You want to improve your fitness to get an extended life, better well-being, and reduce risk of chronic diseases.
Plus it will impress the ladies.
All you gotta do is exercise hard, as far as you can go, and you’ll get results.
If you truly exercise hard, you quickly get nice results. In most cases though, there is soon a plateau. Later on, it’s hard to wake up in the morning knowing what is truly you are aiming for. Soon there are compromises on the length or intensity of workouts. Or even just skipping days. And soon, your initial fitness ideas become a distant dream, taken away by daily life requirements.
A training plan helps to overcome this plateau. A training plan will let you know when you are at your peak form. In my case, it also makes sure that fitness is integrated in my daily routine. If you are serious about your health, it is important to take a step back and have a training plan.
In short, a training plan guarantees success.
A training plan is structured around a training goal, superior to current baseline data. This can be strength, speed, power, endurance, agility, flexibility or a mix. For example, it can be around running a marathon in 6 months. In this case, your training plan would be about logging enough miles every week. It can be about performing at a powerlifting competition. You will then design specific upper and lower body workouts, and a related nutrition strategy. Or it can be going from couch to running 5k.
In my case, my goal is to run 5 kilometers in under 20 minutes before the end of 2016. I ran 5km in 26:30 before my current training plan. I thought the goal would be a simple, motivating and attainable challenge in the available timeframe, considering my fitness base.
The best goals are the ones you can pitch easily in 30 seconds to your friends during a casual conversation. “I want to run 5k in less than 20mn”. Everybody understands. How simple and motivating does that sound?
Every morning, I have this goal in mind and know exactly what the run is achieving. Every run is serious and I give it full attention. When I get fitness equipment or do active recovery, I have this goal in mind.
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to have a training plan. It’s just a tool that makes fitness improvement easier, day after day.
After you thought about your goal and set your mind about it, then you can find a training plan.
The most serious will find a certified coach who will design workouts, their schedules and optionally coach you every day. It is an additional investment, although not possible for everyone. For your research, this article on choosing a coach provides insights.
There are also lots of freely and paid training plans on the Internet or in books. Find those advised by athletes with good performance. See if there are feedbacks from those who followed the training plans. Criteria include:
- training plan goal and success. Does the training plan goal relate to you? Are there any relatable success stories?
- intensity. Are you capable of following the intensity of the workouts?
- duration of workouts. A training plan that requires long workouts 5 days a week might not be possible if your work or family requires time.
- gear or facilities available. A few training plans might require specialized fitness equipment or locations you don’t have. For example, you live in a flat region and the training plans requires hills workouts. Or the workout is heart-rate based training but you actually don’t have a heart rate monitor.
A training plan will give you a calendar, spanning at least several months. Every day will be either a training day, a cross training day, an active recovery day, or a rest day (yeah!). At first, it should be challenging to see all the required hours and the intensity. But just like the first day at university, you know this exact training plan will lead you to results.
In my case, training is structured around:
- Speed workouts – running at a speed faster than my goal speed at shorter distances, repeated 5 times. Between intervals, I run at jogging pace. This is important to keep the workout at a steady pace.
- Long runs – building endurance with a weekly half-marathon, or shorter depending on the weather. It’s the workout I enjoy the most as it’s meditative and lets me connect with nature.
- Plyometrics and strength training. This is a mix of static jumps, strides, as well as dumbbell and bodyweight exercises
- Rest and active recovery. I track fatigue with the heart rate variability (HRV) metric, do massage on main muscle groups, relax, do yoga as well as hiking and walking. This is often misunderestimated and done poorly.
My workouts are logged on Garmin Connect and I also test performance every two weeks. It’s an opportunity to congratulate myself and share with others or motivate myself to try harder. I did for example 23:36 a few days ago, compared to the initial 26:30 a month ago.
The training plan is synced with my iCal calendar as well as my google calendar. You can share with significant others and they can plan accordingly shared activities.
If you follow the training plan, you will soon find improved fitness. Often, you will also have to improve nutrition, as well as improve sleep quality and quantity.
What about natural exercise? If your daily routine or daily job requires exercise, you might not need a training plan. I have a desk job which means I am at risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, poor immune system etc. Finding balance means making sure I have enough fitness, and this is challenging without a training plan.
If you are currently training, let me know in comments your thoughts, esp. about current training plans. Thanks!