I’ve tweaked my training plan many times over the years and finally have one that is pretty good for me. I’m not a competitive athlete so what I’m after is optimizing the effect of my training on health. Occasionally I’ll have some sort of event or challenge I am pointing towards and will adjust to improve whatever skills are relevant.
Here are some of the principles behind this. I want to cover 3 major areas: aerobic endurance, speed (and I lump speed-endurance with that), and strength (and I lump strength-endurance with that). I also have activities that I enjoy, like biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, and paddling, and I like my training to keep me prepared for those. That makes it a lot more fun for me. But I also want my muscles to be balanced, so I’ll add the opposite movements. For example, canoe paddling is a pulling motion, so I’ll add in an opposite pushing movement. I also believe in the “easy day/hard day” principle, so I don’t train the same muscle groups hard more than one day in a row, to allow recovery. Finally, I like to split the hard training into “upper body days (I lump “core work” like abs and back into that)” and “leg days”.
This is what works best for me, but everyone is different. I thought by explaining the principles, it would be apparent for someone to adjust this for what works for them. Crossfitters, for example, sometimes do multiple hard days in a row followed by multiple recovery days. But they do techniques like foam rolling to help them recover. At the opposite end, someone I consider a mentor, Clarence Bass, still going strong in his early 80s, trains hard only a couple of times a week, with brisk walking in the hills above Albuquerque on the other days. And bodybuilders might not agree with my plan because it does hard aerobic training and strength training of the same body parts on the same day. I’ve discussed the possible interference effect between aerobics and strength previously. It depends on your objective. Mine is just to maintain muscle mass and strength as I age, and even slowly and gradually improve it as my age. Concurrent aerobics and strength does not prevent strength or muscle gains, it just can slow them down, which is ok with me.
So here goes with my program. “E” means easy day, “LH” is legs, hard day, and “UH” is upper body, hard day:
What’s very important is this is not carved in stone. If I don’t feel well, or not recovered enough, I can just skip a day entirely or replace a hard day with an easy day. Also, the volume here is pretty high, averaging two hours a day. This is not mandatory, I will shorten any day if the weather is bad, or I don’t feel like going long. On the other hand, I sometimes go even longer if it’s fun on a nice day. What’s very important is that easy days be really easy, you should be able to easily pass the “talk test”. A lot of people with competitive natures fail on this point, tending to go too hard on their easy days. Long term, that can be harmful, as discussed in the book The Haywire Heart which I covered here. In addition, it’s counterproductive for training improvements.
What many people forget is that training does not make you improve. It actually breaks you down. It is after subsequent recovery, which happens on the easy days, that improvement occurs. This is called the principle of supercompensation:
Here is what I actually do right now on my hard days:
LH (hard leg day):
- Long warmup. at least 15 minutes. I usually do this with easy spinning on my stationery bike
- Hip physical therapy exercises (continuing rehab of my right piriformis injury, but I do these on both sides to stay balanced); all are with bands for resistance: clamshell, reverse clamshell hip flexion with bands, hip extension, hip abduction, hip adduction.
- isometric calf raises (push up on door frame for resistance).
- isometric partial dead-lift.
- On-bike strength on bike (outdoors, standing in highest gear uphill, yank up on handlebars): 2 sets 12 reps.
- 4×3 min standing intervals.
- 8×1 min standing intervals.
- 8×3 30 sec standing sprints.
- standing cooldown followed by longer seated cooldown
UH (hard upper body day). Resistance is either bodyweight, dumbbells, or resistance bands:
Warmup, walking with hand weights
Isometric Strength Training, 1 rep 30 secs:
- rotator cuff
- yoga bow pose
- 1 arm chest press
- row with bar
- shoulder press
- kayak trainer
Conventional Strength Training, 1 set 8 reps + 4 reps “breakdown” (breakdown means reduce resistance a bit and squeeze out a few more reps):
- 1 arm chest press,
- row with bar
- 1 arm shoulder press
- kayak trainer
Intervals (30 seconds with 30 seconds rest):
- double ski-poling with resistance bands
- opposite to double ski-poling with dumbbells
- kayak trainer
- seated canoe paddle motion
- 8x, double ski poling motion with hand weights
- 8x, with Nordic walking poles
Finish with long cooldown walking with hand weights.
In addition to all of the above, I always do about a 20 minute Yoga session for relaxation and static stretching every night.
Sorry this was so long. I mostly just wanted to give an idea of my reasoning. Do you really need to make this big a deal of it if you’re not an athlete? Probably not, but for healthy aging I think you at least need to make sure the bases of aerobics and strength training of major muscle groups are covered.