The Non-Training Training Program

Thank you sososo much for all the congratulatory comments on my last post! Y’all are too sweet :) Passing my personal trainer theory exam definitely feels like a small victory in this long journey I’m on. Also feels like an affirmation I’m on the right path!

Speaking of paths (segue alert!), I hit the trail this morning. I’ve essentially had the same gym routine since January, and I’m desperate to change it up! Even though it was supposed to be cold and rainy this morning, I couldn’t bring myself to slog out a run on the treadmill, so I took it outside anyways.

I would like to say it was freeing and glorious, but Susan-land is not la-la-land. It may not have been dark at 6:30 am, but it was cold. 4 degrees celsius, which Google tells me is 39.2 F. I have a high-quality shirt and jacket for cold weather, but just cheap cotton leggings for my legs. No good. As Caitlin would say, my thighs felt like frozen chicken thighs. When I took my leggings off, they were bright red from the cold!

Ended up running 4 tough miles. It felt like I was running through cement at times as my legs are still sore from my last weight workout. But I did it. It was fun-ish. And it gave me something different to say when my coworkers asked me what I did at the gym this morning ;)

No time for a fancy breakfast.


That’s my excuse anyways, but we all know I just wanted waffles again ;) Nature’s Path Pomegranate with peanut butter and blueberry jam.


Was going to put protein powder goo on top until I remembered I have an excess of egg whites in the fridge. The best protein comes from real food :)

An egg white pillow with some laughing cow cheese sandwiched in the middle.


Got my carbs, fat, protein and sugary goodness. The perfect breakfast :)

Lunch was l-l-leftovers!

What was left of the “wonky Mexican hash” with melted cheese on top.

Then after work today, I went to the campus gym with two co-workers to show them around the weight area. Both are getting married this summer and want to look good in their wedding dresses! Both have been going to the gym for a while, but felt a little lost. It was so fun to see how excited they got over the new moves! One of the girls was so cute. She asked me what to do to get rid of belly pudge, I told her it was diet-related, and her face immediately dropped. Ahhhh… This is something I’m going to have to get used to I think…

Took the dog on his second walk of the day (I can’t say no to him!) then came in for a late supper.

IMG_5978 IMG_5979

A tofu faux alfredo

  • Block extra-firm tofu
  • 1 small spaghetti squash
  • 1/4 bag frozen broccoli
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 pint mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

I cooked the squash in the microwave, then added it to the pan with everything else. For the sauce I mixed up 4 laughing cow cheese wedges with soy milk until it was at a consistency I liked, then added a dash of pepper, nutmeg and parmesan cheese.


Ever notice I eat a lot of things out of bowls? I find bowls comforting for some reason. Plus, they’re better for portion control. I can pile a lot more on a plate than I can in one of these bowls.

Fun fact: I didn’t eat any meat today! I bet that happens more often than I notice. I was a veggie for 8 years after all!


The Non-Training Training Program

I’ve spoken a lot about training programs and how I like to sort of fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to working out. But, one thing I have learned, is that it is sometimes beneficial to look at the larger picture when choosing workouts.

During the program design section of my personal training course, we learned about periodization and the three different training cycles:

  • Macrocycle: A period lasting several months to a year
  • Mesocycle: A period lasting several weeks/a few months
  • Microcycle: A period lasting around a week.

If you’re not training for a big race, you are probably wondering why the hell you have to care about periodization and training cycles.

Well that’s why I’m here, duh!

Even if you’re not training for something in particular, it is still beneficial to follow training cycles if you want to see an improvement in general fitness. It doesn’t have to be grand. Hell, most people would just like to be able to carry their groceries indoors with greater ease.

The cycle typically starts with low intensity workouts and increases into higher intensity workouts.Eventually, you reach a peak intensity, where you are at your best performance. After reaching this peak, you recover. This is a REST PERIOD of a few days. After this rest period, you slowly begin the cycle over again with the lower-intensity workouts. Each "peak" stage will be a little higher, meaning you are getting more fit, yay!


This is my fancy graph. I made it all by myself :)

This is where a little something called "progressive overload" comes in. This is one of the key training principles, and just one of many which I’ll be sure to talk about over the next little bit.

