• The Top 3 Variables that Influence Exercise Program Design


    When I design a ready-to-use training plan, I consider multiple variables. These variables influence the design of the plan and ultimately provide the athlete profile description that accompanies all of the plans. While there are many more variables than can be listed in a single column, let’s look at the top three variables to consider.



    The first thing I want to know is what is your goal? Fitness goals typically fall into two broad categories. The first is health. People want to maintain or improve fitness in order to influence good health markers. For many, keeping good health and the mobility to have independent self-care for as long as possible is the only goal.

    The second broad goal category is performance. Performance can mean different things to different people. The most obvious example of performance is tied to an event. For example, someone may want to get faster at a running, cycling or triathlon event. Someone else may want to successfully complete a longer distance event under a particular time limit.

    Less obvious examples of performance goals include the ability to walk all day while exploring new places on vacation, climbing a mountain or skiing all day with family.

    What is your current fitness?

    After you have decided what you want from your fitness program, the next question is where are you now? Do you already have fitness or are you a currently hibernating athlete?

    How much time do you have?

    In order to achieve your fitness goal, how much time do you have each week to exercise? Many people have very limited time during the week and slightly more time on weekends to devote to exercise. For most, it is important to maximize exercise benefits given all time limitations.  

    The second main time consideration is how much time is there between now and your fitness goal? If your fitness goal is tied to a specific event, then the time to prepare is limited. If your fitness goal is primarily health-related and not tied to an event, then the time you have to prepare to achieve your goal is seemingly unlimited.

    The vague notion of unlimited preparation time can be a problem.

    If there is no deadline to achieve a certain level of fitness, some people never begin. Or, if they begin it is very easy to quit. There’s always tomorrow.

    If your goal is to exercise for health, mobility and long-term self-care, impose a time goal. For example, your goal might be to exercise three to five times per week for the next three months. Notice that I gave a range of three to five. This is so you can have the flexibility to succeed. Fewer workouts on busy weeks, more workouts as time and energy allows.

    Once I have the top three variables to consider, I set about designing the training plan. My number one design consideration is minimizing injury and illness risk. Getting ill or injured is obviously a road block to achieving your goals. As a rule of thumb I schedule two and no more than four “hard” workouts within a given week.

    Up next, training principles that guide the training plans I design. If you’re self-coached, these principles should guide your design too.

    Ready-to-use training plans can be found here

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