Basic training principles

Do your eyes glaze over when you read books and articles about anaerobic threshold training? Confused by the scientific jargon coaches and authors try to impress you with? Not sure where to start or how to train optimally? Baffled by your lack of progress? If you want optimal, lifelong health, fitness and/or performance without the gobbledygook, then read on.

Have fun
Enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy. Training and competing should be fun and enjoyable. It should ADD to the quality of your life. If it stops becoming fun, it's a sign that you need to take a couple of days, weeks, or even months off.

Train right for your muscle type
If your muscles are slow twitch fibre dominant, the capacity to improve your absolute endurance exceeds the capacity to increase your speed/strength. You can still improve your speed, but not by as much as if your muscles were fast twitch fibre dominant (the majority of us are 50/50).

Quality vs quantity
The right type of training, at the right frequency, at the right duration, at the right intensity, with optimal recovery will improve your fitness/performance more than doing lots of training. More volume/duration isn't necessarily better.

Overload
Aim to do more of something than you did the last time you did it. If your overload session was a maximum of 10x400m in 90 seconds with 100m jog recovery on Monday, then (depending on what your body is telling you of course, and as long as you have allowed optimal recovery) you might aim for 11, 12 (or more?)x400m in 90 seconds with 100m jog recovery the next time you did that session. The closer you get to a major competition/game, the stronger the stimulus in training should be (i.e. say you have a major race you want to focus on, your training should become more intense, with adequate recovery or a favourable taper, in the weeks/months
before the major competition).

Recovery
Recovery is JUST AS IMPORTANT as training. If you train and don't allow enough time for recovery, your chances of overtraining and injury greatly increase. TRAINING + RECOVERY = IMPROVEMENT. Recovery includes rest days, rest weeks, rest months and optimal sleep, nutrition and relaxation strategies.

Specificity
You compete how you perform. If you train by running forwards, you get better at running forwards. If your sport involves multi directional sprints, then train using multi directional sprints. Improving squat strength has little effect on swimming fitness.

Have fun
Some sessions will be hard and you need to persevere to make a breakthrough. If you don't enjoy pushing yourself when you need to, find something else.

Overload
See above

Recovery
If you didn't get it the first time, recovery is JUST AS IMPORTANT as training. If you train and don't allow enough time for recovery, your chances of overtraining and injury greatly increase. TRAINING + RECOVERY = IMPROVEMENT

Listen to your body
Allways listen to your body. A training program, designed in advance, cannot take into account how quickly you will adapt to the program and how you are feeling on a particular day. If you feel good – do more. If you feel like crap, do an easy session or take the day off. It's OK to miss a session here and there but you must never try and make up for it later.

Adaptation
Training volumes and intensities should be increased gradually and, with sufficient recovery, will result in your body's ability to cope to that workload and greater workloads in future.

Frequency
To improve a certain part of your sport or activity you need to practice that part frequently. However, trying to cram in too much training or too much intensity too quickly greatly increases the risk of injury. You should also aim for consistency (i.e. doing a little bit often is better than doing a lot infrequently).

Reversibility
If you stop training or train less you will lose fitness (unless you are injured/sick and then it's better to rest/train less). Also see 'Quantity vs quality' (you will need to find the balance of quantity and quality that works best for you).

Flexibility
Your training program must be flexible and take into consideration unexpected developments in your life - at home, at school/work and in your physical (and psychological) condition.

Trainability
Your fitness will not improve consistently over time. Sometimes there will be big improvements in your fitness and at other times it seems like you've hit a plateau. Hang in there, be patient and just take it bit by bit – this is sometimes referred to as “The Grind”.

Maintenance
During the off season, try to maintain some of the fitness you made during the season. Plan an easy, low volume/intensity and fun program.

Warm up/Cool down
Aim to warm up before every workout/match especially before speedwork/high intensity sessions. This can reduce the risk of injury and improve the quality of the workout. Cool downs can help speed recovery from the workout. Quicker recovery = more frequency between (key) workouts.

Goal setting
Set achieveable, realistic short (next 6 weeks), medium (next 12 months) and long (your lifetime) term goals. You should be quite exact about what you want to achieve in the short term but less exact in the long term. Don't get too despondent if you don't reach your goal. Life will throw up unexpected little (and big) hurdles. It's all about learning from your good and bad experiences.

Technique
Practicing your technique will make you a better athlete.

Use a training diary
Nobody's memory is THAT good over time. By recording your training you can look back at what worked and what didn't.
Things you can include:
Date
How long the workout took
Distance of workout
Session detail (e.g. number and duration of sprints etc)
Average speed/power of workout
Locality (Parrs Park, Western Springs, Lincoln Rd etc)
Topography (hilly, flat, grass, road etc)
Training intensity (heart rate if you have a heart rate monitor or just use a scale of your perceived effort from 1-10)
Subjective feeling of workout (good, great, not so good, etc)
Stress during the day
Sleep (amount and quality)
Weather conditions
Nutrition (during the day and during the workout)
Warm up/Cool down
Use of equipment
Cumulative weekly workout time
Illness/injury
Resting heart rate
Pre/post workout body weight
Training load and effectiveness

Other stuff
Eat well
Get lots of sleep
Watch out for signs of overtraining