps, step-ups and speed skaters.
This is when you will hit your peak and hopefully achieve the goal. With skiing, this will be the period involving the actual ski trip, competition or event that you have been training for.
This is the maintenance month. Maintain the skills and fitness levels you have built up. Keep endurance exercise high and continue to build on your strength as you get ready for the next phase of training.
Each week-long micro cycle will aim to continually push the body further while getting you ready for the next month’s phase of training. This will include increasing sets, reps, intensity and complexity. Continual fitness testing must be used to make sure the necessary gains are being made. In the case of a runner, this could include regular race days spread throughout the full macro cycle to see what improvements still need to be made within the training program.
Use a training log to plan and record your sessions. Make a note of every workout, every set, the number of reps and how you are improving. This will help you to continually update your training and keep you on track for success. Without a clear plan you are heading for failure before you even begin, so make a plan and push yourself!