The principles of exercising and training

The four key elements of fitness

The principles of training are the four key areas that everyone needs to understand before starting an exercise training program. These are specificity, progression, overload and individualisation. Here's the guide to the principles of exercise and training.

Exercise specificity
The stresses that are applied to the body in training must be the same as those experienced in your chosen sport or adventure. In other words, if you’re planning to really get into walking or cycling and only have a limited amount of time to train, then you must spend time on those disciplines and not on other sports like squash or tennis.

If you’re planning to use walking or cycling as part of a general fitness program this principle is nothing for you to worry about. If you are going to focus on walking or cycling only, then it’s something you should be very aware of.

Individualisation during exercise
This is a crucial principle – the fundamental fact that everyone is different! Everyone responds to training in a different way. If you are walking or cycling with a friend, and doing exactly the same amount of training, don’t be concerned if one of you gets fitter faster than the other – this is what individualisation is all about. It might be that one of you is having some pressure at work or difficulties at home, but wherever it is, it’s surprising what can affect your training. Some days your training can go really well and the next day, even though it was exactly the same length workout, it can be a nightmare. This is individualisation.

Exercise progression
This is all about the need to gradually increase the workload that you put your body through. It is essential to combine training and rest whilst at the same time increasing the stress that the body is put through. This so-called ‘stress’ is a combination of the frequency, duration and intensity of the workout. Progression is all about small increments. It is not a case of doing a two hour walk one day and a five hour walk a couple of days later. You should only progress by around 5-10 per cent at a time. The safest approach is to increase your weekly distance by no more than five per cent.

Overload during exercise
Overtraining is a very common problem and comes about when you don’t get enough rest during your training program. This should not be confused with overload which is the planned exposure to an increase workload and the right amount of rest between each walk or bike ride. Without the correct amount of rest you will suffer from overtraining. With the correct amount of increased training and the right rest, you get overload. Overload is essential if your walking or cycling is to improve. You do not want to get the reverse effect – overtraining.

Comments (1)

  • twammers 'Very useful points of reference here, thanks, especially the bit about not over training. For some reason that stood out 'loud and clear' to me, can't think'

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