If you just want to get in better shape, it is not so important being systematic and having structure in your training. Then you can be more relaxed and train without being too serious about it. Then your objectives can be for example:
1. I shall be physically active minimum 4-5 days per week.
2. I shall perform training sessions 3 times per week.
If you however are a little bit more ambitious, and if you want to participate in some races and competitions, it could be beneficial to have some structure in your approach to training. This will give you a continuous increase of your shape. The training should then be founded on well known training principles, meaning that a training session should consist of two equal parts: training and rest. The following pattern should be followed from session to session: hard, easy, easy – hard, easy, easy.
A hard session demands more recovery than an easy one. By easy we mean either complete rest, or a comfortable activity like a walk, an easy bicycle tour, a jogging trip or similar. If you are in good shape, an easy running/jogging session is an easy session.
A hard session is either a competition, an interval session or a fartlek session. Make sure that all your sessions do not get interval focused, because that will over a longer period become too hard, resulting in lack of progress. When I was an active long distance runner myself, I performed 2,5 hard sessions per week, out of 10 -14 sessions all together. So my adivice is: Make sure that you have enough easy sessions in between!
If you are very amitious, you may structure your training differently from week to week. Among athletes this is called periodisation. It is common to perform two weeks with high volume and intensity, and then reduce and perform the third week with less volume and lower intensity. This principle is just necessary for top athletes and very eager exercisers.
For a person training endurance, with amitions for participating in and maybe win races, a year of training can consist of the following periods:
- Resouce period 1: Gradually increase of volume, and careful increase of hard sessions.
- Resource period 2: Increased volume but still limited intensity.
- Race adaption period: Reduction of volume, increase of intensity.
- Race period 1: Low volume, focus on recovery after competitions.
- Recovery period: In this period training should be similar to the resource periods.
- Race period 2: As for race period 1.
The season should finish with a resting period for 2-4 weeks, before starting a new season.
How often? You can be physically active every day. A good start is to perform training sessions 1–3 times per week, depending on you starting level. Don’t be too ambitious in the beginning, build it up gradually.
If you have not been traing before at all, you should perhaps not train more than once per week for the firts month, just to get started. Then you can increase to 2 times per week the following month, before you establish a more firm routine, including 3 times per week. With 3 sessions per week evenly distributed throughout the week, your body will get sufficient recovery between each session. This distribution will give you enough rest, while the body gets enough time to receive the training.
If you have got a good start and feel that physical activity gives you well being and surplus, you may of course perform more sessions than 3 times per week. However, it is important that the training continues to give you a feeling of well being, and that you don’t train too hard.
How hard? It is better to make it too easy than too hard! If you train with the right intensity, you will feel good and experience the good feeling of mastering.
This is particularly important for beginners. Therefore, wait to increase the intensity until you get in better shape, then it simply will hurt less.
Author: Ingrid Kristiansen