If you want more fitness, then you need to constantly and progressively challenge your body. If you’ve been doing the same exercise routine, same exercises, same weights, or running at the same speed over the same distances for more than a few weeks, chances are your fitness will reach a plateau. To constantly achieve greater fitness you need to adhere to the fundamental principles of exercise…


For every training goal there is an appropriate type of training. If you want greater strength then you need to lift progressively heavier weights. And if you want to run faster, you need to run faster!


Doing more or harder than usual exercise is how we improve our fitness – this is technically referred to as ‘overload’. By manipulating the training variables can we force adaptation and as a result improve our fitness. Resistance training variables:

  • Intensity (weight)
  • Volume (number of sets/reps/exercises)
  • Frequency (number of workouts per week)
  • Duration (length of workout)
  • Recovery period between sets (shorter rests equal harder workout)
  • Exercise complexity (e.g. progressing from machine to free weights)
  • Order of exercises
  • Different training systems (drop-sets, super-sets, pyramid training, matrix training)

CV training variables

  • Frequency Intensity (speed/% of heart rate maximum)
  • Duration/Distance
  • Training surface (sand, trail, track, road)
  • Training type (e.g. running, swimming, cycling)
  • Recovery period between intervals
  • Training system (Fartlek, intervals, long slow distance work, cross training)

Systematic changes in your programme will place different demands on your body and result in further/greater adaptations compared to sticking with the same old, same old. Progression and Periodisation By logically manipulating the training variables a gradual increase in fitness will result – this is the principle of progression. Long-term progression requires careful planning which in sporting terminology is called ‘Periodisation’. For example, a runner who currently does 20 miles a week may decide to run 30 miles a week. This is a huge increase in workload and, whilst providing overload, may actually result in overtraining or injury i.e. actually achieve the opposite. It would be far better for the runner to increase his or her distance by 1 mile a week over 10 weeks. This gradual planned increase will be sustainable and should not result in any injury problems but it will create measurable improvements in fitness. The principles of progression and periodisation can be applied to all training – not just running.

Change your workout

Some people may continue making progress for 8-10 weeks whilst others plateau after four. The rule of, ‘If it isn’t broken then don’t fix it’, applies. If you are still making fitness improvements then there is no need to change your programme, but if it has been a while since you noticed any progress, then it’s time to shake things up. If in doubt, progress your training every 6 weeks.

By periodically altering your training, applying the overload, adaption and progression/periodisation exercise principles, you are far more likely to achieve your fitness goals. If it’s been a while since you felt challenged by your exercise routine or you feel your fitness gains have stagnated, then it’s definitely time to embrace change and do something new.