Lost Your Fitness Motivation? It Is Right Here!

Fitness workout motivation

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Today I was reminded by a new blog friend, that some (many?) think of the fitness center as ‘a modern centre for physical torture’!

It is true, that occasionally (for some most of the time) it can be hard to find fitness motivation, when you would rather do something/anything else.

Then it is time to remind yourself, that you do fitness, because
1) your body loves to move in all sorts of ways, 2) it is an easy uncomplicated method of getting into shape, 3) your mind, body and spirit benefit from it, 4) you are together with other exercisers and meet new people/friends/boy- or girlfriends and 5) when fitness becomes a habit and you know the ropes, fitness center workouts are exciting and diverse; the fitness centre becomes a motivating ‘playground for adults’.

Here is a list of some of the advantages for days, when you consider ‘should-I-workout-or-not-at-the-fitness-center-today-as-really-I-feel-I-am-too-busy (reads: not all that motivated)’:

F a n t a s t i c   F e e l – g o o d   F i t n e s s   

Fitter and Firmer

  • You tone your muscles.
  • You strengthen your muscles and improve your posture.
  • You improve your metabolism; it is easier to maintain your weight.
  • You reduce your fat mass and your waistline.
  • You increase energy consumption during and after workouts.
  • You improve mobility.
  • You improve agility and function for the everyday and sports.
  • You become and look more energetic.

Healthier and happier

  • You improve general fitness and wellness.
  • You slow down age-related muscle fiber loss and maintain strength.
  • You prevent or reduce neck- and backproblems.
  • You prevent or reduce osteoarthritis and other joint problems.
  • You strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis.
  • You slow down aging of the brain and prevent dementia.
  • You may lower your blood pressure.
  • You reduce the risk of diabetes.

Inspiration for your fitness training workouts:
10 Super Tips: Get Much More Out Of Your Fitness Training

No Time For Exercise? Microtraining Workout!

SpringtræningJumping is healthy (after basic training)
(Photo: Ski Fitness. Model: Kim Holmes)

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

“No time for exercise” is a   r e a l l y   p o o r   excuse. It is like this, “those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness” (Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby, 1826-93). And:
Lack of physical activity will result in a poorer performance physically and mentally.

More often than not; if your (exercise) activity is interesting enough, you will find time!
Also it is possible for untrained as well as trained individuals to obtain a notable training effect even with very short workouts, as long as the program has the right design; a suitable level according to your health and fitness.

If one day you believe, you have no time for exercising, then exercise for 5-10 minutes, it is far better than 0 minutes! You can maintain your current fitness level and your body loves every minute of your workout.

In the military they use 5-15 minute micro workouts on busy days with no time for regular ‘full-sized’ workouts. Even ‘everyday-warriors’ can  ‘microtrain’ and get ‘macro-results’ with cardio and strength training combined in ‘mini’ CrossFit look-alike programs (high-intensity basic training).

Microtraining can be performed in your everyday clothes (though not optimal) and everywhere, indoors and outdoors, and whenever, as it is primarily bodyweight training.
Of course you can also use nature, furniture or equipment for program variation. And you can perform either one, two or three rounds, series, of the exercises.

For maximum results the microtraining should be relatively intense, so often this means sprinting, leaping or jumping, which also functions as agility training.

Note: The higher intensity, the greater the effect, however, at the same time the risk of injury increases; train with concentration og muscular control. Start at a suitable level.

Below are some examples of microtraining workouts for intermediate to advanced exercisers (warm up, and start with a lesser range of motion). The examples show basic training and each micro workout may be changed with other exercises:

1 round (Tabata requires a 5 min. warm-up):
Tabata-routine; 20 sec. sprint, 10 sec. (active) rest-pause, repeat 8 times
12 back extensions
12 ab curls

1 round:
16 jump lunges (feet staggered, jump and change legs, repeat other leg)
16 push-ups
10 reaction drill (from prone (plank>les forward) to supine (sit-up)

2 rounds:
10 tuck jump (jump, pull the knees up)
16 back extensions
16 ab curls

2 rounds:
16 lunges (forward an/or out)
16 squat
10 pull-ups

3 rounds:
10 squat jump
10 dive bombers (circular push-ups forward and backward)
10 pull-ups

3 rounds:
10 Burpees (from prone or plank position, jump forward and up, return)
16 Lunges
12 Push-ups, narrow

Enjoy your workout!

