People often wonder why they are not getting fitter or stronger, or are just unsure how to. I hope this blog will help those of you who want to try to build up a good training plan.
There are a few key rules to try and follow to improve your strength or your speed when exercising.
You can apply the following to all types of exercise, as they will all add stress to your body – which the body will use to then build up stronger & healthier.
I am writing this mainly with menopausal women in mind, to try and help those who are menopausal to see weights / strength training as a best friend, or rather a better friend to your body than cardio!!
I am NOT of course telling you to stop all cardio, however, I am suggesting you make friends with dumbbells, bands and maybe even bars!!! (NO, not chocolate bars )
So here are the key factors that you should try to apply to your exercising – you may be surprised, but I am starting with the most important though probably the last one you would expect….
Those who know me or have heard me talk, will know that I talk a lot about the need for rest & recovery. This is ESPECIALLY important in the menopause years.
Basically, without adequate recovery you wont be able to perform to the best of your ability or you will overdo it and there is more potential for injury.
You will deplete your energy stores/levels and hence again risk getting injured.
Your body will use its rest period to work hard at repairing the muscles that have been fatigued/broken down, to then build them back stronger. Try and aim for 2 rest days in your week – or do a light yoga or mobilising session on days off.
Sleep is included in the importance of rest & recovery. If you can try and get a good night’s sleep after a workout, it can be so beneficial.
Don’t over-do it
Another important thing when starting back at exercise or starting training with weights or cardio is to start gently and progress slowly. In the long run you will get so much more from doing this.
It is important to introduce structure and progression when exercising. As I always say, you can’t build a house on sand – so get your core foundations right and gradually build upwards!
Set yourself measurable goals
If you don’t know why you are exercising or are just to feel you are doing something, but unsure what. Sit down and think about it!! YES, honestly. Otherwise, you are just being wishy washy and will give up what you are doing.
So, think about it. Do you want to exercise to:
- Get stronger
- Get fitter
- Lose weight
- Tone up
- To move more
- To train for an event
- To stay healthy
- Because you have been told you need to
- You are menopausal and need to look after your bones & heart health
Lots of options. Maybe you think of a few things – get a notebook and write them down.
NOW, once you have decided why you want to exercise, think about WHAT you enjoy the most and how you can add this exercise to your lifestyle.
You may already be an exerciser but want to start getting stronger or fitter, so it is still applying to you – write down the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ to do and then think about the ‘how’ to fit it into your already busy schedule.
It’s about setting yourself achievable MEASURABLE GOALS
I’m sure you have heard this so many times before – have you done it before? Did it help?
Its no use just setting loose targets with no start or finish date – it is all about looking at how you can progressively increase the depth of what you are doing. You may want to plan 6 week blocks as then you have a start and finish date.
So in point form try this:
- Set the time-frame for your new plan
- Work out how many times you can and will be able to do it a week
- Set those days – put them in the diary, as if they are a meeting you cant miss
- Look at what time you have – do you have more time on 1 of those sessions or even 2 but a little amount on the 3rd or 4th session?
- Have you incorporated a rest day or 2??
- Now plan the exercises – the number of sets, the number of reps and the weight – with increases every 2 weeks. Remember, you can start bodyweight and build
- Now you have a proper, doable, measurable plan. You also have a finish date to work towards.
Adapt your routine to your life
This is so important, if you don’t then you wont manage to sustain your goals and make it a part of your everyday life.
Maybe get your family to join you on one of your sessions, or maybe a friend who wants to achieve the same sort of goal as you. You may have to change the way you train to fit in with your life. Remember, you shouldn’t expect to be training the same way in your 40’s, 50’s & older as you were in your 20’s or early 30’s!!
Also – remember: Time does NOT = best results! You may only have a 15 or 20 minute window for one session – fine you can still incorporate this in your training plan. You DO NOT need to be training for 1 – 1 ½ hours each session.
Move the body
Please try and incorporate movement / mobilisations in your exercise routine. If you are very tight/stiff then the muscles won’t be moving in the full range. This means you won’t be exercising to your best ability. No matter what level you are – flexibility is the key to movement and preventing niggles/injuries.
Have a look at this video of some whole body mobilisers https://vimeo.com/321041501/9add55ef70
How to progress
When you exercise, you are putting a stress on your body. When your body recovers, it adapts to this stressor. So, when that same stress happens again, your body is used to this level of stress, so it can do it with less effort.
This is where we then need ‘Progressive Overload’ – this focuses on layering a slight incremental increase in the stress you are putting on your body, session after session. each week.
Does that make sense??
Basically – stress the body little by little each week by slightly increasing what you are doing to then improve your strength or fitness.
You can focus on the following variables – remember, chop & change as your body likes & needs variety.
- Intensity – just increase it by 10 % if doing fitness or 2kg if doing weights, per week or every 2 weeks (depending on you & what your body is used to)
- Volume – increase the number of reps – whether it is doing sprint sessions or hills or weights, start on a doable number but which you find hard by the last rep. Then increase them every week or 2 weeks by 2 reps. Eg may start with 2 sets of 10 reps for a week, then go up to 2x 12reps, 2x 14reps, to 3x 12 reps to 3x 14 reps etc
- Form – ALWAYS think about HOW you are doing your exercise – running – knees, posture, feet. Cycling – pushing down on the peddles, lifting up on the up phase. Weights – knee alignment, breathing, shoulders, abs etc
- Tempo – again mix this up. When it says slow, then go slow – it may feel ridiculous, but this is how you improve & have more energy for sprints. Or weights – focus more on the lowering phase – control & realise there is now more tension under load.
I hope this all makes sense and is making you think about getting a little notebook or just putting in your diary your sessions, what you are doing. You do NOT need to be an athlete or sporty. You can apply this to ALL exercise & as a total beginner or as a more advanced sports person.
Remember, ALWAYS add in the mobilisers – for your body to increase strength or fitness it needs to be able to move in all directions and to a full range. So, keep mobilising!!