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How to stick with your training plan long term


Working out is hard. But with a clear structure and progressive training plan in place, what felt impossible will soon become a new habit.

How do I set goals and put processes in place?

If you’re ready to commit to your training for the long haul, try reflecting on that future “you”. What does the future “you” do on a regular basis? How does it feel to crush your goals? Thinking about these two questions will help you reverse engineer your journey. More importantly, it will also help you align your lifestyle with your goals.

Steer clear from setting unrealistic goals, such as losing 10 kg in two months. Instead, shift your focus to, “What is the fitter/stronger/healthier version of me doing?”. Well-balanced plate filled with nourishing veggies and protein – check. Snuck in some movement today – check. The key is to hone in on your daily habits and fine-tune them as you go!

Start small and build your diet and exercise routine with one small habit change at a time. Commit to sticking with it for a few weeks and then once that becomes a habit, feel free to add on! Before you know it, weeks will turn into months, months into years, and soon that future fit “you” will be your new reality.

Remember, fitness is a journey and good things take time. Make it fun, add some milestones to give a boost of motivation, and celebrate yourself along the way. Sign up for a race, set a target weight for a specific lift, or plan to stick to your diet 80% of the time – whatever keeps the excitement alive is a win-win in our books.

How can I train sustainably for the long term?

When it comes to achieving any goal, it all boils down to one thing – structure. Structure is essential when it comes to creating processes for improvement and progression in your training plan. A training log is a great way to measure progress and compare previous results with your current abilities.

It can be an app (we're biased, but the Freeletics app is a great starting point), a spreadsheet, a journal, or even just a piece of paper. Writing things down will help you track your progress and identify where you can improve. Note down even the smallest progressions. For example, if you lifted 20 kg last week and managed 20.25 kg today, jot it down. Progress is progress!

Taking small, measured steps forward over time is what forms the basis of progressive overload – and that’s where results are found. Progressive overload cues your body to adapt to the demands placed on it, and by consistently pushing your limits, your muscles respond and become stronger.

But don’t overlook another important factor: rest and recovery. Every training session, especially the ones where you’re pushing hard and hitting PBs, will take a toll on your body. Sleep and recovery are essential to give your body the time it needs to make the necessary adaptations. Exercise and rest are the yin and yang of your training progress. Keep them balanced!

It’s possible to hit a training plateau even if you’re doing everything right when it comes to progressive overload, rest, and recovery. This is a sign that your body has reached its capacity to adapt under your current plan and that it’s time to switch it up. Try cycling through training phases and opt for periodization to continue to progress.

How do training phases and periodization work?

First things first – you need to have a training plan if you want to divide it into phases. Start with a training session, the smallest building block of your training structure, and decide how many of these sessions you’d like to have in your training week. The training week, or “microcycle,” is your next training structure layer. In the Freeletics app, this is what you see on the Coach tab.

The next level is a “mesocycle” where you maintain a specific training focus for several weeks or even months. At Freeletics, our 12-week bodyweight Training Journeys fall into this phase, where you can choose from a focus on cardio, getting fit, or strength for the duration of the 12 weeks.

Finally, all mesocycles form a larger “macrocycle,” the length of which varies greatly. Our weighted Training Journeys consist of all three phases with a slight change in focus (adjusting the intensity or volume) every 3-4 weeks. Completing our Barbell Training Journey, for example, would be a macrocycle, however, for an Olympian, it’s every 4 years!

Periodized training means that you build each phase of your training on top of the other. You can do this by either focusing on intensity (i.e. fewer reps, higher weights, faster pace) or volume (i.e. more reps, lighter weights, longer duration, more mileage). This is all taken care of by the Freeletics Coach in the app.

To get the most out of these periodized training phases, set clear and achievable milestones. This will help you stay focused, challenged, and on track to improve your goals within each training phase.

For someone focused on gains, this might mean working up to an 80 kg Squat for four reps in an intensity phase or a 50 kg Squat for ten reps in a volume phase. On the cardio side, it may mean aiming for a fast pace in an intensity phase versus covering a certain distance in a volume phase.

But remember, no matter how smart you train and how motivated you are, it’s important to adjust your training to your reality. If you need to rest, don’t force that PB. Hit a plateau? Don’t be scared to switch it up with a different focus. Cardio, Strength, Dumbbells, Kettlebells, Barbells, and Running. The possibilities are endless. Check in with yourself and know when it’s time to move on to a new phase!

Let’s recap:

Whatever your fitness goal is, it all comes down to structure if you want to stick with it long-term. Within that framework, set realistic, achievable goals to motivate you.

Start small and leverage key tools such as reverse engineering to visualize that future “you” and a training log to track progress (hello, Freeletics Coach!).

Build on each training session as you go, focusing on progressive overload and periodization to deliver a variety of workouts. Don’t forget to celebrate your wins and strive for new goals along the way – it’s a journey after all!

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