The Secrets to Creating a Successful Training Program

Autres sports

, by Charlie Boscoe

Functional training with kettlebells. Credit - Yuri A, Shutterstock

When you're new to training, the sheer amount of information out there is overwhelming, and trying to figure out what is suitable for you feels virtually impossible. The rise of social media and YouTube means that there are now thousands of "experts" out there, all fighting to tell you that their method is the secret sauce you've been looking for and trying to convince you that your hard-earned money would be most effectively spent by putting it in their pockets. The amount of exercise and training-related noise online is deafening, and trying to figure out what is right for you can be a considerable challenge.

I'm here to tell you that fitness and training don't need to be complicated and that what worked before all the noise still works just as well now. The human body hasn't evolved since social media came along, so stick to a few basic rules, and you'll soon find a formula that works for you.

Don’t just follow the pack! Credit - Yuri A Shutterstock

Keep it Simple

For the majority of people out there, fitness doesn't need to be complicated; advanced training and nutrition plans are only necessary for athletes striving for optimal performance and chasing a specific goal. If you're just looking to stay in decent shape and perform well on the weekends when you're doing your hobby, a training program might still be a good motivator, but you don't need to stick to a rigid plan if you don't want to. 

Think about your hobby, and then figure out what element of your performance you want to improve. Once you've done that, your training plan should be pretty straightforward. Your 5km run time has plateaued? Try doing some interval sessions to improve your speed. Do you get aching, tired arms when riding your bike? Do some high rep/low weight upper body strength training. Do you struggle on hills? Do more hills! 

Earning the ability to run uphill by….running up hills! Don’t overthink it. Credit Jacob Lund Shutterstock

If your goals are even more straightforward, and you just want to be healthy and have basic all-round fitness, then your training can be even simpler, too ! If you get in the habit of exercising 3 or 4 times per week, then the specifics of what you do won't matter in the long run. If you feel like running, go running. If winter hits and you want the comfort of a gym - get signed up and have fun. Row, lift weights, do a Crossfit workout - it really doesn't matter. Just keep challenging yourself, avoid anything that hurts your joints, and follow your motivation wherever it goes. If you exercise regularly at a level that leaves you tired (but not exhausted - really stressing your body more than once a week (maximum) isn't recommended) and sweaty, you'll be fit for life, regardless of what training session you do tomorrow, next week or a month from now.

RELATED: 7 Easy Tips for Improving Your Run Training

Figure out what you want from your training, and the answer to what you should be doing will be obvious - don't overthink it. 

Look at the Results

In many sports, it's possible to quantify the success of a training program by studying the output that results from it. If you've been training to improve your 5km time, and it improves - the plan is working! If you're that same runner and you've done a program that feels great but isn't reducing your time, the plan ISN'T working! 

STRAVA TRAINING PLANS: Start your program today

The science of measuring results becomes trickier when pursuing a vaguer goal in a discipline that isn't so easily quantifiable, such as mountaineering or hiking. Sure, you might feel like you're getting better because you're putting in the hours at the gym, but are you actually moving faster and further in the mountains? Having some benchmark workouts like a local hill, which you can time trial, will help quantify your progress, but the vagaries of mountain terrain and conditions mean that you ultimately need to feel the difference rather than measure it. Listen to your body and make notes on how you feel during and after a mountain day, then compare those notes over time. 

There’s nothing like getting out there and doing it to know if your plan is working. Credit Olga Danylenko Shutterstock

The concept of studying results also applies to those social media fitness "experts." Have they just trained to look a certain way so that they can sell themselves as experts, or do they have a solid track record of improving athletes? Consider the motivations of anyone selling fitness advice online and judge them by their results.

Define Your Goals

It can be easy to get distracted when there are so many training options out there, but keep your training program focused on what you want to achieve. If you want to play right guard in the NFL, your training program will look entirely different from someone playing wide receiver. Sadly for the right guard, the receiver's training program will likely lead to them looking better in a t-shirt, but the goal isn't looking good in a t-shirt - it's performing how you want to perform. Right guards must be BIG, all-but-immovable objects, and wide receivers need quickness, mobility, and strength. The training programs for the two players need to be completely different, and the results will be completely different, too. 

