• Training Principles that Should Guide Your Training Plan Design


    I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that after you have considered your fitness goals, your current fitness and the time you have to train – then it is time to begin designing your training plan.

    For all of my training plans (ready-to-use and personalized coaching) I use periodization principles in the design process. The principles apply in all cases – Olympian to fitness-goal-oriented athlete. How to apply the various principles depends on the top 3 variables mentioned yesterday. As you might imagine, the old saying, "The devil is in the detail" holds true for training plan design. If you are a self-coached athlete looking to formulate your own training plan, keep in mind the following training principles:

    1. Individual and progressive overload must be applied to achieve physiological improvement and bring about a training change. A widely accepted rule of thumb is to increase annual training hours, or annual volume by 10-percent or less.
    2. Training volume can be defined as the combination of frequency and duration. When looking at your training plan, annual training volume is one piece of the puzzle. Broken down, the monthly, weekly and daily training volumes are as important as annual volume. Establishing your personal training volume based on what "the pros do" is faulty logic. Your personal training volume, to bring about physiological improvement for you, should be based on your personal profile, past training volume, current lifestyle, goals, the number of weeks you have to train before your key event, and your response to training.
    3. The duration of your longest workout may or may not be the length of your goal event. Generally, the shorter the event and the more time you have to train before the event, the greater likelihood that you will complete the event distance sometime within your training.
    4. Depending on each individual's current fitness, race goals, the sport and training time available, the frequency of workouts scheduled will vary. Some athletes will work out three to five times per week, others will exercise daily and some will work out twice or more per day. Not only is workout frequency important, but so is frequency of rest.
    5. Individual response to training does vary. Given the same goals and training plan, different individuals using that plan can make improvements at different rates and can have varying gains in overall fitness. Your individual response to training must be considered.
    6. The duration and frequency of workouts vary with each particular training block and within those workouts, the intensity varies depending on the goal of the workout. Intensity can be measured by heart rate, pace per 100 yards, pace per mile, miles per hour, power output and rating of perceived exertion to name a few. The appropriate intensity in training minimizes the risk of injury while stressing the body enough to achieve fitness, training and racing goals.
    7. The mode of training becomes more important, as race day approaches. For athletes utilizing a year-round approach to training, aerobic cross-training in the early training blocks is appropriate. For example, northern latitude triathletes often use cross-country skiing workouts to bolster endurance for triathlon, running and cycling. As the athletes approach the key event, training that is specific to the sport becomes more important than generalized training. In other words, the specificity of training becomes more important.
    8. Goal-oriented triathletes must consider rest and recovery as critical training components. Performance gains are made when the body has a chance to repair and absorb the training workload.


    No matter what plan or coach you use, you should be able to see changes in your training plan that follow the training principles listed in this column.

    No changes in training means no changes in fitness – no matter your level of athletic ability.

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