Progressive overload is just that – you progressively add to your workouts, be it time, speed, intensity, load, etc, to see improvement. If you go to the gym and do the same 30 minute elliptical workout every freakin’ day, then it is going to be hard to improve upon that. You need to challenge yourself to get better. And with each challenge, the same amount of work will feel easier!

It’s fun to say we just show up at the gym and do what we want. But in reality, a little more forethought should go into it.

  • Don’t progress too quickly (the 10% mileage rule for running for example)
  • Always err on the side of caution and rest when you need it.
  • Decide what you want to improve on, and work on challenging it
  • When you feel you’ve reached a “peak,” rest. Recover. Then start all over again.

For me, I take a few days off every 3-4 months. Usually to coincide with life events or just when my body says "whoa." I also tend to train with the seasons. I’ve probably already peaked in terms of strength training for this year, but I’ll be working towards a running peak early in the fall.

It’s also worth noting that you can’t just keep getting better and better without taking that rest period. Fitness doesn’t grow exponentially. But rather grows in little bumps!


And with that, I’m off! To make protein cookies :) Tomorrow is Flashback Friday. Trying to stir up a good one, see ya then!

Posted on April 22, 2010, in Workouts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. oooo this is soo interesting!!!
    how do you make that egg white fluff?? that sounds delish!!

    • Step 1: Spray mug or cute little bowl with non-stick spray Step 2: Pour egg whites in, leaving lots of room at the top Step 3: Nuke for 2-3 minutes Step 4: Plop on plate and devour! ;)

  2. hehe i just learned about periodization and all that jazz, too! you are speaking my language!

  3. This was really interesting. Thanks for sharing, trainer! I recently realized (partly due to an ugly run with the BF where I acted like a pansy, got called out on it, called him insensitive, later realized he was right, but that’s not the point) that I wasn’t pushing myself in my cardio and that’s why I wasn’t getting any better.

    So I’ve been trying to up the intensity on my short mid-week runs, and I plan to take it easier on my weekend run. I am determined to get to an “comfortable” ten-min mile but I know it will take WORK to get there. It’s been fun so far (a week in, haha).

    • Ohyes, I know pushing it on short runs can be a giant pain (sometimes literally). But it’s SO worth it when what used to be a tough pace all of a sudden turns into an “easy” one :D

  4. You know, I have to tell you…because of you, I’ve been rethinking my workouts. I have been completely sold on cardio only for years. That is all I do, run, with some daily push ups and situps. I’m thinking I should be doing it differently. Going to the gym is not possible right now, so I’d like to develop my own little circuit training excercises to throw into my schedule. Have you any good book/ video suggestions?
    I do challenge my distance/ reststance frequently with my running, so it was nice to see your take on it in this post. However, if I ever take more than 2 days off in a row…..geez the guilt kills me! The main reason I’m a cardio junkie is because I need to burn calories. I feel like I’ll blow up if I ever stop running!
    Enjoying Jillian’s book, lots of good material, learning lots.

    • Yayyy! So many awesome things with strength training: your running will get better, you body composition will get better, and you will burn more calories doing absolutely nothing :) I actually recommend Jillian’s videos! Her 30 Day Shred has good strength circuits that will keep your heart rate up. They’re only 20 minutes so you can pop it in after a short run. The No More Trouble Zones one is a good one too. Also, I have yet to do a Beachbody video I don’t enjoy (that’s the company, although the videos go by different names). You can pick up small hand weights at Wal-Mart for cheap as well :) I have 3s and 5s, and then double them up to make 8 lbs for the Jillian DVDs.

  5. This was VERY interesting!!Thanks. You know, iwas thinking: you could easily be a ”virtual” personnal trainer…via email, being a motivator, buildong training plan…=) Can you give some examples of the progressive training?=)

    • I’ve thought about doing the online thing! I’ll have to continue thinking about it.. I love the idea, but I also can’t stand to think of people hurting themselves because I’m not there to do it with them.

