The start of the new year means you have a new opportunity for you to improve your health and fitness.
All of the possibilities for living a higher quality of life and performing your best are inspiring. And it’s why most people are committed and get off to a solid start in January.
But maintaining your energy level and having a focused and positive mindset all year long is a challenge for most athletes.
Often, it’s the frequency of their workout routine that catches up to them.
That’s because life always shows up, making you confront your commitment to your training plan. And it tests how important your fitness goal is to you.
Adversity, dedication, and hard work are all part of the growth process. But this combination can also wear you down. And cause you to lose your motivation.
It becomes even more of a struggle if you:
- Don’t have a plan with structure from the outset.
- Have a good plan to follow, but you don’t execute it.
- Have a misguided plan because it isn’t based on your individual needs.
You need to have the right plan to build the needed momentum to reach your goal.
It has to be a plan that you are confident in and that you can complete in full.
Part of that process begins with asking three essential questions:
- How many training days per week are optimal for you to create the improvement in the timeframe you want?
- How many training days per week and minutes per day will you commit to in order to reach your fitness goal?
- How will you split your routine up to give you the optimal time to recover to create positive change?
The answers to each will come when you consider all 9 individual factors below:
- Training volume load
- State of physical health
- Ability to handle stress
- Training age (Novice, intermediate, advanced)
- Desired fitness quality to improve upon, and in what time period
- Competition / practice schedule if you are participating in an organized sport
- Ability of your nervous system to adapt to learn and refine new skills
- The duration your desired fitness quality lasts before a decrease in performance occurs
If you don’t make the time to identify your needs from the list above, then your odds of success goes down. To help, I’m going to expand on each with some examples of how they apply.
School, work, sports schedule, sleep, family, relationships, social, and community all have demands. You need to consider all of these factors and their related stresses when working out the amount of time you’ll devote to your fitness routine.
These demands have an impact on your ability to dedicate the desired number of hours in any given day, week, or month. And these other life stresses will have an impact on the energy and recovery you need to succeed.
When your training frequency is not aligned in the right way, then something has to give. Otherwise, it could do harm to your mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual health.
You can avoid this by planning and compromising with your lifestyle in mind. It allows you to have realistic expectations for your time commitment and goals.
This could mean that you have only 60 minutes a day to dedicate to a fitness routine. And whatever the amount of time is , you need to figure out what is most effective with regards to the makeup of each workout.
You may only have time in a given session for two to three exercises or a certain number of sets/reps.Taking this into account, you may need to train more days per week for your plan to be to effective.
Other aspects of your lifestyle are your nutrition and sleep habits. These will impact your training because they are an important part of your recovery.
Last, your dedication and access to recovery modalities will influence your recovery. This might include cryotherapy (icing), infrared sauna, compression, electric stimulation, to name a few.
Training Volume Load
The number of days you train a fitness quality is parallel with the loading volume. The loading volume is the total amount of resistance and repetitions you do over a given period of time. This could be days, weeks, or months.
It’s also necessary to consider any other volume loads from other activities. This could be the physical demands from practicing skills of your sport. As well as the development of other fitness qualities that you need to excel in your athleticism.
By now, you know how important it is to have enough time for optimal recovery. So you’ll need to determine how to divide up that loading volume to have the right impact.
It has to create an overload of stress to stimulate change. But without a degradation in your performance.
State of Physical Health
When you’re healthy with no injuries, you have nothing physical holding you back.
But when you’re not, it means that your body needs the regenerative resources to heal.
So if the demands are too high for you to recover from your training, then your body will be slower to heal.
This means that you’ll need to give more time to healing and less to training to improve your performance.
Ability to Handle Stress
Everyone is different with regards to how well they can withstand stress. That’s why it’s important that you be true to yourself when you acknowledge this factor.
In times of stress, your body is more susceptible to breakdown and injury. That’s because your hormones become out-of-whack. This diminishes their ability to create an internal environment for healing. And, as a result, regeneration becomes hampered.
When it comes to determining your training frequency, you must account for stress. And this can change from day-to-day, and week-to-week. This is where having a flexible plan with this in mind comes in handy.
So track yourself daily and notice things like your energy and motivation levels. If they are lower than you’d like them to be, then invest your time in skills of stress management.
Meditation is widely used amongst elite athletes and business executives. Headspace is my favorite app to learn and stay consistent.
Training Age (novice, intermediate, advanced)
You need to take into account your personal history with exercise when determining how frequently you train.
In the realm of strength and conditioning, a novice is someone who has less than two years’ experience. An intermediate training age has three to five years. And an advanced would be someone who has at least six years behind them.
There is one caveat, that your training age needs to build from the right technique. Otherwise, your body is accumulating compensation instead of function.
That’s because there is a skillset behind building strength. And it takes time to build the foundation that serves as the platform for everything else. That is your muscle growth, max strength, power, speed, endurance, and work capacity.
As a novice, your body is like a sponge that’s thirsty for stimulation. Anything new that you throw at it is going to develop new neural pathways that didn’t exist before. So it takes only a little application of this patterning to see development. Almost anything new that you do will create a noticeable change.
But as your body adapts over time, the rate of change begins to slow. This is because it’s already moved closer to your potential with established patterns. So planning and execution takes more refinement to see any improvement.
When you’re first starting out with building your strength and conditioning, be a minimalist. Meaning, you can see improvement in two days per week with a full-body workout.
Come the 7th week, those changes will begin to slow with that frequency. So increasing to three days per week would be a logical step forward.
This is not to say that the advanced athlete should be training seven days per week. The human body still has its limits, and everyone requires a period of recovery to grow.
But the advanced athlete can still train more days per week than a novice. That’s because their nervous system and anatomical foundation are well established. The advanced athlete will be more in-tune with their body to make the right adjustments in their plan.
Keep in mind though, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Even though someone who’s advanced can train more often, it doesn’t mean that they need to reach their specific goal.
When you account for your training age, you’ll have a solid basis for your training frequency.
There are four more important factors to cover. And I’ll do that in the next post.
For now, you have enough to chew on to begin your scheme of training frequency.
Remember to map things out in a written form so that you can better flesh out your routine.
Until next time, stay athletic.