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Proven Tips For Exercise and Training

Updated on March 22, 2010

As your fitness levels improve, you may want to start taking your favorite sport more seriously. Whether you want to compete at a "rookie" level or expert.

High level training

Know your sport

Take some time to think about what your sport entails - a football player may need to be able to sprint repeatedly over short distances, while a rugby player may need to be powerful to deal with the impact of collisions. It may be worth seeing a specialized coach, to discover the best training methods to achieve your objective.

Know yourself

All serious sports performers have regular health and fitness assessments. Depending upon the demands of your sport, it can be valuable to have certain components of your fitness - such as endurance, strength, speed, power and flexibility - assessed one or more times a year. Assessments show you what fitness components you'll want to concentrate on during training - if repeated regularly, they will also show you how effective your training is.

Set goals

Armed with the assessment results, you can start prioritizing the areas to work on and the goals you want to achieve. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends the acronym SMARTER when setting your goals:
S: Goals should be Specific, identifying what is to be achieved.
M: They should be Measurable,
A: As well as being Agreed and accepted by you (if set with your coach).
R: They need to be Realistic,
T: With a Time by which the goal should be reached.
E: The process of achieving the goal must Excite you
R: Keep a Record of your goals in your training diary.

Understand the training process

To improve performance, you'll need to train at the correct intensity and duration, often enough, and with enough recovery between sessions. In addition, you need to target the appropriate systems of the body for the demands of your sport. Train the specific muscles for your sport. Train the muscles in the same way as they'll be used when you are competing. Training guidelines are commonly based upon the type of exercise you should do, the intensity of that exercise, the duration and the frequency. Information should also be given regarding the recovery process between exercise bouts.

Training intensity

Think about training at different intensities to help improve all the various systems in the body (e.g. heart and lungs). This approach has been shown to be one of the best methods of improving performance.
Usually the training year is broken into training phases, so that a block of work with a specific focus (such as general strength and endurance) can be followed by a block of work with a different focus (such as sport-specific strength), which builds upon the foundation you have laid in the previous phase. Ultimately, these training blocks build to a period of peak performance, which should coincide with the main competition period for your sport.

Core stability conditioning

It is essential to strengthen your deep abdominal muscles. This will allow you to control and position your pelvis so that the action of your lower body and the force produced by your legs can be channeled effectively through your body with reduced risk of injury.

Muscle stiffness

Slight muscle stiffness the day after exercise or sport is normal. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) tends to peak 48 hours after exercise and is associated with high intensity exercise or exercise that you are unaccustomed to doing. Stretching and light exercise helps to reduce symptoms but the stiffness should not be used as an excuse to stop training. Coordinate a training program so that harder sessions are gradually introduced as your fitness increases.
If you have pain in a specific area during or after training (this may be a sharp pain, or a dull ache), and this continues over a period of time, it is possible you have an injury and you should seek medical advice.

Exercise common sense

  • Be sensible when undertaking training sessions. Although it is important to improve your fitness levels and performance, don't risk doing more harm than good.
  • Consider specialized advice from a coach. You can find one through the governing body of your sport.
  • Before and after each training session and competition, warm up and down with a program of proper stretches. Do active stretches such as arm and shoulder rotations, side bends, hip rotations, leg swings, leaps and bounds, before your workout. These movements should stretch your limbs, but are not held for any length of time. After your workout do your core stability exercises and then some long static stretches, held for at least 10 seconds.
  • Avoid training if you are ill. If your symptoms are above the neck (e.g. stuffed up nose) you may find an easier than usual training session is fine. If your symptoms are below the neck (e.g. chest cold) you may have a respiratory infection and training could make your illness worse.
  • You can only train well if your diet provides you with enough energy, minerals, vitamins and water, and if you regularly get a good night's sleep.Try and eat something an hour or two before you train, such as dried fruit and nuts, fruit bread, bananas, fruit smoothies, and yogurt. Drink plenty of liquid and eat something within 2 hours after training, ideally something high in carbohydrates like bread or pasta, to replace energy stores.


  1. American College of Sports Medicine. Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (6th Edition), 2000
  2. HEA and Sports Council. Allied Dunbar National Fitness Survey, 1992


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