06 Jan 5 Keys To Program Design
“This year, I’m gonna get fit!”
“2021 is the year I work on my fitness”
“New Year, New Me!”
The common resolutions we hear everyone make in the New Year. It’s great to have these goals, but they mean nothing if no is action taken. No follow through ultimately leads to another broken promise.
One reason this happens? Information overload. There’s so much info out there, no one knows what to look for.
It’s daunting searching for programs. You search online and there are too many opinions on what you should and shouldn’t do. With all the choices, you become paralyzed by analyzing.
So, you turn to the next choice: writing your own program.
But that can be just as, if not more daunting than searching for a program. Even if you have a background in fitness.
If you do decide to go down this route, let me help. Below are 5 keys to keep in mind when writing your program:
- Know your specific goals (what do you want to achieve, what is your timeline)
- Test your current abilities
- Primary focus
- Training availability (what can you realistically commit to)
- Equipment/environment availability
Let’s breakdown each key.
KNOW YOUR SPECIFIC GOALS
For most of you, the obvious goal is to pass your test, whether it be the PARE, POPAT, PREP, etc. Unless you have regular access to the test, this is a tough goal to achieve. The tests require specific skills and techniques that will factor into your performance.
I suggest using other markers to help you figure out if you have a chance of passing. For cardio, the 1.5 mile run or beep test are two good measurements to use. General standards are less than 12 minutes for the run and level 7 or higher for the beep test.
If it’s strength, two markers can be used: push-ups and vertical jump height. For push-ups, 10-20 strict push-ups (on your toes, lowering whole body to an inch or two above the ground) is what I suggest you aim for. For vertical jump, 12-16 inches is a good goal.
TEST YOUR CURRENT ABILITIES
You can use the markers above to see where you currently stand and compare it to where you want to take it. If there’s a large gap (ie you run 1.5 miles in 17 minutes) from the standard, you’re looking at 3-6 months of training to improve your numbers.
The above markers aren’t the only ones to use. Others can be used as, like the timed 5k run, doing max pull-ups, or performing 1RM. You don’t want to use too many though. I suggest one for cardio and/or one for strength.
After testing your abilities, figure out which area of fitness you need to focus on: cardio or strength. Whichever is the weakest (according to the standards, not according to what you think), then focus on that area for the next 2-3 months. So, if cardio is the weakness, focus on cardio.
Does that mean neglect strength? No. You just don’t emphasize strength training as much (The reverse is true if strength is the weakness).
As an example, if you’re used to strength training 3-4x/wk, reduce it to 2x/wk and focus on the big lifts to maintain strength. Cardio will then be done 3-4x/wk.
“What if my cardio AND strength is weak?”
Good question. Still choose one to focus on.
My suggestion is to emphasize strength first and do the minimum for cardio for the first 2-3 months. After 2-3 months, switch the emphasis. This is assuming, though, that you’re not in the process with an agency, or you are but have the time to work on your fitness (for example, if you’re in the beginning to mid stages with RCMP or CBSA).
Determine how often, and for how long, you can realistically train. If you can only do 3x/wk for an hour each time, work within those constraints. Maybe you can do 5-6x/wk, but 30 minutes each time. Work within those constraints.
How often and how long forces you to further focus your training. You can’t do everything at once. You’ll need to focus on what’s important, and what’s not.
The final key is your equipment/environment availability.
- Are you training from home, or at the gym?
- What equipment do you have? (full training equipment, sparse equipment, cardio machines, etc)
- Can you train outdoors? If so, are there trails, a high school track, hills, sports fields, parks, or playgrounds in your area?
Having more options is certainly helpful, in terms of having variety or for needing a back up plan. But it’s not necessary. Limited options does force you to get creative, which is not a bad thing.
At the very least for equipment, I suggest a suspension training device, like a TRX or gym rings. It’s a versatile tool that can be used virtually anywhere. For cardio, grab a good pair of runners, buy appropriate clothing depending on the area of the country you live in, and do as much outdoor running as possible. If you’re forced indoors, grab a skip rope or do running on the spot. It’s not ideal, but doing anything is better than doing nothing.
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