When I first started training four years ago, I did it like I did everything else: I dove in head first without giving too much thought. Now, there’s something to be said for the “I’m just going to work my butt off” training, don’t get me wrong; albeit one major drawback: sustainability.
Here’s what I did: one year of two-a-days with a 4-6 mile run every morning, and a 2.5hr workout every night. End result? I ran my body into the ground. My body actually grew weaker. Yes, I was still losing weight; but my muscle mass was decreasing, my energy levels were extremely low, and I began to lose sleep from over-training.
Often times it’s easy to set goals which are realistic but seek to achieve those goals in an unrealistic or misinformed way. One of the major things I ran into time and time again in the boxing world was 2 groups of people: over-trainers and under-trainers. The question remained: what is the best way to sustain training for extended periods of time which doesn’t burn you out mentally and physically?
I recommend two things:
- Efficiency- Dead time in the gym is the enemy. Why spend time over-socializing and continually cooling down/warming up because of off time between sets/exercises? I’m a huge fan of circuit training. It can be implemented for muscle gain, weight loss, and general fitness. If your goal is 1 minute of rest on each muscle group implement a super set with a complimentary muscle group during the time you would normally rest. Circuit training will keep your heart rate up and cut into the wasted downtime. My workouts now last no more than an hour and I get better results than the 2.5 hr/night workouts I did previously.
Here’s more info on different type of supersets and their benefits: http://exercise.about.com/cs/weightlifting/a/supersets.htm
2. Periodization- Sometimes athletes/clients I work with ask me: “How long can you push this hard and not quit?” or “Should each week get progressively harder to achieve results?” The answer lies in periodization. The basic concept of periodizing is:
“an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period. It is a way of alternating training to its peak during season. The aim of periodization is to introduce new movements as one progresses through the macrocycle to specify one's training right up until the start of the season.”
There are very specific periodized approaches for marathoners, triathletes, body builders, and various other sports. To generalize the approach I recommend cycling the intensity and style of your workouts. Not every week should be at the peak speed and intensity you can sustain for a full workout. Instead follow a peak and valley approach in which you have short, fast, high intensity training weeks and longer, slower workouts the following week.
Running is the perfect example: you aren’t going to run your record time every day, but you need to cycle your body through a series of runs both long and short, with and without intervals in order to prep yourself to peak. The same basic concept of periodization can be applied towards weight training, weight loss, and various other sports.