SET YOUR GOALS: Strava will help you to hit them

Speaking of NFL players, 7-time Superbowl winner Tom Brady advocates for muscle pliability, claiming that it helped him to absorb impacts during his career. His record speaks for itself, but does that mean that you should be working on muscle pliability? In some sports, such as rock climbing, you need your body to feel solid and be able to maintain tension, so pliability wouldn’t be desirable. What works for someone else, even if they’re an exceptional athlete, isn’t necessarily right for you.

If you see someone doing a fun-looking workout, question whether it's going to help you before trying it for yourself. Many people hit the gym purely for aesthetic reasons, and they care about how they look more than how they perform. More power to them, but don't copy them if you have a different goal - try to put your ego aside and think about what you're trying to achieve. Your program might not result in you having big biceps and a 6-pack stomach, but it should result in you getting better at what you're training for. Interval sessions, tire drags, and mobility exercises don't feel as cool as bicep curls, but they're better for your athletic performance.

Look at the Whole Picture

It is becoming ever clearer that the human body - including the mind - should be treated as one entity, and you can't isolate a muscle or a performance goal. Your mental state is crucial to athletic success, so try to pick a program that allows you to maximize your mental health and physical output. If you're sleep-deprived, depressed, or anxious, there is no way you will deliver maximum physical output, so look after your entire being instead of just focusing on your body.

These things can be just as important as what you do in the gym! Credit Natalia Lisovskaya Shutterstock

The benefits of sleep are being understood better with every year, and making your sleep a priority is a guaranteed way to make your training program a success. Go to bed an hour earlier than usual, avoid screens for half an hour before sleeping, and try to sleep and wake at the same time every day. If you change no other element of your training but get one extra hour of sleep every night, I would all but guarantee that you will be hitting PRs within a month.

Look after other elements of your mental health as well - not many people succeed in their physical goals when their relationships/social life/work life aren't going well, so don't train at the expense of other areas in your life. When you're happy, you'll be more motivated to train, and finding a sustainable program alongside other elements in your life is crucial to maintaining it long-term.

RELATED: How to Create Effective Training and Performance Goals

Similar to mental health, nutrition is key; race cars run best on clean fuel, and so do humans! A treat is fine, and a few beers at the end of a hard training week will do more for your morale than they'll do damage to your results, but try to eat a balanced, healthy diet 90% of the time. Aim for 8 different fruits and vegetables every day, drink plenty of water, and avoid processed or high-sugar food as much as possible. Nobody is a saint when it comes to diet, but try to create good habits by filling your fridge with healthy options and then enjoy that pizza on a Friday night when you've earned it. Depriving yourself constantly just leads to mental burnout, so try to be "good" most of the time and don't feel guilty when you cut loose.

The exact way you aim to eat will depend on your goals, and those looking to gain muscle will likely need more protein than those looking to slim down, but fruit, vegetables, water, and a cheat night once per week is a winning long-term formula for any athlete!

Be Realistic

The best training program is the one you stick to. I've started out on various training programs and not stuck to them because they are incompatible with my life and goals. I don't particularly enjoy being in a gym, so if I go to one, I want to be in and out as efficiently as possible; a program that involves prolonged rest between sets won't work for me. Similarly, I want to do as much of my training outside, so I'll never stick to a program that is entirely gym-based. I also have issues with my hips and lower back, so high-impact sessions are a no-no. Reading that list makes me wonder how I make any training program work, but over time I've evolved my training to take into account all of my criteria.

You need to create a program that works for you, not for anyone else. Be honest about your motivations, and don't try to stick to a program that won't work with other elements of your life. If you've had a break from exercising for whatever reason, diving into a program with lots of impact and heavy weight lifting will just damage you, and if you’re pushed for time, a program requiring long endurance sessions isn't realistic. Look at your weekly schedule, consider your ambitions, limitations, and your motivation level, and create a program to which you can stick.