Goodbye New Year’s Resolutions! Hello New Year and New Habits.

Marina Aagaard, MFE

It is that time of year again, New Year’s Resolution Time or rather:
A brand new year with ample opportunity for new beginnings, new smart moves … in your mind, body, habitat and on the move.

Don’t say goodbye to old habits, instead say hello to new and better ones – that is m u c h easier and increases chances of success.

Double Rainbow by the beach snapshot Marina AagaardSomewhere over the rainbow … (at the local beach).

As always it is true, that putting words to your dreams and goals make them more tangible and easier to reach, so do that now, right now:

  1. Write down: What are your five 3-5 major personal goals for 2014.
  2. Next to them: Write down your intended course of action.
  3. Next to that: What resources (help) do you need to succeed.

Don’t worry, if those thoughts and words seem overly optimistic. By putting precise words to those goals you are closer to success, than ever before.
Tip: Be precise. I did this and I got the things I wished for … however, I forgot to specify (i left out important details) and hence the results were not quite as expected! 

Remember the SMART strategy, when goal setting and planning:

Specific – make specific plans and take action specific to your goal(s).

Measurable – set exact goals (kg, cm, sec.), not just “stronger”, “slimmer”, “faster”.

Attainable, accepted and action-oriented; ‘publicize’ and ‘practice’ (easy goals first).

Realistic – have a dream goal and a plan of smaller goals for each week or month.

Timed – set a date, timeframe, for your goal and smaller goals.

Go for your goals … Go!

Happy New Year: The Best Year Ever!

Motivation and habit change

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

On the last days of the year it is time to take stock and set new goals. Time and time again it has been proven, that by reflecting, taking the time to think things over, evaluating, learning from experience, and setting specific goals and writing them down, the chances of reaching one’s goals, a.o. new habits, are vastly improved.
So do it now. Take 5 minutes off for reflection and goal setting.

Taking stock
Take a look back upon the past year. Do it in an ‘appreciative’ way; be thankful for all of the good things, miss out any ‘failures’ and ponder upon the successes; what went well (and how)!

  • What was the number one experience this year (job, school, leisure time, sports)?
  • What was I best at (what did I do particularly well)?
  • Where, how, did I improve this year (physically, mentally, emotionally, socially)?


  • What can I do better in the new year?
  • Where, in which areas, would I like to improve in the new year?
  • What would I like to have more of in the new year?

Same questions, e.g. “what is your most exciting experience this year” can be used for more interesting (New Year’s) dinner conversations.

Goal setting (realistic dream goals)
Now write down 10 goals for the new year, for family, lifestyle, job, school, leisure time, sport, whatever comes to mind.
When your main goals are listed, then break them down into manageable smaller goals.
Integrate those on your daily to-do list onwards. Do something, small (or big) things, every day, until you reach your goal(s).

Recommendation: Start today!

Best wishes from me to you and your loved ones,

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.


Phenomenal Phitness Periodization

Fitness Periodization model

Bio-psycho-social fitness planning,
model for periodization (Aagaard, 2012)

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Make a holistic plan; bio-psycho-social fitness periodization
Inspired by the bio-psycho-social model, in which “the health of the individual is considered a product of dynamic interaction between its biological, psychological and social circumstances (Roessler, 2002)”.

Step 1: Holistic thinking
Think – before preparing your fitness plan aimed at positive results – about the fact, that:

Social and mental aspects affect physical aspects – a.o. it is important to be motivated for exercising and to have support from family and friends – and physical aspects affect mental and social aspects – a good health and physical power have a positive influence on mental and social aspects.

Step 2: Check your options
Remember that an all-round fit body, strong, stable and mobile, provides a solid foundation for good health and advanced training:

Many exercisers, novices as well as advanced, focus primarily on either cardiovascular, strength or flexibility training. The above model is a tool for reminding fitness professionals as well as recreational exercisers; consider – and preferably test – all of the potential areas for developing an all-round fit body; for better, balanced fitness periodization improving health as well as performance.

Step 3: Make a (better) plan
Use periodization: “A systematic approach to training that involves (progressive) cycling of the various aspects of a training program during a given period”.
Periodization can be either simple or complex; start by making a diagram or timeline for organizing and displaying goals for each period along with general training program content, this will get you started.

Note, that volume and intensity of training of the four areas typically differs markedly:

Strength – stability, endurance, maximal strength, explosive power
Cardiovascular fitness – aerobic and anaerobic capacity
Coordination – motor skills and balance (static/dynamic)
Flexibility – mobility, general and specifik flexibility (static/dynamic)

Normally each area is targeted differently; e.g. the four areas are not trained with equal intensity or volume (which could be implied by the model).
Volume and intensity depend on

1) you and your biological age (‘body age’), training age (the number of years you have been training regularly 2-3 times per week), health and physical shape, and if you are a novice or advanced exerciser, and

2) your goal, primary goal and goals for each period, and

3) present period, initial phase, basic training, advanced training or specific training for sports performance.

Holistic bio-psycho-social fitness periodization is a meaningful method for more motivating balanced fitness long-term training plans.
Good luck with your fitness periodization.

Read much more about periodization in my blogs and this brilliant book: