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Your training program is one of the most important parts of your training regimen. Training process is a very individual thing and, as logic follows, training programs are always very individual masterpieces. Or, at least, they should be.

So what is a training program? A training program is a specific structure of volume, intensity and exercise used in training, distributed over days and weeks of the cycle, allowing to achieve cumulative effect at the end of the cycle in a selected direction (exercise, distance, event). A knowledgeable and experienced coach can skillfully lead his/her athlete to a better performance level, better health, better results and a longer career in sports. Majority of people, however, do not have the luxury of working with a professional coach and are left to make training decisions on their own.

Obtaining a good training plan is one of those decisions and choosing the right training program, or at least finding a legitimate one, is not the easiest of tasks.

  • How do you decide what should be in your training plan?
  • How do you judge the quality of an available training program and its effectiveness?

There are no simple questions here and there are no simple answers. However, there a few golden rules that serve as a foundation for all proper and effective training programs and in the absence of a coach, keeping these basics in mind will help you make better choices and eventually get better results.

It should go without saying that any training regimen simply must include technique work of your chosen sport. Whether you’re running, swimming or cycling – you must regularly do technique drills. Sports like football, basketball or baseball, however, would require technique work for running AND throwing. If that was done right, there would not be so many ankle, knee & shoulder injuries. Your biggest improvement and progress will be the result of your technique work. It is a gateway that allows you to unlock your full potential. You might be built for speed or endurance but if you’re constantly injured you’re not going too far or too fast.

Here are 5 golden rules that will help you stay on the right track.

1. Training Program Must Have a Proper Duration + a Sufficient Number of Rest Days

Majority of people start looking for a training program when they decide to enter a race. Others want a training plan to simply have a good regimen to follow to stay fit instead of doing something on some days hoping to get some kind of effect. So you will need to decide what your goal is and then figure out the time frame that it gives you. If you’re working with a particular target date – your training plan should be aimed at that date locking you into a certain time frame and giving you a particular number of days/weeks/months to achieve your goal. Your entire plan – its structure, volume and type of training involved should be based around that main event.

It is also important to keep in mind, that training doesn’t mean doing something all the time. There has to be a proper balance between your training and rest days. Too much action and not enough rest time is a bad formula and is a one way ticket to exhaustion. Majority of people do well with 3-4 days of training a week, some professional athletes need up to 7 days of training per week and sometimes twice a day. Whatever number of days you train right now, if you experience any of the signs listed in this article – reduce your training volume right-away, you’re overtraining.

2. Training Program Must Have a Warm Up & Cool Down

Any good training session starts with a warm up. It’s an important part of the overall training process and is a necessity, it cannot be treated as an option. It is smart to start with a warm up and get your body and mind ready for a good focused effort. Obviously it only makes sense to wrap up with a cool down to let yourself get back to normal, to let all your systems slowly adjust. Cooling down part of training is a very good time to do some flexibility, by the way. A training program without a cool down part is not a complete training program.

3. Training Program Must Have Speed Work

All improvement in running training has to do with running the same distance faster than before. While running longer and at a slower pace has its limited purpose sometimes, it won’t improve your performance or run time when preparing for a race and it should never be the foundation of your training program. Speed work is essential if you hope to run your next long distance race faster. And isn’t that the purpose of the entire exercise?

4. Training Program Must Have Strength & Flexibility Included

These are not fashionable or trendy things that were popular last summer. These must be included in training regimen on regular basis. Without adequate and proper strength developed you will be subjected to injuries and mediocre performance. Developing and maintaining flexibility helps extremely well in achieving better performance results also. Work on your technique, strength and flexibility should be regular and balanced, but with emphasis on technique.

5. Training Program Must be Updated Regularly

A lot can happen in just one week of training and whatever it is, it will require an adjustment to your training regimen. It is recommended to review the original training schedule against the actual training done and results accomplished, and then implement changes on weekly basis to achieve best results. This is one of the most difficult parts of working with training programs and I recommend doing it with a coach, but you could also try to make your own adjustments and switch around some numbers, repetitions, etc. We have a video that provides instructions on how to adjust your training program.

I would like to recommend you try my training plans that can now be ordered and downloaded online for $10/month of training. And if you would like to kick it up a notch, try my app that is now available to all iPhone users. Compared to my downloadable plans, the app allows data input after each training session so you can have a constantly updated training plan for $9.99/month.

As a rule, I always recommend training with a coach and obtaining a proper training plan whether you’re on a mission preparing for a race or not. You might just be pleasantly surprised with your results and achievements!