Athlete's Checklist for Better Training

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Whether you a new exercise or an elite athlete, it's important to be reminded of basic training concepts and get some advice from time to time. Your training time needs to be well-spent to develop your fitness and specific sports skills. Use these tips to ensure you are making the most of it.

Match Your Abilities With Your Interests 

You have to enjoy your training program or you probably won’t stick with it long enough to see results. Rather than picking a generic program or doing what your friends do, adjust your workout time and intensity so it fits your lifestyle and your current fitness level and allows you push yourself as needed. Most importantly, find a workout routine that meets your personal goals. If you don’t know where to begin, working with a personal trainer is highly recommended. If you're more advanced, using a personal trainer is a great way to fine-tune your fitness plan.


Training is largely about consistency and focus. While a technical training program of heart rates, charts, and graphs works for the most dedicated athletes, it may not be necessary for you. If you are feeling overwhelmed, simplify your training to alternating hard, easy, long, and short workouts and practice skills needed in your sport. Beyond that, try to enjoy your workouts and listen to your body.

Avoid Overtraining

Allowing your body to rest is as important as building strength and endurance. You don’t get stronger by constantly training hard. You’ll build fitness by alternating workouts with recovery. The best way to avoid overtraining is to listen to your body. If your heart rate remains elevated after a night’s rest, if your legs feel heavy, and if your motivation fades, you may need more rest. For those who train year-round, it’s wise to take a week off every three months. This is also the time to change up your routine.


Vary your workouts, pace, and intensity to enjoy a well-rounded fitness routine that is less likely to result in burn-out or plateaus. Alternate training intensity and time from day to day. No matter what your pace or goal, your training program should include a mix of training days. Even the best training programs will gradually lose efficiency if you don’t vary your routine. This may be fine for those who simply want to maintain fitness or keep healthy, but if you want to improve, you need variation. Ideally, workouts should be modified every month. Cross training is another great way to vary your routine and improve your fitness.

Be Flexible

If you have to miss a training day, don’t worry, just continue on your training plan. It’s the consistency or your training, rather than one particular workout, that is important

Set Realistic Goals

It’s important to find a balance between what you want and what you’re able to do when you are setting goals for exercise. You may want to set a personal best in every race you enter, but it’s probably not realistic. Be honest about your current fitness and your potential. You may want to run a marathon next year, but if you don’t have time to train more than an hour three times per week, that goal is not realistic. If you're new to a sport or fitness routine, be conservative in your estimates until you know what you can accomplish, otherwise, you are more prone to injury.

Be Patient

It takes time and consistency to build up fitness and performance, so avoid falling into the mindset that more is always better. You’ll only end up injured or frustrated.

Be Consistent

Even if you're starting with very short workouts, it's important to do them on a regular basis, several days a week. Avoid falling victim to the weekend warrior syndrome of working out long and hard only on weekends and doing nothing for during the week. Injuries are much more common for those who are inconsistent with exercise.

Nutrition Is Critical 

Sports nutrition and hydration go a long way to improve your ability to exercise and train. If you are on a regular exercise routine, it’s a good time to reassess your eating habits and learn nutritious ways of eating.

Use Proper Equipment 

Sports injury prevention begins with the right equipment. No matter what sport or exercise routine you do, you need to make sure your equipment and footwear fit properly. Don't run in worn-out shoes, do kickboxing in an unsupportive sports bra, or ride an ill-fitting bicycle. Pads, helmets, mouth guards are made to help protect athletes and all appropriate sports safety equipment should be worn and fit you well.

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  • Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, et al. Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2011;43(7):1334-1359. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e318213fefb.
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By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.