This is where things start to get confusing! There are SOOOOOOOOO many different training plans, methods, ideas, and approaches out there that it is easy to get lost. The worst part is if you are training in a way that does not match your goals you could be setting yourself up for failure!
I personally experienced this during my first attempt at an obstacle course race. I talked to 2 people about the race and how to train. One was signed up with me and the other had no previous experience with OCR (great starting point), but I took both of their words seriously and trained as if they were the Gods of training. I focused on a weight lifting regimen that was great at building muscle and losing fat and ignored cardio completely. I was told if my legs were strong enough I would have no problem with the hills on the course.
I spent several months training and was feeling great. I was in better shape, which is never a bad thing, and I felt confident that I would do well. And I did do well, on the obstacles that involved upper body and leg strength. The obstacles that required more explosive movements, the running and the hills (aka MOUNTAINS) absolutely destroyed every fiber of self respect I had. I finished and had a smile on my face, but I was demoralized at my time and knew that I could do much better! I knew I would want to try one of the OCR things again someday, but I was in no hurry and felt I deserved a break! If it wasn't for sheer dumb luck I would have not ran another OCR for an unforeseen amount of time and missed out on so many experiences and changes that have happened in my life because of my participation. This is what I want to help you avoid, missing out on something you enjoy just because you trained incorrectly!
If you are anything like me you have already opened a separate tab and googled "types of fitness training" or something along those lines. Doing this might also add to your confusion. "7 Types of Fitness Training" followed by "The 4 Types of Fitness Training You Need to Know" and so on. So many different perspectives on something that everyone seems to be an expert at yet no-one can agree on many of the best practices. For easy reference I will share an article that I feel is concise as well as accurate and you can refer to along the way.
This is where everyones mind goes when they think about packing on muscle. The first image for me still is the bench press. You do not have to be a muscle head to weight lift though, and weight lifting is actually a great way to help you lose fat, strengthen bones and so much more. You do not have to lift heavy either! Again it depends on your goals.
If you want to lift to gain power and strength you absolutely need to lift heavy, but you should also do a low number of reps per set with a longer rest between sets to allow your muscles time to recover! Performing 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps at 85-95 % of your 1 rep max rep is what would be suggested to build power and strength.
Now if size is what you are looking for then you should change things up a bit. To build size and strength you need to be shooting for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps at 70-80 % 1 rep max. This I would still recommend a few minutes between sets (2-3) to allow your muscles time to recover especially since you are pushing more reps per set!
For muscular endurance (which is what I SHOULD have been training for) you want to perform 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps at approximately 60 % of their 1 rep max. This will be a lot lighter, but the number of reps is much higher! You will feel much more tired from these, but you will be allowing yourself to lift for longer sessions. Many people only do a short 30 second rest with lifts like these, but I always encourage a solid 2 minute rest minimum!
You should also notice that with all of the different lifting methods they reference 1 rep max. This is the max amount of weight that you can lift with GOOD FORM! If you cannot lift it with proper form, then consider it too heavy! You will need to spend some time at the gym with a spotter to accurately determine your 1 rep max before you can do this. In order to progress you should also increase weight as you lift regularly. If you can hit more reps than the maximum listed above for whichever method you are using, add 5lbs on and push yourself. Add 5lbs every week or two if you are unsure and try to hit your target rep number.
When it comes to cardio, most people think about getting on a bike or treadmill and going for as long as they can. While this is a type of cardio you can do, it is not the only one! Let's take a look at the different types of cardio workouts you can do and what some of the benefits/disadvantages of each are.
First is Continuous Training. As stated above, this is what you see most people on treadmills or running through the park. Many friends of mine that are lifters HATE this however. They feel that they never should need to run and do not want to do anything remotely close! Running, and even moving at a fast pace is not the key to continuous training. The main things you are looking for would be 20 minutes or more without rest and keeping your heart rate in the 60%-80% range of your max heart rate. This can obviously be done by running, but it can also be done walking at a STEEP incline, or using the stair master. For me, my max heart rate is 183 (220-age). That makes my target zone 109-146. I can hit a heart rate of 109 easily on a stair master or a treadmill on an incline and so could you! This is a great way to train, especially if you love running, biking, or other activities that take a longer period of time but it can also be a bit boring if you are as impatient as I am! Even with my impatience I will usually try to fit in 30-60 minutes of continuous training per day in a variety of forms. Just make sure you are getting your heart rate up and you are good to go.
Fartlek (speed play) training is often confused with interval training. Even though it can seem similar, it is more along the lines of continuous training because you do not fully stop and rest. Fartlek is continuous training, but you vary the speed, terrain, and/or elevation as you go. Something like a warm up jog (5 minutes) followed by a 30 second full out sprint, then another jog for 90 seconds, then a sprint at about 75% for about a minute with one more jog thrown in for 90 seconds would do the trick. Do that 6 times without stopping and you have a Fartlek style training. This is one of my favorite/most dreaded workouts to do. It will completely drain you by the time you are done but you will also be building a lot of muscles to help with both distance and speed. It also will break up the monotony of long runs so it does not get as boring. This is something that is difficult to do daily, but building it into your routine once a week is easy and will be very beneficial. You can also take similar methods onto the bike with this, but I prefer it as a running activity.
Interval training is often called HIIT for High Intensity Interval Training and is a great way to drop weight and feel like you are completely out of shape no matter your skill level. Like Fartlek you go as hard as you can with an exercise for a short period of time (30-90 seconds) but then you completely rest for a period of time. The rest is the important part for Interval Training. You could do a 1:1 ratio (work for :30 and rest for :30) a 1:1.5, 1:2 or a 1:3 depending on your ability, but you normally do not want to go much more than that in my experience. Typically 8 to 10 rounds of the workout will be done before you have completed that exercise and by the end you will be dog tired and you will feel it, but finishing it is always a great feeling. The "trick" is to allow your heart rate to recover. Doing this spikes your heart rate numerous times throughout the workout encouraging your body to burn fat faster. The down side with this however is that there have been some studies that show potential heart issues with doing extended HIIT workouts over the course of several years. This basically means do not do this every day. This, like Fartlek, is something I like to incorporate a few times a week. 15-20 minutes as a warm up to whatever it is I am doing that day. This will usually wake me up and get me in the right mindset for my workout and not push the envelope or my heart too much.
There are many other types of training out there and it is best to consult your doctor and a trainer/coach to determine which is the best for you, but this guide will help you get a little more insight into what you might want to consider. You need to find something that will fit your goals and allow you to gain the most from you training. For me and my goal of the Ironman and my body fat percentage I will have a combination of many of these. If you are just starting out and want to lose some body fat the perhaps you focus on a weight training regimen and some interval training. It is good to have variety in your workout to ensure you are getting the most out of each workout and your body while all working towards the same goal.
Next week we will start talking a little about diet. I am not a dietician so I am only able to go off of personal experience, but I feel confident I can help point you in the right direction to get started! After we have hit all 3 points of the training plan (goal, training, and diet) I will script out a new training routine for myself for you to show you how I do this for myself and my clients. This will give me a day by day workout routine, based off of my schedule and goals. Things may also change for me between now and then due to a few experiences I am currently working on for future blog posts (early to mid November). Once I discover the results of these experiments I will gladly share them with all of you! As always, thank you for reading and feel free to comment on here, my social media (OCRLibrarian315) or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be sure to get back to you!