Sadly, this post title was the course title of a few of my college/grad school classes. So, just let it be known that there is a TON of information out there on this topic and that I will NOT fully delve into its complexities and take up semesters of your life :). However, here are just a few “skim the surface” tips on planning your exercise programs, especially those of you who are multi-sport athletes like myself.
My best advice to give when programming your exercise schedule is to actually make a written schedule. You can use a regular calendar, or make your own calendar on MS Word just for your workouts. But make sure it goes past just a simple Monday-Sunday schedule. Your workouts will and should change as you get closer to your goals. Here’s a few steps on how to start programming:
How do I start scheduling workouts?
- Take a look at your schedule. First, your race schedule. What big races/events do you have planned? Your biggest/most important race should be your target goal. If you don’t have a goal race or event, I always suggest having at least one per year, even if its a small or short term goal because it will keep you motivated to train consistently.
- What is your goal for your target race/event? A personal record? Completion of the race? Take this into account with your programming as well. If you have a big endurance event such as an IronMan triathlon or something, it’s often smart to plan shorter, smaller races in strategic places weeks or months before the big race to work out training kinks and get those race juices flowing! Also, these smaller races are good “time trials” to get a feel of where you’re at with training and build confidence.
- Now look at your personal schedule. Add to your schedule any major vacations or time commitments. If you know you’re going to be out of town for a week, take that into consideration when programming. You probably don’t want to peak your training during vacation.
- Start figuring out what time of day you work out best. If you’re doing multi-sport programming, are there days where you need to fit in a morning and afternoon workout, or a brick workout? If you workout best in the morning, stick to it. If not, find a time in the evening or mid-day that you can hold yourself accountable to do. Consistency is the main goal here and the key to success and results.
What type of workouts do I need to include in my workout schedule?
- Sport-specific workouts (i.e. triathlon = bricks, swim, bike run. Half-marathon = long runs. etc. Rugby tournament = rugby practice) – this is where you fit in interval training, sport skills and drills, etc. This should be done 2-3 times per week. If you are not training for a specific sport, use this time to do activities that you like that involve exercise. For example: kayaking, hiking, paddleboarding, etc.
- Weight lifting – strength is important to every sport and overall health. This should be done 2-3 times per week.
- Stretching (usually done post workout, or during yoga if desired) – You should use a dynamic warmup before all workouts, and static stretching after cool down. Yoga is also a great tool if you can fit it in a few days a week. I am a big fan of yoga for stretching everything you didn’t even know needs stretching and for mental health 🙂
- Cardiovascular exercise (i.e. running, swimming, elliptical, biking, cross-training) – Should be done a minimum of 3-5 days per week. Cardiovascular fitness is important to your sport and your overall health. I recommend about 3-5 total hours per week of cardiovascular exercise for general health, but if you’re an athlete, you’ll probably do more.
- Rest Days. Clearly not a type of workout, but very important none the less. You need at least one rest day, maybe two per week, depending on how your body is responding to training. Feeling tired after a workout is normal, but signs of overtraining such as sleeplessness, lack of appetite, poor training performance, and unusual lack of energy on a daily basis should not be ignored.
How do I progress my workouts?
This is the complicated part. Often times a training program is provided for the race/event in which you are participating. If you’re looking at running programs and triathlon programs, there are a lot of great ones available online at places such as Runner’s World or BeginnerTriathlete.com. I definitely recommend a lot of these sites because they are tried and true schedules that are free with easy access.
If you need help making your own, I’d be happy to help as well and can recommend a variety of books to help you create your program properly. You can look at your own training results from the past or your starting point, and use that data to help you figure out how and at which rate to progress safely into your goal race or event.
Hope you enjoyed these few tips on making an exercise program, and please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or would like more information. 🙂