If you’re reading this chances are you exercise. But how many of you have gone through a period of time where you’re working out but aren’t seeing the progress you’d expect?
Today’s blog attempts to explain exactly why that may be happening, and what you could do to fix it.
What’s The Difference Between A Workout And A Training Programme?
Before we get into the details, it’s important we understand the difference here. A workout is a singular bout of exercise, potentially with the specific exercises chosen ahead of time.
A training programme is a schedule of workouts that aims to involve progressive overload over time. Progressive overload essentially means a path for the individual to gradually improve).
The ultimate aim is that with the additional structure, you reach your goals faster.
The Downside To Not Using A Training Programme
Not all people will want to use a training programme, and that’s fine.
There are plenty of reasons to just workout, whether that’s because you enjoy it, it helps with your mental health or you want a break from a formal structure. These are all fantastic reasons simply to workout.
If you’re training for something specific or simply want to reach your goal faster, then a training programme will be the best option for you. It minimises the ‘sub optimal’ sessions. We’ve all been there, in the gym, no specific exercises in mind and just using the machines that are free. Do you really push yourself in these scenarios? Perhaps, for that session, but consistently over 12-16 weeks? Unlikely.
And then the problem creeps in. You have these ‘unplanned’ sessions where you’re walking round the gym floor, or running aimlessly round the park. All of a sudden, 3 months goes by and you’re still using the same weights, or running at the same pace. It’s lost time.
The key here is to really think how invested you are in making progress. It won’t always be your top priority, but when it is, you should consider a training programme.
The Benefits of Using A Training Programme
I’ll be super brief here as the benefits are essentially the opposites of the downside. But:
Having your weeks planned out for you gives you one less thing to think about. You can focus all of your energy on working out rather than thinking. A bi-product of this is consistency. Now there’s no debate about what you’re training or when you’re training. You have it laid out on paper, each Monday you have your interval training, each Wednesday it might be your lower body strength session. Consistency breeds success.
Very simply, having a number to hit every session motivates you and keeps you accountable. I’ll be the first to admit you may not hit your number every time, but you’ll hit it more often than if you just performed based on feel. Hitting your number every week compounds, and gives you the best chance of setting a PB on competition day (if that’s what your training for).
We have access to plans created by the experts. The people who have set world records, have access to the best data, and have coached 1000s of people to their goals. The likelihood of you outperforming their plans, unfortunately, is fairly low.
So, you’ve heard the pros and the cons, but how do you find a programme?
How To Find And Start Using A Training Programme
So by this point, you’ve decided that now is the time you want to get your head down and work. You’ve got a target in mind, a powerlifting competition, a marathon, or even a summer holiday. You want to look and feel your best. So where do you start?
We’re in luck. Luckily there are 100s of fantastic training programmes available to us. A few popular ones in various sports:
If these don’t fit the bill, then search for whatever your goal is i.e. ‘Walking marathon training plan’ - there is a bunch of really credible plans out there.
Because there is such choice now, you should take the time to find a plan which suits you. I.e. you might not have 16 hours a week to train for an Ironman, so look for a 10 hour week plan. Or, if you prefer more intense training with less frequency, then opt for a plan which does that.
Also, you may find certain coaches have their own training ethos. Some prefer super intense training, others might prefer longer periods of easier training. Most good plans have a section around ethos and training styles so be sure to give this a read too.
A wise man once said ‘the best plan is the one you stick to’. So find one you think you’ll enjoy.
So, we’ve got our training plan - what’s next? Well typically, training plans work off of your current ability. So using the powerlifting example, they might use your 1-Rep Max (1RM) to schedule your 12 weeks of lifting. This means if you can bench press 100kg for 1 rep, this is your 1RM. Therefore, we need to find what your current ability is. This usually means a week of training to test you (and this will typically be laid out in your programme). So mentally prepare yourself, ensure you’re fueling correctly (take your Daily Driver!) and get to work.
We’ve discussed the benefits of a training programme, and to be fair, I think they are pretty conclusive. But before diving in, remember to ask yourself these questions:
1. Do my goals warrant a training programme?
If you’re working out for fun, social or other reasons then you may not need a programme (and it may actually reduce the fun for some people).
2. What style of training do I like?
As mentioned, all coaches have their own style. Have a think about the types of training you enjoy most, how often you need rest days etc. and use this as a guide when finding a programme.
3. How long have I got?
Longer is better, but ensuring you’ve got adequate time before your event is key as you can only progress so much each week.
And there you have it, a complete Training Programme 101, enjoy!