WOD: Design A Super Workout Program

Fitness Workout of The Day ProgramFitness Workout of the Day
Programming (Aagaard, 2012)

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

How to Design A Better Workout? Of course you can design your workout of the day without prior planning or periodization. However, if you really want to progress and make the most of your workout time, then it makes more sense to create a goal-oriented plan in which your daily workout is based on a week program, which is based on a long-term plan (year and quarterly or monthly plans).

The program for the individual daily workout(s) is the ‘core’ of periodization, planning your exercise periods. In CrossFit a.o. this is called Workout of the Day, WOD.

It is essential, that your program is designed in the proper way, based on knowledge of anatomy, physiology and sports science, so it is healthy and effective as well as motivating and challenging – for you.

An allround fitness program could have this structure:

  • Warm-up – general and specific
  • Coordination and balance and/or
  • Cardiovascular training and/or
  • Resistance training
  • Cool-down
  • Flexibility/stretching

Note: Your written workout program should include all parts of the workout, e.g. not just the strength training part of it.

The duration, content and sequence of each part of the workout depends on

1) workout goal
2) primary capacity/area in focus
3) total workout duration

Workout duration maximum is 45-90 minutes. 30-60 minutes is the norm.

High-intensity workouts, anaerobic energy systems training and explosive strength training, should not exceed 20-25 minutes (ex. warm-up).

Traditional fitness warm-up (60 minute workouts): 5-15 minutes.

Cardiovascular training: 20-60 minutes.

Moderate intensity resistance training, 8-10 exercises, 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions:
Approximately 30-60 min., maximal strength training 30-90 min. and bodybuilding (hypertrophy) 1-1½ hours (maximum).

Cool-down, easy walking or cycling, following intense cardiovascular or resistance training: 3-10 minutes.

Stretching for the major muscles with a focus on tight muscles: 5-10+ minutes.

Program content can be based on one, eg. strength, or more areas of fitness.
All-round fitness workouts may focus on:

  • Posture, static and dynamic
  • Aerobic and anaerobic capacity
  • Coordination, general and specific (balance, static and dynamic)
  • Strength/endurance, concentric/eccentric and isometric
  • Flexibility, static and dynamic, passive and active
  • Mental capacity (and social aspect)

The program should have a suitable level; exercises, which motivates and improves performance.

Exercise selection should be based on the primary movements of the everyday, leisure time activities and sports:

  • Flexion (bending)
  • Extension (straightening)
  • Pulling
  • Pushing
  • Rotation

The base movements of (initial) fitness programs should be the same for ‘every body’; the above base movements are equally important for men, women, children, juniors, grown-ups and seniors.

Fitness programs differ in respect to volume, based on frequency, number of times per week, intensity and duration, and specific exercise selection.
Specific exercise selection is based on the health and fitness status of the exerciser; this status determines the appropriate level of difficulty, including speed, for the exercises.

Focus points
Here is a short list of key areas to consider, when you want to design a super workout program:

  • Program – content, structure, volume, total duration
  • Training parts (sections) – goal, content, structure, duration
  • Exercise selection – level, simple or complex
  • Exercise sequence
  • Load – set, repetitions, intensity, type
  • Muscle contraction focus – concentric, eccentric, isometric
  • Tempo – slow, moderate, fast, explosive
  • Rest-pauses – between exercises and sets (and repetitions)
  • Method variation – variations, combinations
  • Recovery – rest between workouts

You can find more information about each area in articles (on the internet) and books on the subject of periodization.

Enjoy preparing your new and improved workout program.

Plan your optimal Workout of the Day,
so everything is set and you’re on your way
to a personal workout, which is fun to ‘play’,
with better results, so top form you display.  


