Did we mention how you need to upgrade your balance and agility? To begin, you'll add five new balance exercises (see "Balance Exercises") to your strength-training sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. In addition, you'll continue your Olympic power lifts (see "Power Routine," below) starting in Week 17 with dumbbells weighing 10 percent more than what you were using at the end of month four, and finish off your workout with some core exercises you've learned in previous months (see "Core Regimen," below). Meanwhile, to address agility, on Mondays and Fridays you'll add three agility drills (see "Agility Exercises") to the plyometric speed workout you began last month. Always complete these two regimens (plyometrics and agility) before you begin your endurance workout.
And as for endurance, these last weeks will be the most difficult yet. But don't be intimidated; it's your final month of heart-rate training, and thanks to the gradual buildup since month one, your body is prepared for the hard work. On Mondays, your Zone-2 distance workouts will take advantage of the last hours of daylight saving time by increasing the duration to 80 minutes for runners and two hours for cyclists and swimmers. On Wednesdays, you'll continue your reserve speed work from last month by punctuating your recovery runs with six sprints (try to reduce the rest intervals between each). Last but not least, on Fridays, you'll finish your interval training with six repetitions.
Finally, to keep you limber and give your body the proper cooldown it needs to recover, complete each endurance workout with the Ashtanga yoga series (see below) unveiled in month three, and increase the Sun Salutation count to eight or ten.
POWER ROUTINE Three sets of six reps: · Rotational clean-pulls · Clean and jerks (combine clean-pulls and squat presses from last month into one exercise)
CORE REGIMEN Two sets of 25: · Swiss-ball crunches · Oblique Swiss-ball crunches · Swiss-ball push-ups Two sets of 10-12 reps: · Medicine-ball chops
YOGA SERIES · Sun Salutation · Warrior I · Triangle pose · Back stretch · Boat pose · Tree pose · Hamstring stretch
LEARN THE BUDDY SYSTEM "Everyone mentions the importance of getting a training partner, but what that leaves out is the importance of choosing the right kind of people. You need to train with people who want you to do your best and are really vocal about it. The guys I work out with are funny, make me laugh, and constantly confirm my performance. I love it when they encourage me, saying things like 'Man, you are cycling out of your head.' If your goal is to get stronger, train with someone who is a little better than you are."—Eric Harr, professional triathlete, author of The Portable Personal Trainer
SHIFT GEARS "You need to have a plan that will change phases to emphasize the three different energy systems of the body along the way—the anaerobic system, the aerobic system, and the phosphagen system (in other words, power). If you just go out and train, say, slow-and-steady aerobically, week after week, when you come to the final kick at the end of a race or event, you won't have experience making best use of your fuel source to sustain the push. You can't ignore parts of your training."—Chuck Wolf, manager of Sports Science and Human Performance at the USA Triathlon National Training Center
FITNESS IS EVERWHERE "The best piece of equipment any athlete can have is awareness—and you can't just drop it into your workout. Your workout is everywhere. How you sit in the office, you stand, you eat, you talk—it will all affect how you work out. Ask yourself: How is your breathing right now? How is your posture right now? This is how you build awareness. Anytime the mind starts chattering away in daily life, that's the same mind that's going to start chattering away when you need it during a workout or on the ice-climbing route or during an attack on a bicycle."—Steve Ilg, personal trainer, author of The Outdoor Athlete
DON'T SWEAT THE DETAILS "A lot of people want to know how far, how long, how many. They want to know exactly what's right; they want to measure it. But what's right can be a lot of things. People get stifled by thinking they have to do the same thing three times a week. Try not to make workouts too technical. You'll feel more empowered when you can come up with the details yourself."—Jenn Varno, California-based trainer, founder of Go Wild! Fitness
The Shape of Your Life is not perfect. We'd like to think otherwise, but now's the time to admit that no single strategy can work perfectly for every person, every time. Nor should it. To keep this program fresh, you need to make it your own, and some days you need to break the rules—within reason. Below, you'll find the 25 most important training fundamentals that we uncovered during the formation of the SYL program. Adopt them as general guidelines, and then apply them to create your own smart, rut-busting workouts.
