If you've been working out consistently for a while but aren't seeing the results you want, you may be experiencing a plateau. A plateau is when your progress slows down or stops completely, despite continuing with the same workout routine. A big reason I see athletes struggle with this is because they are showing up to fun classes they love, whether online or virtual, but the classes are just a great single work-out. No shame to fun workout classes–I love a good Orange Theory or F45 class, but they aren’t usually designed as a program. They’re designed as a great class. Oftentimes, once we’re fit, we need a full program. And a well-designed workout program, whether for strength training or running or both, should progress you–the key element those classes are missing!
What does that actually mean?
The purpose of a workout program is to help you reach your fitness goals by gradually increasing the intensity, frequency, and duration of your workouts. Keep reading for how workout programs should be designed to progress you and how you can use this knowledge to achieve your fitness and running goals.
Start with the Basics
When you first start a workout program, you'll begin with the basics. This means you'll start with exercises that are easy to do and won't require a lot of strength or endurance. The purpose of this phase is to help you get comfortable with the exercises and establish good form. Depending on your current level of fitness, this may be very basic moves, or slightly more advanced moves but with less weight, reps, or intensity.
Gradually Increase the Intensity
As you become more comfortable with the exercises, your workout program will gradually increase the intensity. This can be done by adding more weight, doing more reps or sets, or decreasing the rest time between exercises. The purpose of this phase is to challenge your muscles and help you build strength and endurance.
Increase the Frequency
After you've been working out for a while, your workout program will likely increase the frequency of your workouts. In half and full marathon training, this is usually a 4-5 day of running! This means you'll be working out more often, which can help you build more muscle and burn more calories. The purpose of this phase is to help you become more consistent with your workouts and continue to challenge your body.
Increase the Duration
Finally, your workout program will likely increase the duration of your workouts. In running, you know this as the long run really ramping up distance, but this is happening as your weekday runs increase in distance or time as well. This means you'll be working out for longer periods of time, which can help you build more endurance and burn more calories. The purpose of this phase is to help you build up to longer workouts and continue to challenge your body.
How to Use This Knowledge to Achieve Your Fitness Goals
Now that you know how workout programs should be designed to progress you, you can use this knowledge to achieve your fitness goals. This is the reason why people start a relatively healthy struggle to see progress jumping from class to class or just picking random classes–they are not designed to progress the participant!
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Set Specific Goals
Before you start a training program, it's important to set specific goals. Do you want to lose weight, build muscle, or improve your endurance? Do you want to run a half marathon or marathon? Do you want to set a new PR or finish the race? Once you know your goals, you can choose a workout program or training plan that is designed to help you achieve them.
Consistency is key when it comes to achieving your fitness goals. Make sure you stick to your workout program and don't skip workouts. The more consistent you are, the faster you'll see results. If you’ve picked a plan that follows the progression, skipping workouts can also lead to injury and frustration because you’re missing foundational pieces!
Listen to Your Body
It's important to listen to your body and take breaks when you need them. If you're feeling exceptionally tired or sore, take a day off from working out. This will help you avoid injuries and keep you motivated to continue with your workout program. Also, a good training program should have rest days built-in at least once or twice a week.
To wrap it up, a good workout program is designed to progress you by gradually increasing the intensity, frequency, and duration of your workouts. By setting specific goals, being consistent, and listening to your body, you can use this knowledge to achieve your fitness and running goals and enjoy the process of training!