Just how hard do we really need to train? Is more always better? How much is enough? These are tough questions to answer. Especially considering that we all come in various shapes, sizes, ages and fitness levels.
First and foremost anyone starting an exercise program should be healthy and medically cleared. I will of course tell you the easiest and safest way is to workout is with a qualified personal trainer or fitness coach.
Here is the approach I take with my clients:
Believe it or not most of my clients, whether they are athletes or stay-at-home-moms, follow a rather similar program. My programming is heavily focused on proper function and functional movements.
Function – meaning are you are moving properly – focuses on avoiding a situation where we are building fitness on top of dysfunction. Functional movements are exercises that provide strength building that has crossover into to the real world, or real strength as I like to call it.
The previous section is based on specific programming that may be above the average person’s base of knowledge. Again a trainer is a good idea – to be safe in your training you either need to know what you’re doing or train with someone that does and have good function.
All that is left in the scheme of safe and effective training is intensity. Here is where the largest variance lies with my clients. Each age cohort, and level of physical fitness, requires a different level of exercise intensity and is also the area of most potential risk and injury (assuming all conditions of function and proficiency are met).
Your level of intensity should be age and population appropriate and geared towards your current level of fitness. Someone beginning a training program that has been sedentary for a long period of time cannot be expected to train with the same intensity as an elite athlete. However it seems that some feel the need to always push beyond and this is a sure path to injury. Whatever your level of fitness, the intensity of training should match it and not exceed. Even an elite level athlete has his/her limits.
There are times when the general population or the athlete can push hard, but it must still be at measured pace. Most training programs are progressive. Even the most elite level athletes don’t take this fact lightly; a professional fighter doesn’t have a fight every day, and a runner doesn’t run a marathon every day. Many athletes actual taper their training programs as they are approaching a max physical output.
There is nothing wrong with maximal efforts when you are prepared, and I regularly encourage my clients to get involved in some type of competitive event to give them a goal and help them become more fit. But as I’ve said many times the output must be measured and prepared for.
Train hard but don’t train to destruction and watch how many maximal outputs you are performing. Then you will be one large step closer to training injury free.