Its gym time! We arrive, we get changed, then we enter. Where do we start? What am I training today? Why am I doing this? What does this work? What will I eat after my workout?
All these questions should have been answered before you set foot in the gym, even before you went to bed the night before. Creating an effective training schedule isn’t just a case of going to the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You must know what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, why you are doing it, where its going to lead, how you’re going to fuel it and how you’re going to recover from it. I’m going to show you 10 steps to creating an effective training schedule.
Step 1 – Targets
Its important to know where you want your training to take you. What are your objectives? Your long term goals? Do you want to lose body fat, train for a body building show, run a 5k or simply be fitter? Its very important to make these realistic. For example, if you are only able to put 3 days a week into your training, body building probably isn’t a realistic goal. Write your objectives down, or print it off and put it somewhere in view (on the fridge is a great place).
Next is to break down your long term objectives into small chunks. These short term goals will act like stepping stones towards your final objective. Once this is in place, its time for the next step.
Step 2 – Planning/Preparation
How are you going to get there? What training methods will you use? When will you train? Duration of each session? Frequency of sessions? Intensity of sessions? All these things are essential for planning your week. So, invest in a weekly planner, either a diary or there are many great apps you can download to help with this. Things to include in your weekly plan:
Training days & times
What you are training? e.g. Cardio? Leg day?
Duration of session
Nutrition is also a very important part of the planning equation. What, when and how much to eat? If there is one thing you take away from this post, please make it this, plan and prepare your food in advance. This makes a massive difference in any plan!
A few things I would suggest to do:
Calculate and record your recommended calorie intake (this will differ depending on weight, gender, objectives and lifestyle).
Stick to foods you are used to.
Weigh your food to get familiar with portion size and kcal’s.
Think 3 or 4 days in advance, and make up lunches, dinners and snacks to keep in the fridge.
Leave the sugary and processed foods in shop. If you don’t buy, you wont eat.
You’ve all heard the saying-”Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. This is so true!
Step 3 – Record/Track
Record everything. Workouts, nutrition, how you feel, your progress. Again, there are many apps available to allow you to do this – my own for starters (get in touch to sign up for free), My Fitness Pal, Fitbit, so there is really no excuse. All these apps allow you to track workouts, calorie and macro intake and progressions. My own app allows you take tracking a step further by giving you the ability to track exercises, weight lifted, number of sets and reps, and also helps you plan your progressions workout by workout.
Now we have went through targets, planning/preparation and record/track, its time to move on to step for which starts to home in on things to include or look out for in your training sessions. How are you going to utilise this time to its full potential.
Step 4 – Power On With The Barbell
The all round best exercises to use in every fitness program are the common compound exercises. These are Squats, Deadlifts, Clean & Press, Bench Press, Pull – Ups and Dips. All variations of the afore mentioned exercises are valid (as there are so many). Big exercises, big muscle groups and big energy output. You really can’t go wrong with any of these. Strength, hypertrophy, toning, fat loss and general health are all benefited by incorporating these in to your weekly training schedule. So don’t be shy and use the power rack. Be sure to keep them safe, don’t sacrifice form for weight, and if you are unsure, seek advice from an instructor.
Step 5 – Use The Treadmill/Get Out!
Every gym has them, and even if they don’t, we all have access to the free version – the great outdoors. So get your trainers on and walk, jog or run your way to your fitness goal. Whether its lose weight, burn fat, get fit, improve your performance or simply maintain health, there is always a place for racking up the miles in your favourite trainers. Everyone can do it – push hard with interval training or go easier with walking. Its a great calorie burner – remember, you will burn the same amount of calories whether you run a mile, or walk a mile (it’ll just take longer if you walk).
Step 6 – Keep Safe
I hit on this slightly in the previous step. technique is everything. Remember, you are at the gym to work on your fitness, not your ego. Do not sacrifice form for an extra few kg’s.
Great technique, first and foremost, will reduce your chance of injury. There is nothing worse than starting your fitness journey only to injure yourself in the opening few weeks. There is always a chance of injury, but I think you will agree its important to reduce that chance as much as possible.
Secondly, when form goes out the window, when the back arches, when we start swinging the barbell or when the shoulders become hunched, you will be taking a lot of the work away from the correct muscle groups and bringing in help from others. Thus, reducing the effectiveness of the exercise.
Lastly, long-term use of unsafe technique can lead to posture problems, and then as a result, back pain and other ailments. So lets leave our egos at home, work hard but work safely!
“If you can’t lift it with good form, then you can’t lift it.”
Step 7 – Embrace The Hated
The natural thing to do when you hate something is to avoid it. But when it comes to fitness, we need to do the opposite. If there are certain exercises we hate, its because those particular exercises are hard. If they are hard, it normally means they need worked on. The exercises we love are the ones we do all the time, the ones we have practised, so they are the ones we are good at (there maybe a link here). So embrace and just get them done. Get your game face on, and kill it.
Step 8 – Cool-down & Stretch
After all that hard work your body needs to wind down slowly, flush out all the toxins and lactic acid from your tired muscle, so a short 3-4 minute cool-down is great for this. It also helps blood pooling which is caused by stopping high intensity exercise to quickly. Blood pooling is when the heart rate slows dramatically, therefore reducing blood flow to the brain too quickly and can cause fainting. We obviously don’t want this, so don’t skip the cool-down.
To help maintain flexibility in the muscles and mobility in the joints, stretching after every workout is essential. So spend 10 – 15 mins, just you and a mat, and stretch. You’ll thank yourself for it.
Step 9 – Recover
Recovery meals, rest days and sleep. All very important. Believe it or not, your improvements, your strength gains and your muscle size, don’t happen in the gym. All these wonderful things we all train hard for actually happen when we rest. During our workouts, we stress our body, we create free-radicals, we tear muscle fibres and we deplete our glycogen stores. All these things are dealt with, replenished and repaired when we provide the correct recovery process.
So make sure you have a small meal consisting of protein and complex carbohydrate. Protein to help build and repair muscles, complex carbohydrate to replenish glycogen stores.
Have at least one full day of rest. You must give the body time to repair. Over-training is definitely a thing, I’ve done it many times before and I wouldn’t recommend it. Ever felt drained and fatigued? Keep getting small injuries over nothing? Become ill often? Have trouble concentrating? The chances are you have been over-training. This is your body telling us to stop. It needs to recover.
We all know how we feel when we don’t get enough sleep. This should be reason enough to ensure you get a full nights sleep every night. Fact: Your body needs it!
Step 10 – Stop Reading, Go!
Why are you still reading? Go ahead – Set those targets and plan your next fitness journey! Start today.