I’m a planner. I fill my calendar with endless events. I could tell you what I’ll be doing Saturday two months from now or next Thursday at two o’clock. I’ve always been this way and I like it. Structure gives me something to aim towards.
But eight weeks ago, there was one part of my life where I found myself without a plan and it was the one area where I was struggling: exercise.
I’d had a few busy weeks, which turned into a few busy months and before I knew it, my gym pass was gathering dust. Suddenly, the thought of a self-inflicted sweat session was too much to bear. But it wasn’t just my fitness that was suffering. I lacked energy, I hated getting out of bed and (my partner didn’t have to tell me for me to realise) I was becoming unpleasant to be around.
So when an email came my way to spend eight weeks training with NikeWomen, I jumped on board. It was part of their latest campaign to #stopexercising and #starttraining and since I wasn’t even exercising I couldn’t say no. The program was designed for us to experience what it was like to train like NikeWomen athletes Kyah Simon, Mo Hope, Kim Ravaillion and Jordie Mercer. While this sounded terrifying at first (read: couch potato to Olympian), it was actually really fun. We played soccer, netball, did beach runs, and more but above all, it taught me something: for training to be consistent, you need to 1). Enjoy it and 2). Have a plan.
If you build a plan for yourself, you can be proactive about reaching your own goals and by choosing workout styles you enjoy, chances are you’ll actually stick to it.
Enter, Nike Master Trainer, Steph Bruckner. After teaching me the ropes for the last eight weeks, I was nervous about being left high and dry. So, I spoke to Steph to find out exactly how to build my own training plan. Here’s what she had to say.
Speak to any personal trainer and they’ll agree that the first step to building a training plan is setting your goal. You should have one overarching goal that you’d like to achieve and this will determine the smaller goals you set for each session.
Are you looking to lose 30 kilos? Run a marathon? Or perhaps you want to be able to do a pull-up. Whatever your goal, make sure every training session is working towards it.
“Coming into a session with a purpose not only makes it more enjoyable and productive, it generates quicker results. When each session has a focus—this could be lifting 5kg more or adding 5 more reps—it is a step towards achieving the end goal,” says Bruckner.
“Before I begin with any client, I ask questions about their health to get an understanding of past and present conditions or injuries. I ask about their job and family commitments, stress, sleep and nutrition to get a snapshot of where they are and where they’ve been. I [also] ask about the barriers they’ve faced in the past, which could stop them from achieving their goals. This is key as it helps to prevent a repeat of past mistakes.”
These factors need to be considered when creating your own program too. Ask yourself what limits you? Are you injured? Do you work late? What might prevent you from achieving your goal and how can you address this? These things need to be factored into your plan. Be realistic and be flexible because if you’re not, you won’t stick to it.
Here’s where we get to the nitty gritty of your program. What’s your weapon of choice?
Choose workout styles that are targeted to your goal and that you enjoy doing. If you want to build endurance but loathe running, don’t include it in your plan. Choose swimming or cycling or try a dance class. You’re more likely to follow through with your program—and achieve your results—if you’re not dreading each session.
Ask yourself what type of workout is best for your specific goal and limitations? If you’d like to lose weight and are pressed for time, HIIT may be your forte. If you want to build endurance and a booty like Beyonce, you’ll need to factor in cardio sessions as well as glute-centric strength workouts.
If you really don’t know where to start, Steph says to “attend a group session so you have some guidance from a professional as well as motivation. The Nike+ Training Club sessions are a good place to start and they’re completely free! We educate our athletes on everything from warm-up, technique, recovery and cool down to the importance of a well-rounded training schedule.”
It also pays to do some research. There are so many great websites and apps filled with training information and free workouts. I use the Nike+ Training Club app and Nike+ Run Club app. They can even craft a program for you.
Since most of you will be looking to increase your fitness levels and tone your body, I asked what she’d recommend. “You should be looking at full-body compound movements, as that’ll get more bang for your buck, not to mention a massive kick in heart rate. When you select a workout that incorporates the whole body in one movement, it proves to be very efficient (rather than if you split the body up and train different muscle groups on different days).“
She also suggested mixing things up by trying out new classes and workouts that will challenge the body and prevent you from getting bored by practising the same routine.
Once you’ve got a better understanding of your goals and how to reach them, the next step in any workout plan is putting it into action. How long do you foresee your success taking? Perhaps you’ve signed up for a half marathon in three months or you’d like to be able to lift your body weight in four weeks. This will determine the length of your plan.
Next, ask yourself how many workout sessions per week will be required to meet your goal? And, how many is feasible with your life commitments?
Literally, sit down and schedule it in your calendar. According to Steph, to succeed with your workout plan this is key. “Every single day, prioritise your health goals and lock training into your diary as if it is a meeting with your boss.”
If your goal is weight loss or to increase your overall fitness, Steph says, “it requires consistency and usually training 5-6 days per week with at least 1-2 rest/low-intensity recovery sessions.”
“[That being said], we should all try to move every day. It promotes blood flow and endorphins at the bare minimum.”
So, now you have your goal, your workouts are scheduled and you should have planned what each one will entail and what you hope to achieve from each session. Next, it’s game time and you have to keep score.
Tracking your progress is essential. It allows you to customise your plan and will motivate you when you start to see results.
Your goal will determine how you measure your improvements, however, Steph suggests recording your measurements, taking pictures and keeping track of your sessions—whether that’s keeping count of repetitions, weights lifted or movement complexity. She recommends doing a review at the end of every week to reassess your plan and see if changes need to be made.