At some point in every person’s life this is a question you will ask yourself. Whether you have never exercised before, getting back into it after a period off training or even looking at progressing in fitness to reach specific goals. This is a question that is very dependent on a host of variables that need to be taken into consideration, all of which are very individually specific also.
Let’s use the above examples for ways to address the considerations before dictating how many times a week you should train.
Firstly, a simple principle that will allow for greatest outcome, & applicable for all levels of fitness, which permits lowest risk of injury and greatest adherence, is to use the most minimal effective dose, to generate the largest desired result. In short, what is the least amount of work that I can do, that will give the most results in return. By using this principle, we are therefore, in the long term, going to yield the most & also best results for several reasons. This will allow the participant to progressively overload, that is, incrementally build up the workload which will generate steady & constant progression throughout the training plan in its entity. If we do too much too soon, we run the risk of a few potential problems, including injury & halted progress as we exhaust our means to move forward.
This being said, It is common sense that for somebody that hasn’t ever trained before to go running for two hours every single day consecutively. This is a recipe for injury and can lead to a low adherence rate to the training program as it would be far too difficult. Example someone at this stage could look at walking at a steady pace for 20 minutes a day for the first week then increasing it to 30 minutes a day, 40 minutes & so on. Once this person is comfortable walking consecutive days for a given period of time, we could then start to introduce a small amount of jogging, that is, if the goal of this person was to start running of course. This is a quite simple example, but the principle of progressive overload would still apply. That is not to say that progression is always linear, there will always be plateaus, setbacks and obstacles to overcome along the way. These include things like recovery rate, diet, sleep, hydration & injuries to name a few.
As we then start to look at things like recovery rate, we can adjust the training regime accordingly. If we are not recovering, all the factors relating to the ability to perform a task should be reevaluated. Questions we should then consider include:
- Is sleep optimal?
- Is the nutrition correct and adhered to?
- Are they hydrated?
- Are they performing the exercise correctly?
- Is the training load too high too soon?
- Are supplements required to aid in the process and work in synergy with the nutrition?
- Is the training appropriate?
When molding all these ideas together, we can now start to extrapolate the idea that the frequency of training is very individual specific, it depends on many varying factors. The process of choosing frequency is not a linear process & needs to constantly be reevaluated to make sure the smallest effective dose is still being used to produce the greatest result. This way we do not exhaust ways to progress, allowing us to achieve greater results in the long term, reduce risk of injuries, increase rate of adherence and most importantly, enjoy the process of training.