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Continued Forward Progress: What Fitness Trajectory Are You On?

2020 11 17

By James Stewart  17 Nov 2020

When it comes to fitness, are you moving backward, are you stationary, or are you moving forward each month?

Unless you have specifically planned a recovery month in your training cycle, the answer is obviously you should always be progressing forward. Logically, everyone can get on board with that. However, when the rubber hits the trail, that is far more easier said than done. In fact, its the holy grail of endurance and fitness training. In an ideal world this would be the reality, but we don't live in an ideal world. 

Wouldn't it be great if every month was better than the previous one? ...and this went on for years at a time. If you're anything like me, than your fitness pursuits may resemble a chaotic fluctuation of positive, neutral and negative periods of progress, largely hampered because of bouts of laziness, procrastination, injury, fatigue and other factors. 

It wasn't until I got serious with coaching and properly structuring and planning (not just my training days, not just my training weeks, but months and years ahead), did such a reality begin to manifest. I wouldn't say I am perfect with it, but over the course of a year, my progression is trajecting upward on average and has been for years. Not only that, I have successfully mitigated both fatigue and injury, two training demons that were a constant menance in my formative running years.

Consistency is key.

When it comes to making successful and long-term fitness gains, your body responds best to consistency. Consistent movement and consistent purposeful training on a frequent basis is the one most powerful element in becoming successful and attaining your potential as an athlete. If you are consistent with your training and your trajectory is not consistently upward, then you have room for improvement in your training approach. This should excite you because you can achieve more, you just need to replace the things holding you back, with the approaches that take you to the next level.

How many times in your life have you begun a fitness program and stuck with it for a few weeks or months only for it to taper off or end at some point? I'm sure we've all been there. However, after reading this, its something you should never allow in your life again. If you noticed it happening, then you need to make an intervention into your mind, and set a personal commitment to stop! The best thing you can do is to get help, because many people can't make the shift alone.

Three principles embody the principles of all successful training programs: gradual progression, consistency, and periodization.

Progression is the most crucial to improving your fitness. As your fitness improves you will begin to feel less fatigued and tired by your current training stimulus. Just as in weight-lifting where you gradually add more weight to the barbell as you get stronger, you do the same in running, by either increasing distance, speed/intensity, duration and elevation.

Its crucial that training loads are added gradually, and working with a high performance coach is your best bet for doing that safely and efficiently if you are unsure of what to change, how much to add and how to maintain the adaptations you've made.  Why waste your best training years figuring it out on your own when you can simply learn from a coach and then go forth on your from then on knowing how to plan, structure and execute a proper training approach. If you don't have time for a lot of study, then get someone to do it for you until you've got it solid in your own mind.

Anyone can go out and train hard for a few weeks and make progress, but its another story altogether of being able to sustain that over a course of months and years without burning yourself out or getting injured.  This is the reason most people fail to progress every month, and every year, because they lose motivation due to burn out or they get injured, or even lose interest in the sport they once loved. Losing interest often happens when you invest a lot of effort and don't really achieve what you want to achieve.  Many people put a lot of effort into their training but don't end up progressing, much or anywhere near what they hoped for. In this case, you weren't following the most effective training plan - you wasted your time, energy and effort. This is demotivating at the highest level no doubt!

Progression should never be something that takes the joy out of what you are doing, it should be incremented in a really small quantities and be periodized throughout the year to stress the targeted systems and then modulated to give your body time to adapt before applying new training load. 

How to successfully create that recipe for your individual body and your goals is the secret sauce in endurance training, and is why almost all successful athletes work with a coach. It's very very hard to self-train effectively, because you almost always think you are capable of more than you are due to your high level of self-bias (own up to it, because we all have it). Unless you are really really disciplined and very educated in training science to build an effective training plans, its unlikely you will have success in "winging it".

There are many awesome running performance coaches out there, and I hope you consider my services at C2TS Performance Coaching. You can learn more about what I offer by click here. Part of my coaching process with the athletes I work with is to work toward not just a training program for a single race, or a single year, but training for the long-term for 3, 5 and 10 years down the road. I can certainly help you if you have a more short-term focus, but if you want to achieve your fitness potential, then I recommend you begin training for a long-term outcome. You will achieve a tremendous amount in three years with a properly structured plan, so if you're interested I look forward to helping you build this succesful outcome in your life!