Can a training program really help to achieve your goals? How do you create one and keep yourself on track when going at it alone? Here, CSSM Physiotherapist and Myotherapist Kelsey Thomas shares the basics of goal setting and program creationno matter your level of fitness or chosen sport. 

The creation of a training program for any athlete usually begins by sitting down and establishing a long-term goal and the short-term goals that can be used as stepping stones to the final achievement. While long-term goals are typically the end or half-way result, short-term goals can be monthly, weekly or even session-based targets. 

Goals can be set for everyone – from your elite athlete to your weekend warrior. No matter the level of athlete, goals are designed to keep us on track and have something to aim toward. If you are new to a sport or haven’t trained seriously for it before, it is always helpful to gain an understanding of the requirements of the sport, the rules and what you need to achieve, this helps in setting short-term and realistic goals. For a coach or sports scientist, this could be looking at commonly used patterns, techniques, or cardiovascular requirements in order for the individual to achieve these goals. 

The analysis of the individual then takes place through testing and outcome measures, to determine their current capabilities. These results are also used to create short term goals the SMART way (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based) and form the foundations of the training program.  

Let’s imagine there’s a 100km bike ride you’ve got your heart set on in six months time. How do you go from knowing how to ride a bike as a kid, to achieving 100km over all types of terrain? 

No matter the scenario, here’s 7 elements that should be in every athletes program:

  1. Start with the long-term goal – 100km bike ride in 6-months time.

2. Assess your fitness level to aid in forming your short-term goals.

3. Break the training down into smaller blocks, say 4-weekly or monthly cycles. 

4. Create a gradual increase in training intensity over the first 3-weeks and then decrease in the fourth week. The cycle will repeat over the next block at an overall higher intensity and so on. 

5. Remember to only increase one component of your training at any given stage, as too many changes may lead to overuse injuries: 

Frequency – how often you’re training

Intensity – how hard that training is

Time – how long each session is

Type – what you’re doing for the session or week

6. Along with your sport specific training, add gym-based training to work on the muscles NOT being used in the sport, as well as providing strengthening opportunities for the muscles you DO need to work properly. 

7.  These blocks aren’t set in stone and short-term goals are flexible and can change depending on how your body is responding to the training, or if your sport has multiple focus points. 

CSSM’s number one piece of advice for anyone training alone: 
It is important to progress by challenging yourself safely. Sharp increases in training, while challenging, can lead to overuse injuries and a higher need for prolonged periods of rest. 

Our CSSM practitioners can help to provide further advice on goal setting and developing a program that’s right for you.  

About the author

Kelsey Thomas is a Physiotherapist, Dance Program Coordinator and Myotherapy Team Lead.

While sport is her passion, Kelsey believes that creating solid foundations of strength and rehabilitation are key components in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, whether you work in an office or as an elite athlete. Kelsey employs a hands-on approach when treating muscular pains and joint dysfunction, complementing treatment outcomes with modalities such as cupping, dry needling, trigger point therapy, and taping. “Shoulder joint issues really fascinate me because they can be unpredictable and complex. I really enjoy the process of breaking down why the injury has occurred in the first place and rehabilitating the joint structures.”