When trying to design your training regimen, sometimes its difficult to know where to begin. How many days per week? How long? What exercises do you do on which days?
This is especially true if you cross-train or practice more than one discipline. Flexibility may be only one of your fitness goals. How do you best balance all of the things you want to learn to optimize your body’s response to your practice?
One tool has made all the difference for me and many other the circus performers, dancers, aerialists, fitness nuts, and competitors: a training journal.
Find a journal that appeals to you, it could be a cute decorative one or a common sense, simple notebook. I have an accounting ledger that I decorated with inspirational drawings and photos on the outside. The lines and columns of the ledger are good for organizing my workouts.
Every two to four weeks create a workout plan for each day of the week. If increasing flexibility is a big goal for you it is important to do the exact same stretch workout at least three times per week. Add in your other activities to create a well-rounded program that includes some cardio and strength training, and whatever skills you want to acquire. Schedule at least one day off for recovery. Make a plan for each day including the specific exercises, number of reps, amount of weight or props needed, etc.
During your training you can make notes next to each exercise. How do they feel? Difficult or easy? Strange pain? New milestone? Write it all down! At the end of the day write a brief summary of how your body feels, emotions, thoughts, and make special note of any injuries or chronic problems and how they responded to your training day. You can even supplement your entries with photos or videos.
This is also a wonderful opportunity to go back to that nursery school tradition of awarding gold stars for a job well done. Get that flat split or stick a handstand? Gold star!
After a few weeks you can go back through your journal and take note of what is improving, and what isn’t. You can notice that every time you train a certain move, your shoulder hurts the next day. Use it as a way to figure out what is working and what isn’t working, then plan the next two to four weeks with a few changes, adding challenges where things are getting easy and modifying where you are feeling stuck or having pain.
The journal will help you tailor your lesson plan to make the most of your training. It also keeps you honest about how often you are actually doing your workouts, and reminds you about your progress when you need some positive reinforcement. It helps you to focus on each small step, taking you closer to your goals.