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November 18, 2008

Training is a very individual process and training programs are always very individual masterpieces. They are specific structures of volume, intensity and exercise used in training, distrubuted over days and weeks of the cycle, allowing to achive cumulitative effect at the end of the cycle in a selected direction (exercise, distance). A knowledgeable and experienced coach can skillfully lead his athlete to better performance level, better results and a longer career in sports. Majority of people however do not have the luxury of working with a coach and are left to make training decisions on their own.

Obtaining a good training plan is one of those decisions to be made and choosing the right training program for yourself, or at least finding a legitimate one, is not the easiest of tasks. How do you decide what should be in your training plan? How do you judge the quality of it and the effectiveness?

These are not simple questions and there are no simple answers to them, but there are some golden rules that serve as a foundation of all proper and effective training programs and in the absence of a coach, keeping these basics in mind will help you make better choices and consequently get better results.
  1. PROPER DURATION. Majority of people start looking for a training program when they decide to enter a certain race. Others want a training plan to simply have a good regimen to follow to stay fit instead of doing something on some days hoping to get some kind of effect. Decide what your goal is, figure out the time frame that it gives you. If you're working with a particular target date - your training plan should be aimed at that date locking you into a certain time frame and giving you a particular number of days/weeks/months to achieve your goal. Your entire plan - its structure, volume and type of training involved should be based around that main event. Now, if you're looking to simply stay fit - then your plan should give you more options to choose from because you're free from time constraints and a solid goal. In this case, your time frame is indefinite, but keep in mind that 4 or more months planned ahead don't make much sense because a good and effective training plan reflects athlete's current condition and progress or lack thereof. Optimal length of the training cycle is about 4 weeks, which is the length that allows to accomplish a specific goal and it also resembles natural cycles.
  2. SUFFICIENT NUMBER OF REST DAYS. Training doesn't mean - doing something all the time. There has to be a proper balance between your training and rest days. Too much action and not enough rest time is a bad formula and is a one way ticket to exhaustion. Majority do well with 3-4 days of training a week, professional athletes need up to 7 days of training per week and often twice a day. Whatever number of days you train right now, if you experience any of the signs listed in this article - reduce your training volume, you're overtraining.
  3. WARM UP/ COOL DOWN/ TECHNIQUE DRILLS. Any good daily training plan starts with a warm up. It's an important part of the overall training process and is a necessity, it should not be treated as an option. It is proper to start with a warm up, and it only makes sense to wrap up with a cool down. Just as we need to help our bodies prepare for training by warming up, it is best if we assist ourselves in returning back to normal as well. A training program without a cool down part is not a complete training program. And the same goes for the technique work. It cannot be skipped. Your biggest improvement and progress will be the result of proper technique work. Technique drills and exercises are a mandatory part of any proper training plan whatever sport you're involved in.
  4. STRENGTH CONDITIONING/FLEXIBILITY EXERCISES. These must be included in training regimens on regular basis. Without adequate and proper strength developed you will be subjected to injuries and mediocre performance. Developing and maintaining flexibility helps extremely well in achieving better performance results also. Work on your technique, strength and flexibility should be regular and balanced, but with emphasis on technique.
  5. WEEKLY REVIEW/ REGIMEN ADJUSTMENTS. A lot can happen in just one week of training and whatever it is, it will require a proper adjustment to your training regimen. It is recommended to review the original training schedule against the actual training done and results accomplished, and then implement changes on weekly basis to achieve best results. This is one of the most difficult parts of working with training programs and unfortunately cannot really be done without a coach. You could try and switch around some numbers, repetitions, etc., you could try to go by what feels right to you, but doing that without knowledge will produce no definite results or improvements. So if you're training for a particular event - it is recommended to obtain a proper training program. If you're training just to stay fit - you have a lot more leeway for error and could getaway with stuff.

We do recommend obtaining a proper training plan whether you're on a mission preparing for an event or not. You might just be pleasantly surprised with your results and achievements!

Article by Dr. Nicholas Romanov
Composed by L. Romanov

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