The goal of this article is to provide meaningful and practical information for people that currently exercise but want to put more structure or greater consistency to their training.
In this article we discuss
- tips that can be used in the goal-setting process
- How to set a training week
- How to monitor your exercise intensity
- How to implement lactate threshold (LT) training to your workouts and
- How much rest you should be getting each week
- Provide signs and symptoms of overtraining
Goal Setting: Set SMART Goals
Setting specific, achievable goals is an important part of any training programme. Here are a few tips for setting strength and conditioning and fitness-related goals:
- Make sure your goals are specific: Rather than setting a general goal like “get fit,” try to be more specific about what you want to achieve. For example, you might set a goal to increase your bench press by 10 kilos, run a 5k in under 30 minutes, or do 10 consecutive pull-ups.
- Make your goals measurable: It’s important to have a way to track your progress, so make sure your goals are measurable. For example, you might aim to increase the number of reps you can do in a certain exercise, or the distance you can run in a certain time.
- Make your goals achievable: While it’s important to challenge yourself, it’s also important to set goals that are realistically achievable. If your goals are too difficult, you may become discouraged and lose motivation. This can be a delicate balance as you don’t want goals that are easily accomplished- setting an achievable goal over a 3 to 6 month period is a great starting point.
- Make your goals relevant: Make sure your goals are relevant to your overall fitness and health goals. For example, if you want to improve your endurance, setting a goal to increase your bench press might not be as relevant. Secondary or smaller goals can compound one another. For example, if your main goal is to run 5k in under 30 minutes, smaller goals such as losing 3-5 kilo, increasing flexibility so that you can touch your toes or getting stronger at bodyweight exercises can help your main goal.
- Make your goals time-bound: Setting a deadline for your goals can help you stay motivated and on track. For example, you might set a goal to achieve a certain weightlifting total in three months, or to run a half marathon in six months.
By setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals, you can create a roadmap for your training and stay motivated as you work towards your goals. Fitness coaches and personal trainers should be able to explore SMART goals and develop a suitable training plan to get you to your goal(s).
Tips to Plan Your Training Week
Set specific goals: As mentioned above, you first need to determine what you want to achieve with your training, whether it’s improving your endurance, gaining strength, or something else. This will help you structure your workouts in a way that is most effective for meeting your goals.
If you are new to exercise you might be able to improve every domain of health, fitness and strength and conditioning. However, if you’ve been training for some time you might be better off sticking to 1-2 main training goals during each phase of training.
Consider your schedule: Think about your schedule and other commitments when planning your training week. It’s important to find a balance between fitting in your workouts and allowing time for other activities and rest. Write down what you absolutely have to get done each week (personal, social, sport related) and begin to work your training week around this starting point.
Gradually increase intensity: It’s generally best to start with lower intensity workouts and gradually increase the intensity as your fitness improves. This can help you avoid overtraining and injury. Even if you have the best intentions, taking a cautious approach will prove helpful long-term.
Rest & Recovery: Vary the intensity of your workouts throughout the week. This can be accomplished through changing what you do, purposefully training hard or making use of light or recovery type workouts.
Monitor your training intensity: We discuss ways to monitor your training intensity later in the article. As an overview, you can use heart rate data, total distance, rate or perceived exertion or power output to monitor training intensity.
Heart Rate Zone Training
GPS, heart rate and fitness based watches are becoming less expensive and more accessible to a greater population. As a result, many exercise participants now use such watches. However, few people seem to understand the basics of GPS and heart rate watches.
Correctly using GPS & heart rate watches can lead to a massive positive impact to each training session along with your entire physical training programme.
Heart rate zones are ranges of heart rates that can be used to target specific training goals. There are several different ways to divide heart rate zones, but a common approach is to use the following five zones:
- Zone 1: This is the lowest intensity zone and is typically used for very light activity or recovery. In this zone, your heart rate should be between 50-60% of your maximum heart rate.
- Zone 2: This is a moderate intensity zone that is often used for endurance training. In this zone, your heart rate should be between 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. You should be able to hold a comfortable conversation at this stage.
- Zone 3: This is a high intensity zone that is often used for interval training or threshold training. In this zone, your heart rate should be between 70-80% of your maximum heart rate.
- Zone 4: This is a very high intensity zone that is often used for short bursts of intense exercise. In this zone, your heart rate should be between 80-90% of your maximum heart rate.
- Zone 5: This is the highest intensity zone and is typically used for very short bursts of all-out effort. In this zone, your heart rate should be above 90% of your maximum heart rate.