Periodize: Perfect Your Short-term Plan

Styrketraening Mikrocyklus USWeek plan, microcycle, example (Aagaard, 2012)

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Top Tip 

First a super workout, then of course recovery. 
A nice mix of work and rest, wouldn’t you agree?
That’s the way to maximize results for all to see
and avoid fatique, overtraining, stress and injury.

In periodization the long-term plan, the macrocycle, and the mesocycles (1-3 month plans) provides the framework for more detailed short-term plans, plans for your weekly training.

A (very) short-term plan is called a microcycle. A microcycle can last from 1-14 days, but a typical fitness microcycle is 1 week, 7 days.

Your plan for the week (can be changed from week to week or repeated for several weeks) is a plan of all training activities; cardiovascular, strength, coordination (balance, agility, etc.) and flexibility training.
A complete plan – as shown in the figure – makes it easier to detect, if your training is planned in the right way with regard to volume and recovery.

You can use the ‘FIT-formula‘ as a guide for your week plan or program; consider this:

Frequency, number of workouts per week
Intensity, how hard you work at each workout
Time, or duration, how long you train for at each workout

When your weekly training program involves different types of training, it can be somewhat of a puzzle to 1) arrange the workouts in relation to each other, so they do not interact in a negative way and 2) get sufficient recovery, rest.
Also when you have a large volume of training within one training modality, eg. strength training, you need to plan your training week carefully, so you get the right amount of variation and recovery so you get the desired results.

Recovery time
In general you need about 48 hours of rest following moderate intensity strength training (3 x 10 reps at ~75 % of 1RM) and approximately 24 hours of rest after moderate intensity cardiovascular training.

For beginners with a relatively low volume of training (eg. 3-4 times ½-1 hours or less a week), it is fairly easy to make a week plan and training programs, whereas programming for advanced fitness and sports programs with daily workouts can be a challenging task.

Guidelines and variation and motivation
To maintain motivation and keep progressing it is beneficial to change the week program within 4-6 weeks. However, many (novice) exercisers will continue to get results and feel quite happy with the same program for longer periods; this also allows for stable adaptation and improved exercise technique.

Listen to your body and mind and move on, when you feel the need for it.

Advanced, skilled and strong, exercisers may change their programs more frequently for instance every third week, but even a change of program from week to week is possible.

When planning an allround fitness week program, you can look to the American College of Sports Medicine’s, ACSM, basic guidelines for physical exercise:

Cardiovascular training: 3-5 times per week, 60-90 % of heart rate, 20-60 minutes

Strength training:
 2-3 times per week, minimum 1 [-3] sets of 8-12 repetitions, 8-10 exercises for the large muscle groups (equals approx. 30-50 minute workout).
Note: If you do split training, eg. upper and lower body work on alternating days, you can train more times per week.

Flexibility training
: 3 times per week, 1-4 repetitions/stretches lasting 10-30 seconds, stretches for the large [tight] muscles.

Enjoy planning your new improved program.

Periodize: Perfect Your Long-term Plan

Fitness and Strength training MacrocycleLong-term plan, macro cycle, an example (Aagaard, 2012).

Marina Aagaard, MFE

Top Tip

Reach your goals! Make a plan. What do you say?
For better programs and workouts, that is the way.
Outline the long-term, then the short-term, it’s simple, o.k.?

You want to optimize your workout results? Then periodization is for you. First step is to get an overview, to outline a long-term plan based on your main goal.
A long-term plan for fitness often is a ½-1 year plan.

A one-year plan can be created and outlined in many ways and be more or less complex according to your needs. Everyone, recreational exercisers as well as elite athletes, will benefit from some sort of general plan serving as a framework for planning training periods and more detailed weekly training programs.
The above model is just one example of how it can be done. The general principle, however, can be applied to any type of plan and will hopefully inspire you to make your own plan or periodization.

Macro cycle (½-1 year plan)

The first step in general planning or periodization is creating a long-term plan.
The timespan for the long-term plan depends on your goal. It can be several years, as in competitive sports, or ½-1 year.

