The gyms are now filled with men and women who have vowed that this year they are going to get fit, lose weight, tone up, slim down and reduce their body fat. Whatever your goal is, in order to succeed, you need to have a plan. And by a plan I don’t mean workout 3 times a week and try to eat better.
A lot of people believe you need to change what you do every work out so you surprise your muscles; this is what I call chaos training. Whether you go to the gym or workout at home, your workouts need structure and a specific goal. Let’s talk progressive overload and periodization.
If you were planning out your household budget or your marketing strategy for your business, you certainly wouldn’t go about it without a concrete plan in place that was designed not only with the end result in mind but also consideration for your current situation. Fitness goals need the same sort of planning.
Let’s start with your cardio workouts. If you are a beginner, you’re not going to jump right into HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts. You could very well end up hurt and honestly the workouts will be quite difficult to get through which will then lead to giving up on your goals. Beginners should start with steady state cardio workouts, which mean you stay at the same pace for the entire workout. Once you are able to maintain a constant pace for 30 minutes, your next step would be to increase that pace gradually. The following month, you could add in one or two days of interval training.
The intervals could look something like this: warm up at a low intensity for 3 – 5 minutes, jog at 5.4 mph for 1 minute, then walk at 3.8 mph for 4 minutes. Gradually increase the time you jog and decrease the walking. This is an example of progressive overload. Each time you workout, do something to increase the intensity. You can do this by increasing the time, the incline, or the speed if you are on a treadmill. Only increase one factor at a time. This is a very safe and effective way to go about building your endurance.
Progressive overload also applies to your resistance training. I know a lot of women enjoy going to boot camp classes. And before you get upset, I am not saying that boot camp style classes are bad. They’re great and they certainly have their place in a progressive, effective fitness plan. But if you are looking for long term results and a program that is really going to change your body and boost your metabolism, you need to plan your program based on where you’re at now and where you want to go.
Let’s say again that you are a beginner. As a personal trainer, I may start you off with a full body workout, three times per week. What you actually do in the workout is a topic for another blog. Each day you come in for your workout, you need to increase the intensity in some way. There are lots of things you can do; add a couple of repetitions, increase the weight, add an additional set, perform an exercise in a slightly different way that increases the intensity of the movement, or even change the order of the exercises. The main goal is to push yourself to do just a little bit more with each workout.
Along with progressive overload, you need to have a monthly plan or focus and change your routines every 3 – 4 weeks. This is a part of periodization. A good fitness coach should have a well thought out program for you based on a periodization schedule. For instance, you want to lose 50 pounds and decrease body fat. After meeting with your personal trainer or coach for the first time, she discovers some imbalances you have along with postural issues. During your first phase of your program, the focus should be to correct those issues, the next phase may be to increase your strength so that you can perform at a higher intensity, the third phase could focus on muscular endurance and the forth on metabolic conditioning. This of course is just an example but you get the idea. Each phase should be building on the previous one with consideration for what is coming next. If your trainer is unable to do this for you, look for another trainer.
Building an effective training program can be confusing. If you are new to working out I highly suggest you higher a trainer to teach you proper form as well as how to create a program. Make sure your trainer is certified through a reputable organization such as the American Council on Exercise.
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Lisa Swanson is an ACE Certified Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Orthopedic Exercise Specialist as well as a certified AASDN and PN level 1 nutritionist. With over 35 years experience helping people turn their lives around, she is on a mission to provide relevant and useful knowledge to help women in midlife reach their goals.
Check out my interview with the Magnificent Midlife podcast on staying fit and healthy long-term.