      A perfect example of progressive overload is the Couch to 5k program. Each week it has you running just a little more. You’re progressively adding to what you’re doing until you run a whole 5k. With weight training, it’s as simple as adding a rep, or increasing your load by 5 lbs every couple weeks to ensure you’re pushing your muscles just a bit further. It’s quite easy to get into a rut and not even realize it!

  6. I agree with Chantal – start up a website for virtual training!!

    I laughed at your homemade graph, because right now I am sitting at the very bottom you have LOL. Like falling off a cliff.

    I take a week off of strength training every 3 months. I have found other exercised periodize just by virtue of the time of year (no biking in winter).

    Once I get healed, I am changing up the ST for endurance rather than strength.

    • Another principle of training is that you can reach your previous level of peak fitness with less work than it took you to get there. I bet you’re maintaining a lot more fitness than you think :)

  7. Heya, and Congrats!

    Also, I’m sure you’ve posted it before, but if you could post a refresher on foods to eat to decrease the belly pudge, or foods in particular to avoid, that’d be awesome. ( im a vegetarian, i feel i eat pretty healthy, and i work out, but i cant seem to get rid of it!!)
    thanks, keep up the motivating, lovely posts girl!

  8. Congrats on passing the exam!! (Sorry, a little late)

    I totally agree on the “don’t progress too quickly” rule. It gave me trouble in the past!

  9. Madeline - Greens and Jeans

    Thanks for the information smarty trainer lady! I totally jive on the “fitness growing in bumps” thing!

  10. super interesting info..if i would ever start studying, i bet i would learn about things like this in my perso trainer books too :)


  11. I just bookmarked your wonky mexican hash–sounds and looks even better!

    Great tips on how to have a training program that progresses! I think that is SO important and just to be able to see improvements can be really motivating sometimes.

  12. the best protein IS in real form, thats for sure! i love the idea of the eggwhite pillow with LC in themiddle !i gotta try that! i always microwave soem eggwhites but never throw a LC in there!

    great info on the cycles! thankyou for posting that!

  13. I make my alfredo the same way :)

    Your graph is so cute! Interesting stuff on training cycles- I am not training for anything (though I kind of feel like I should have some sort of goal in mind…) but it makes a lot of sense. I am so pumped that my trainer is back and I can talk more about my plan with him!

  14. I’m impressed by all the delicious food in this post (particularly that adorable little egg white pillow), but I really appreciate that detailed explanation of how to reach your peak fitness level. I’ve been a bit lost lately in the exercise department, and your posts have truly been helping me figure things out a bit more.

    Also, I know I’m a bit late on this, but major congrats on the exam!

  15. Before I became officially veg again, I used to have “accidental” veg days as well! I think it came from all those meat-free years as well :)

    You did a great job at explaining training cycles! We learned all about ’em during my exercise science classes in University! (It was my minor)


  16. I love the training cycles. You explained them so well. That is exactly how I did things when trying to lose the baby weight and it worked so well because I was always challenging myself in new ways. It is important to always have ways open to tweak things and continue reaching goals. If you start off too strong too fast, you will burn out and have nowhere else to go. Great information.

  17. I prefer to eat out of bowls too!

    You are going to be a great trainer! The online idea sounds really neat! I understand your hesitation though.

  18. erintakescontrol

    Thanks for the periodization information – it totally makes sense!!! Egg white fluff…now I’m hungry!!!

  19. Congrats lady!! Didn’t get to read your last post in time so just saw it. You did AWESOME! You must be really proud :)
    Dinner looks…so freaking delicious.

  20. Thanks for sharing that info!! I love hearing new things you learn!

  21. Great post! Your egg white pillow looks yummy!

  22. Love the egg white pillow! Can’t go wrong with waffles. Thanks for the advice on non-training-training…my workouts are typically not planned either so this is great. About rest days…this week I am taking a 4 day rest-period. It’s weird and I’m feeling lazy but I know my body needs it.

  23. dudette. i am digging this information. i think i am going to fully benefit from your new found knowledge! keep it up with the info ;) your photos are looking top notch! loving the artsy window ones!

  24. I’m always trying to better myself when working out. Like you said it’s the only way to get better. Geting a Garmin has really helped with it too.

  1. Pingback: Flashback Friday – One Year as a University Grad « The Great Balancing Act

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