In sports the plan revolves around the competitions, so the athletes can peak at the right time at the main competition.

In fitness and strength training the long-term plan normally covers one year, which means that the long-term plan is the same as a ‘one-year plan’.
The longest ‘unit’ in the long-term plan in some disciplines, eg. strength training and weightlifting, is called macrocycle.

In general fitness, with no competitions or matches to consider, the main goal, eg. strength, hypertrophy or fatloss, dictates the lay-out of the plan.

Periods and periodization

The long-term plan, the macrocycle, is divided into shorter, manageable periods. This is calles periodization.

Often a period in fitness planning is three months, but periods may be shorter or longer according to the exerciser (fitness and health) and specific goal for the given period. In a.o. strength training these 1-3 month periods are called mesocycles.

In the mesocycles the focus could be anything from basic training to sports-specific training, and the programs could be dedicated to improving one area, eg. basic strength or cardiovascular fitness, or several areas, eg. strength, coordination and mobility could be improved in parallel (requires some planning).
The goals of the mesocycles dictates the specific weekly programs, which in some sports are called microcycles.

In strength training you may have three mesocycles (and then maybe a sports specific period):
Basic training (structural strength), strength training and maximal strength.

For beginners it is imperative, that you have a basic training period.
This period is for laying the foundation, building strength and endurance – with prophylactic training with core and balance training – before moving onto advanced, heavy and complex training. Basic training may last from 6-12 months depending on how and how much you train, how well you recover and respond to the training program.

After basic, structural training, the training is progressed. The training becomes heavier and the exercises gets more complex and functional. Beginners move from machines to free weights and weightlifting. This phase may last from 6-12 months.

Maximal strength training is the next (last) phase in strength training periodization.
The goal is increased strength and power via heavy and explosive strength training – for athletes sports specificity should be considered.

When you reach your goal, set a new goal – this could increased strength or maybe maintenance with a varied program – and make a new plan.

You can read more about periodization in my blogs and this brilliant book about advanced periodization:

10-step Plan for Tip Top Periodization

Planning and Periodization Principle

Planning and Periodization Principle
(Aagaard, 2012)

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

No matter your level or goal more likely than not you will have more fun and get better results, if you make some sort of plan. You may plan in more or less detail according to your needs.

Based on theory and practice from international gymnastics and strength training, for your information and inspiration; 10 steps to periodization, that will raise motivation, training experience and results to a higher level.

You can find numerous books on periodization – and each of the 10 steps – however, from the below tips, you will get an excellent overview and be able to outline you own long- and short-term plan today. It does not have to be all that difficult and it may well be the start of a whole new approach to fitness and physical exercise.

  1. Needs analysis
  2. Capacity analysis
  3. Testing
  4. Goal setting
  5. Overall general plan
  6. Long-term plan 
  7. Short-term plan
  8. Week plan
  9. Workout plan
  10. Training 

1. Needs analysis (work demand analysis) 
Establish your mail goal, what is needed; what do you want from your exercise program? E.g. hypertrophy, fatburning, increased strength, better balance.
If your goal is improved sports performance, it is the requirements of your sport, the muscular and energy fitness needs of the sport, that dictates the plan; look to 1) the rules and 2) the sports’ results at present (scores, time, distance, aesthetic qualities, etc.).

2. Capacity analysis (screening, health and physical form)
You must define your present ability and performance level in comparison to your needs or the demands of the sport. Initially, before testing and training find out: How is your health, are you healthy and well, without illness and injuries, and how is your physique?
A poor health does not have to keep you away from fitness and sports, but you may need a special program designed by a therapist or training specialist.

3. Testing (general/specific)
Determine your strengths and weaknesses. Perform an assessment, a physical test; cardiovascular, strength, coordination including balance and mobility.
You can also do a sports specific test; reaction time, agility, tactics and technique.
Testing is essential for assessing your starting point, so you can make a better, specific plan – and testing (results) may increase motivation during workouts.

