Many individuals who are not so called “athletes”, will embark on some sort of training or exercise regimen at some point during the year. Some will make a New Year’s Resolution to get back in the gym, some will say they need to get their beach body toned up, some will be training for a specific event they may not have tried before like running a 5K or even a marathon, and some will just want to get in better shape and be healthier. Each individual will have a particular motivation and most likely a goal they are trying to achieve. So what is the best way or method to reach this goal?
The answer to this question can be tricky and takes some thought and planning. Devising a training plan, like any project will eliminate or at least reduce errors or setbacks during the process of reaching your goal. Unfortunately, there is no universal training/exercise program that works for everyone for every goal. And even if your plan is solid, injuries can occur causing setbacks that lead to frustration and ultimately abandoning your goal.
So how and where do you begin when developing a training plan so you can reach your training goals?
First, you must determine what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to build muscle? Are you trying to improve cardiovascular endurance? Are you trying to lose weight, slim down or tone up? Is your goal to run a marathon or bike 100 miles? Once your goal has been established then the training/exercise activities can be tailored to achieve your particular goal.
During the process of creating a training plan, various factors must be considered and realized when setting training goals. It’s nice to think that everyone is created equal, but physically this is definitely not the case. Genetics and body type should be considered when creating an exercise or training plan. Individuals with longer or shorter extremities may have advantages or disadvantages depending on a particular activity. Pre-existing health conditions should be considered when setting realistic goals for each individual. Previous training experience and previous injuries should also be considered. These are just a few factors that need to be integrated into the equation of how to train and for how long you will need to train in order to reach your fitness goals. Without realizing these factors, and without having a realistic sense of what you are capable of at that particular time and your current state of fitness, will lead to injuries, repetitive setbacks and ultimately abandoning your goal.
Once your goal is set and any limiting factors have been addressed, a plan can be designed to achieve your goal. If your goal is to run a marathon, then your training must be heavily weighted with activities that focus on cardiovascular endurance and preparing the lower extremity for the pounding it will need to endure to finish the 26.2 miles. If your goal is to just get healthier in general, than you want to formulate a more generalized plan that encompasses the entire body from the upper to lower body, strength training to cardiovascular exercises. Each goal will involve specific exercises and guidelines that will facilitate the movements and body parts that are associated with that goal. No matter what the goal, stretching and core strength, two training aspects often overlooked, should always be a substantial part of the plan. Consistent static and dynamic stretching and increasing core strength and stability will improve every movement your body makes and reduce the opportunity for future injury.
Now that you have determined the exercises and activities you are going to use to reach your goal, you need to determine the frequency at which you will perform the exercise. How many times a day, a week, or a month will these activities be performed and how much rest is needed between exercises and workouts. Many times during a training program the importance of rest is overlooked. We are so focused on the activity that needs to be done that we forget that our body needs time to recover and heal. If the appropriate amount of time is not allotted for healing, overuse injuries are inevitable leading to setbacks, frustration and ultimately abandoning your goal. Various therapies, like ice and heat can also expedite recovery by limiting inflammation or increasing blood flow. Also, starting slow and increasing slowly will help prevent overuse injuries. You must allow your body time to acclimate and accommodate for the added stresses during the training process. Too much, too fast will ruin most training plans before they even have a chance to get going.
The last component that needs to be implemented into every training program is proper nutrition and hydration. No matter what your goal is and what activities you will be performing to reach your goal, it is necessary to give your body the proper fuel to perform the activity and then the proper building blocks to recover and rebuild broken down tissues. Without proper nutrition, the machine, which is your body, will almost definitely break down repeatedly, leading to injury, setbacks, frustration and abandoning your goal.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, you have to have the right mindset. You must have confidence in your plan and yourself. You have to be fully committed to accomplishing your goal but at the same time you must be willing and able to adapt and possibly alter your plan. Rarely, during any course of training or life for that matter, does anything go exactly as we have planned. Most likely there will be some kind of injury or setback. You must learn to listen to what your body is telling you, know when you can push through or when you should pull back and slow down. The entire training process will be a learning process, your ability to adapt but stay the course will determine whether or not your goals are met.
Good luck in achieving your training goals! Stay focused, stay positive and be ready and able to adapt to any bumps in the road!