How to design an effective training programme

In our last blog we drew on our many years of experience to provide some advice on setting goals – this time we take a look at how to set an effective training programme.

We treat plenty of active people here at Physio Central, from those starting out on a “couch to 5k” training plan through to people training for their next Iron Man.

Training is far from an exact science and you need only to look at the pros to see how complicated it can be. Most of us don’t have our own nutritionists and trainers, so our advice here is all about maximising enjoyment while minimising the chance of injury.

1) Set clear goals

See our last blog for more information but part of the enjoyment is seeing your progress. Whether that’s lasting the full 20 minutes in 5-a-side or a new marathon PB, set goals early on. A long term goal with a few short term goals leading up to it is advisable


2) Get enough rest

This is one of the most important things in a training programme and it’s also the aspect most people ignore or forget. Particularly if you’re training for something like a marathon or a triathlon it might seem odd to miss out on a training day, but not enough rest increases your chances of injury and will impact on performance.

There are plenty of expensive and high-tech ways to measure this, but a simple version is to see if you feel sluggish or if training and daily routines are becoming a struggle. If this is the case (and it’s not attributed to other factors) then adding rest days could be the answer. This recent article on Cycling Weekly goes into more depth on this.

3) Don’t waste time on ‘junk’ miles

For any endurance sport such as running, cycling or swimming, stimulating change means pushing your body through a certain threshold. If you don’t do this then you’re in the comfort zone (even if it might not feel that way) and overall fitness is much less likely to be improved.

Of course getting the miles in is important for other reasons, but the key here is not to overdo the longer sessions. If you’re training for a marathon then you need to get close to the 26 miles before race day, but too many long sessions can increase the risk of injury and fatigue. Instead try interval sessions, upping the intensity over a shorter distance.

4) Have an objective measure

This is basically a fairly simple test that you can easily carry out under the same (or similar) conditions to measure progress. This could be your time over 2k, power output on the bike or a set of weights at the gym.

The important thing here is to make sure it’s linked back to your overall goals that you set at the start – lifting an extra 10kg on the bench press is of very little use for that marathon PB.


5) Mix it up

Primarily because, frankly, we all get bored, but it also keeps your body challenged and outside of its comfort zone where you’ll see the real improvements.

This could be changing up the interval training, finding some hillier routes over a shorter distance, changing the number of repetitions or even throwing in a different discipline altogether, such as swimming instead of another session on the bike.

6) Look after yourself

No matter how ambitious the goals or how close the race, it’s important to pay attention to your body and know when it needs some extra help.

While you might not be able to manage the daily treatment that the pros have access to, a regular sports massage can help release tight areas before more significant problems develop.

7) Include some strength training

We’ve mentioned it before in our marathon training blog, but we really can’t over-emphasise the importance of strength training. A strong body will reduce your chance of injury and, when done in the right way, will also help to improve performance. Imagine doing a marathon and getting a tiny bit more power out of every step – over that distance, this can add up to significant reductions in your finishing time.

For advice on any of the above points, do not hesitate in getting in touch.


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