4. Goal setting (primary goal and secondary, long- and short-term goals)
Goal setting is crucial. Establish your main goal and time frame. Then establish long-term and short-term goals, e.g. the primary goals for each period. These goals serve also as markers of progress – is the plan working?

5. Overall general plan (or long-term plan)
Outline the overall long-term general plan (goals) for sport, exercise and lifestyle.
For elite athletes this could involve a career plan and a 8-12-year plan towards the Olympic Games.

6. Long-term plan (macroycle)
The long-term plan is a ½-1 year plan from the starting date to the target date or competition. The long-term plan can be illustrated as a sort of timeline or schedule diagram. This gives you an overview of each period, when and what, volume and intensity.
The long-term plan is an excellent guide, it tells you, when your goals should be reached and helps you create better short-term plans.

7. Short-term plan (mesocycle)
The short-term plans, mesocycles, are written into the long-term plan, so you get an overview of the structure, period goals, duration and volume.
This overview is essential, as it is the basis for creating the week plans, microcycles. Depending on the goal, e.g. improved fitness or sports performance, the periods may differ, e.g. from 1-3 months, with a varying number of microcycles.
It may turn out, that results deviate from the expected outcome, so the goals and content of each period need to be adjusted along the way.

8. Week plan (microcycle)
The week plan is a plan for all of your training during a week: A FIT-schedule with Frequency, number of workouts, Intensity, load on energy systems and muscles, and Time, workout duration.
Make a schedule diagram; it makes it easier to see how different modalities of exercise can be sequenced in order to obtain the best results; optimal load (volume) and optimal recovery with minimal risk of overtraining (or undertraining).

9. Program (workout plan, WOD, Workout of the Day)
Every workout should be based on a plan or program; e.g. two programs if you have separate cardio and strength workouts.
You can work out one or more times during the day.
The workout is based on exercises or moves aimed at reaching the goal of the day (week/period).
You may repeat the program during the week or you may have different programs depending on your goals and options.
Your program should include a warm-up, specific exercises for one or more physcial capacities and cooldown with stretching as needed.

10. Training
The training itself must be with good technique in order to provide the desired results. Also, in order to know if the program is working as it is intended to, you must stick to your workout plan.
However, it does happen, that your energy level fluctuates and ‘deviations’ occur; e.g. overtime at work, taxing study assignments, illness or holidays.
This means, that you will have to adjust your plan accordingly.

After a period of training, you may re-test yourself – or the person you are training – and revise your excisting plan or set up a new plan with new goals.

Happy planning and training!

In the deserts of Sudan and the gardens of Japan
From Milan to Yucatan, ev’ry woman, ev’ry man” …
periodize your programs, make a better plan; 
improve all your capacities and every skill at hand.


Valentine’s Day Pulse & Passion

Heart and Health Happy Valentine

Your heart loooooooooves exercise. 
ise your heart: Exercise with your loved one(s) …

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Top Tip

Strengthen your heart with CV* exercise.
Strengthen your heart with fun and games; it’s nice.
Strengthen your heart, to your health; a wonderful spice.

Strengthen your heart with varied WOD**: Roll the idea-dice.
Strengthen your heart with passion, “give your cake some ice”.
Strengthen your heart; it will sing: “What a lovely surprise”.

* CV: Cardiovascular (for heart and veins)
** WOD: Workout Of the Day

Cardiorespiratory Exercise Recommendations (ACSM, 2011)

Frequency: ≥ 5 days/week for moderate intensitety, fairly light-somewhat hard, or ≥ 3 days/week for vigorous intensity, somewhat hard-very hard, or ≥ 3-5 days/week for a combination of both.

Intensity: Moderate and/or high (for apparantly health adults).

Time (duration):
30-60 minutes at a moderate intensity or
20-60 minutes at a vigorous intensity or a combination of both.

Note: These recommendations are for apparently healthy adults – and initially you may benefit from a lot less; if you are not used to exercise, start out gradually: 3-5 minutes, preferably daily or 3-5 times a week, and increase over time.
Strengthen your heart; live longer, healthier, happier!