In order to get the most out of your training, you must follow some basic simple training principles which are overload, specificity, reversibility and variance. Overload means we must put our bodies under more stress than normal in order for adaptive changes to be made. Specificity relates to ensuring the training done is specific to the sport or activity. Reversibility means if you don't keep it up you will lose it and variance relates to varying the training activities.
In order to progress and improve our fitness we have to put our bodies under additional stress. Doing this will cause long-term adaptations, enabling our bodies to work more efficiently to cope with this higher level of performance. Overloading can be achieved by following the acronym FITT:
- Frequency: Increasing the number of times you train per week
- Intensity: Increasing the difficulty of the exercise you do. For example running at 12 km/h instead of 10 or increasing the weight you are squatting with.
- Time: Increasing the length of time that you are training for each session. For example cycling for 45 minutes instead of 30.
- Type: Increase the difficulty of the training you are doing. For example progress from walking to running.
The type of training that you do should be specific to you and your sport. You should train the energy system which you use predominantly (i.e. don't run 5,000 meters in training if you're a sprinter!) and the fitness and skill components most important to your sport, for example agility, balance or muscular endurance.
You should also test the components which are important in your sport to see your strengths and weaknesses. With this information you can focus on improving your weak points.
Use it or lose it! Basically if you stop training then the improvements you have made will be reversed. So if you are ill or have a holiday and do not train for a period of time (even as little as a week) you may not be able to resume training at the point where you left off.
Try to vary your training, to keep you interested and to give your body a different challenge. Remember a change is as good as a rest. Many professional athletes will play a completely different sport in-between their main season, to keep their fitness up whilst still having a rest!