When using heart rate zones it is important to note that intensity and volume of training are inversely related. Zone 5 training quickly causes fatigue, while Zone 1 training could typically be completed for hours at a time.
If using heart rate zones for endurance based training, you would typically aim to spend most of your training time in Zone 2 or Zone 3, with occasional intervals in Zone 4 to improve your speed and power. By training at different intensities, you can improve your endurance, speed, and overall fitness. This will also aid in your recovery throughout the week.
Maximum heart rate can vary widely from person to person, so it’s a good idea to use a heart rate monitor to get a more accurate estimate of your own heart rate zones.
You can the following classic formula to estimate your maximum heart rate:
Maximum heart rate = 220 – age
How to Determine and Track Your Training Intensity
There are several ways to calculate the intensity of a workout, including the following:
- Rating of perceived exertion (RPE): RPE is a subjective measure of how hard you feel like you are working. You can use a scale of 1-10, where 1 is very easy and 10 is maximal effort.
- Heart rate: Your heart rate is a good indicator of intensity, and you can use heart rate zones (as described above) to gauge the intensity of your workouts.
- Power output: If you are using a stationary bike or treadmill with a power meter, you can use your power output as a measure of intensity.
- Speed, Distance or Time: This is especially useful for running or cycling type workouts.
- Resistance: If you are using weights or other types of resistance training, you can use the amount of resistance as a measure of intensity.
The training modality you choose will often dictate an intensity range, and this is normal and expected. A common mistake is to try and match your training intensities for everything- this should be avoided. It is best to have a combination of low and high intensity activities throughout your training week.
Lactate Threshold Training
The lactate threshold is the point at which lactic acid starts to accumulate faster than it can be removed from muscles. Training at or near the lactate threshold can help you improve your endurance and increase the amount of time you can sustain high-intensity exercise. This is one of many beneficial types of endurance training but does require some previous experience with exercise.
To do lactate threshold training, you can do intervals at or near your lactate threshold intensity. As an example, you might do sets of 8-12 minutes at a pace that is just below your lactate threshold, followed by 3-4 minutes of active recovery at a lower intensity. As you get stronger and your lactate threshold improves, you can gradually increase the duration and intensity of the intervals.
Lactate threshold training is an advanced type of workout and is not suitable for everyone. You can consult with a coach who can help develop a comprehensive cardiovascular training programme and prescribe suggested paces for these type of activities.
How Much Rest Do You Really Need Each Week?
The recommended amount of rest from exercise varies depending on your age, fitness level, and the types of activities you are doing. As a general rule, it’s important to include at least one or two rest days in your training week to allow your body time to recover from the stresses of exercise. This can help you avoid overtraining and injury.
If you are new to exercise or are just starting to ramp up your training, you may want to take more frequent rest days to allow your body time to adapt to the new demands. As you become more fit and accustomed to your training program, you may be able to reduce the number of rest days you take.
Something that has worked well for our members is the 2 for 2 rule. When starting out, perform two sessions each week, on non-consecutive days for two weeks before adding a third training session to your weekly schedule.
It’s also important to listen to your body and pay attention to any signs of fatigue or overtraining. If you are feeling especially tired or sore, or if you are having trouble recovering from your workouts, it may be a good idea to take an extra rest day.
What is Overtraining?
Overtraining occurs if you don’t allow your body enough time to recover from the stresses of exercise. It can lead to decreased performance, increased risk of injury, and a range of other negative health effects. Here are some common signs and symptoms of overtraining:
- Decreased performance: If you are overtraining, you may notice that your performance in workouts is declining. You may feel slower, weaker, or less energetic than usual.
- Increased fatigue: Overtraining can cause you to feel more tired and fatigued, both during and after workouts.
- Decreased motivation: If you are overtraining, you may lose your enthusiasm for exercise and have a hard time staying motivated.
- Increased muscle soreness: Overtraining can lead to increased muscle soreness and stiffness, especially if you are not allowing enough time for recovery between workouts.
- Changes in sleep patterns: Overtraining can disrupt your sleep patterns, leading to difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night, or feeling tired and groggy upon waking.
- Changes in appetite: Overtraining can cause changes in appetite, leading to either increased or decreased food intake.
- Increased risk of injury: Overtraining can increase your risk of injury, as your muscles and joints may not be fully recovered from previous workouts.
If you are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, it’s important to take a break from exercise and allow your body time to recover. You may also want to consult with a qualified coach or trainer to help you adjust your training program and avoid overtraining in the future.
We hope that you find some value in this article and now feel comfortable setting training goals, organising your training week and getting closer to your goals each day. Just don’t forget to enjoy the process along the way!