GETTING STARTED 1) Create a goal that's not a number (160 pounds) or a look (rock-solid abs), but a state of mind or an achievement. 2) Periodize. Work in preset phases of intensity and always go easier before going hardest. 3) Schedule recovery time or schedule burnout. Strength grows during recovery. 4) Break workouts up when you need to. Studies show that ten minutes, three times a day, equals 30 minutes at once. 5) Practice complete workouts. Warm up first, and cool down and stretch when you're finished.
ENDURANCE 6) Go easy (little more than half of your ability or 60 percent of your maximum heart rate). Building endurance requires the patience to go slow. 7) To boost endurance, use intervals (short bursts over 75 percent of your maximum heart rate). 8) Manage your interval training wisely. First increase the number of intervals per workout (up to six), then their length (up to ten minutes). Then shorten the rests in between. 9) Build slowly. When increasing the duration or distance of your workout, don't leap more than 10 percent from one week to the next. 10) Put in the miles. If you plan on racing, you need to be running, swimming, or cycling 75 percent as much as you will on race day one month beforehand.
STRENGTH 11) Train movements—front-to-back (lunges), vertical (squats), and rotational (medicine-ball chops)—not body parts. 12) Practice form first. Three lifts done with good form are more productive than 30 done sloppily. 13) If you're new to a lift—or to lifting altogether—one set of 10 to 12 reps is fine to start. 14) Use your body weight for resistance when starting out. Push-ups, pull-ups, and dips are all you need to get going. 15) When you're ready for free weights, use dumbbells. They're safer and more challenging than barbells. 16) Let weight down slowly. Lowering is just as important as lifting. 17) Whenever possible, perform lifts on your feet or on a Swiss ball. 18) Remember these numbers: 10 and 20. For muscle strength, lift enough weight to wipe you out after 10 reps. For muscle endurance, perform up to 20.
FINE-TUNING 19) Treat stretching—and specifically yoga—as a workout itself, not a wrap-up. 20) Learn the the Sun Salutation. Try to finish every workout with five repetitions. 21) Work slow, be slow: Do power lifts, plyometrics, and agility drills to supplement your slower-speed core strength and endurance work. 22) Perform Olympic lifts, plyometrics, and agility drills when you're fresh—not when you're dog-tired after an endurance workout. 23) Work out in the morning. Excuses to skip a workout will be less likely to pop up, and you'll invariably end up feeling great all day. 24) Find a buddy. Having someone to work out with will keep you on track. 25) Whenever possible, take it outdoors.
Once you're equipped with the following eight essentials—all integral pieces of the five Shape of Your Life installments—you'll have everything you need to take care of endurance, strength, flexibility, power, and balance in the privacy of your own home gym. If you can't find some of these gadgets at your local sporting-goods store, go online to Perform Better (www.performbetter.com) or Power Systems (www.power-systems.com).
CARIOCA (above) Four sets, each direction. 1. Move left by crossing your right leg in front of your left leg and stepping sideways as far as you can. 2. Uncross your legs. 3. Cross your right leg in back of your left leg. Repeat, moving as quickly and fluidly as possible for 30 yards (one set).
SHUFFLE SIDE STEPS (not shown) Four sets. Set two cones (or shoes, books-whatever) on a flat surface 30 feet apart. Starting in a crouched stance, with your left leg beside one marker, extend your right foot sideways while driving off your left. Continue shuffling to the next cone. Move as quickly as you can, back and forth between the two markers, for 30 seconds (one set).
REACTION-BALL DRILLS (see sidebar) Two sets. Drop a reaction ball (see "The Body Shop") from waist height to the floor and try to catch off the first bounce. Ten catches equals one set.