Increase Your Training in Stages


As you adhere to your aerobic training program, it is important to increase your training in stages so that you have plenty of time to develop evenly and not get too frustrated by unmet goals and an all too aggressive program.

When you increase your training in stages, adhere to the same rules as when you started; increase your training slowly. The smaller the increments of increase, the more likely you are to be successful.

If you are keeping both an exercise journal and a workout schedule, recognizing the opportunities for an increase should be easy. Increasing your training in stages is just another way to maintain focus and ensure that you meet your long term goals.

A workout that starts slowly, increases slowly, adheres to a schedule, and is recorded in an exercise journal is very well set up to be followed for the long run. It is not very often that such as structured program fails.

How to Structure Stages

Structuring, or even recognizing, your stages of development in aerobic exercise can be difficult without some form of organization. As a simple way of thinking about the ideal workout, imagine a large and steep hill. Getting up the hill will be a very difficult task. The steep climb will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to rapidly scale the hill. However, imagine that you cut large plateaus into the side. You now have a few steep hills with flat areas between them. As you climb the larger hill, you can use the flat sections to rest before moving farther up.

In the analogy of the hill, think of the flat sections as your stages of development, the shorter hills as your short term goals and the entire hill as one long term goal. If you were to use the hill analogy in a structured workout, it may look something like this:

Long Term Goal: Raise the time of my sessions from 15 minutes to 25 minutes in 2 months.

  • First 2 weeks: 15 minute sessions

  • 3rd Week: 25 minute sessions

  • 4th and 5th weeks: 20 minute sessions

  • 6th week: 30 minute sessions

  • 7th and 8th weeks: 25 minute sessions

Knowing When to Increase to Another Stage

The ability to recognize when it is time to move to another stage will depend largely upon your short and long term goals and your experience with exercise. With the above example, the long term goal was to increase the session time by 10 minutes. In the eight weeks that led up to the long term goal, the schedule allowed for single weeks of sharp incline followed by 2 weeks of rest at a lower level. By doing this, the person may have almost forgotten that their original session time was only 15 minutes.

When you increase your training in stages, always allow for double the time it took to increase to a higher level at half the level of increase. In this way, you are making rapid increases without experiencing fatigue. Although the person increased their time to their long term goal over an entire week, the likelihood of them adhering to that goal would have been reduced if they had just stayed at 25 minute sessions for the entire development period. To summarize:

  1. Start with a full period (2 wks.) of your original time.

  2. Increase that time by a value (10 minutes) for your original period (1 week).

  3. Stay at a full period (2 wks.) for half of the raised value (5 minutes).

  4. Increase that time by a value (10 minutes) for your original period (1 week).

  5. Stay at a full period (2 wks.) for half of the raised value (5 minutes).

  6. Celebrate reaching your goal.

  7. Repeat.

If you stage your workouts logically and with even increases, development comes fairly easily. However, avoid adhering to the same formula for increase throughout your program. Your body is much too clever for that. Believe it or not, when a 2007 study used this formula over a long period of time (1 year) 90% of the subject's bodies grew accustomed to the increase and stopped developing evenly. This would make sense if the development was in the same area (session time). However, the subject's bodies appeared to adjust to the mathematical formula in every area tested!

To counteract the ability for your body to adjust to equal levels of increase, slightly change the formula every time you use it. You may elect to use the formula the first time, change it for your second long term goal and then return to the original formula for the third long term goal. A second attempt at the same study (conducted in 2008) concluded that the same formula could be used after a period of using a changed formula was utilized.

If You Are Not a Fan of Math


Staging your workout does not have to mathematically perfect. The above was just provided as a clear example of how simple it can be to see a workout in stages.

Your stages will certainly be dependent on your personal goals and how your body responds to increases in activity. If you accidentally increase a stage by too much, do not hesitate to bring it back down to the previous level and try it again. Returning to the analogy of the hill, it is not about how many tries it takes to get over the entire hill. Success depends on successfully climbing to one level at a time and gaining a secure foothold before moving on to the next.

If you do not take your time climbing the hill (meeting your long term goal) you risk losing your footing and falling back down to a previous level. This being said, successfully meeting your short-term and long-term health and fitness goals is all about consistency, determination, and a well thought out plan.