Live life – Love Training – a structured approach to unstructured training by Ricky Mcfarlane

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Live life – Love Training – a structured approach to unstructured training


There’s no better feeling than training with freedom! Enjoying what you’re doing! Some people enjoy the grind and the drive! And I’m the same. But is it the grind of that particular pursuit that’s attractive, or the aspect of chasing a goal, short term or long term? I feel that coaches and athletes nowadays relay to the general population that you must only chase one goal, and that one goal must be your life! Well what about the people that have more than one goal? Do we just ignore them? I don’t think so! What do you say to someone who may want to run a marathon and compete in a powerlifting contest in the same year, or maybe the people that don’t even want to compete in anything but want their weekly training to be made up of various training styles, and activities? If you are one of those people, then this article is aimed at you. This is for the people that want to run, lift heavy, swim, bike and do gymnastics all in one week. What I am going to show you is how to structure, unstructured training and how to develop your abilities, in the exact activities that you want to. This really is a conjugate lifestyle, changing up your training regime to ultimately achieve the same goal.

The split – Goal getters
No I’m not talking about a bodybuilding routine. But I am talking about a similar concept, which is the action of splitting our weekly workouts up in days, which are dedicated to a specific goal. The only difference being is we are going to perform training style splits rather body part splits. The easiest way to do this is the following. Name your goals for a given time period. This could be 1 month, 6 months, or 2 years. It doesn’t matter. What you have to realize is that if you are going to split your week up then gains in certain areas may be slower than if you were to just train for that activity. So, for example you may set yourself a really varied goal of maybe, a double bodyweight squat, a 15lb clean PR, improve you minute mile, add 4kg of lean mass, and break your 2O mile bike record in 8 months time. You may think that this sounds ridiculous and many will say it is impossible. Well I say impossible is nothing! And if you are like me you are not the sort of person to give up on a challenge then let’s get structuring. Firstly what we have to do is divide your week up into blocks and depending on your scheduled program your week may look something like this if you have 5 days per week to train

Monday – Olympic Weightlifting/lower body strength

Tuesday – upper body strength -light bike training 3O-5O% distance

Wednesday – Long run training

Thursday -Recovery day

Friday -Olympic weightlifting/full body hypertrophy –

Saturday -long bike training

Sunday – Recovery day


Once you have your desired schedule, then it’s time to find the best way to improve your chosen goals. Deciding on the right programming on each day comes down to a number of questions. How important is the goal or training style of each day and what precedence does it have in your chosen list of goals? How much is each training session going to take out of you for the next? How hard can you train in each session to provoke a training response without interrupting the training of other sessions throughout the week, and finally, what is going to be the best bank for your buck in terms of programming?
Once you have these questions answered I believe the progress in each element is actually very possible and the enjoyment you get out of a varied training program will allow for a greater and more successful training experience!

The Everyday Guys

This section is for the people that aren’t really looking to compete in any events but want to change their training up every session. This is a particularly fun concept for me as it defines Freedom! Freedom to do whatever you like! When you like! How you like! However, sometimes when people undertake this methodology sessions become random without progress. What I’m going to show you is how to plan your weeks training to get the best out of each training session. What I’m going to do is use an example of someone that wants to involve as much variety as possible per week.
What we are going to do is split training sessions into blocks like the following

Red Block- high impact/ dynamic training (Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, maximal sprinting, parkour)

Blue block – Strength/ resistance training (powerlifting, hypertrophy, gymnastics)

Green block- low impact cardio (swimming, biking, rock climbing, rowing)

Purple block- higher impact cardio (road running, hiking, trail running, various forms of martial arts, including heavy bag training)

Yellow block- (metabolic conditioning, kettlebell training)

So how do we make unstructured training structured? Well.. What we are going to do is pick the given blocks that you are going to use during a given period of time, And from that you pick the days that you are going to use them, so for example your week could look like the following

Monday -Red Block
Tuesday-green block
Wednesday -off
Thursday – blue block
Friday – purple block
Saturday -blue block/yellow block
Sunday -off

What days you put what blocks in is totally up to you and your schedule as this is a truly a flexible routine. If there are certain days where you have only thirty minutes to workout and others where you have ninety minutes, course accordingly.
So now we have your blocks in place (the structured part), we can now look at the unstructured part or the freedom part. This is where the ones amongst you that want to just do what you feel like that day get some sort of freedom to express yourself. If you wake up on a Monday for example and Mondays are a high impact-conditioning day, you have a choice. Do you feel like running the trails today, hitting hill sprints or going to your BJJ class? Then do it! That’s the beauty of it, as long as you stick to your block for that day you are totally free to train how you like.

The impulse trainer


True, Structured Freedom! Are you one of those people that decide what they are going to do when they walk into the gym? Then don’t worry I’ve got you! It’s a lot simpler than you think. If you wake up and decide you want to do a Met-con on a Monday and you still have 3 other blocks to hit that week, it’s totally fine! As long as you hit your given blocks by the end of that week then you have successfully fulfilled your program. If you have achieved your targets for that week, why are you not going to improve? This is true constructive conjugate freedom!
As I’ve said throughout the article even though there is no rigidity to this style of training we must always look to improve otherwise training will become stagnant. Having monthly or yearly goals and weekly targets is a great way of staying on track. Although this routine exercises freedom I still feel that progressive programming is essential so as long as you hit your programmed lifts or runs etc. for that week progression is still possible.

Great ways of programming when doing this style of training is to set weekly targets that are part of a bigger monthly and yearly target. So for example if we look at the strength block of your training, a great way to program for gains is to run a conjugate style progressive program. My preference would be to hit a given rep max week one, say 1O rep max back squat, then hit a variant of this in weeks 2 and 3 and back to the rep max on week 4. Changing up the exercise to make it more difficult during weeks 2 and 3 is something I’ve personally found very effective. If you want to try this and would like to see how to run it over a period of say 4 months to smash your 5 rep max for example here’s a simple way to do so;

2 weeks GPP
Week 1 1O rep max
Week 2 1O rep max w/ 3-5 sec pause
Week 3 10 rep max w/ 1 second pause
Week 4 1O rep max
Week 5 Deload week 1 x 10 @60% 1Orpm
Week 6 8-rep max
Week 7 8-rep max 3-5 second pause
Week 8 8-rep max 1-second pause
Week 9 8-rep max
Week 1O 1 x 8 @ 60%
Week 11 5-rep max
Week 12 5-rep max 3-5 second pause
Week 13 5-rep max 1-second pause
Week 14 5-rep max test week

Another great way of using is method is to use variants of the target exercises so instead of pauses for the squat you could use the front squat, Beatles squat if your aim is with a belt, squat against bands or chains, there are many possibilities. This is a great way of improving strength when sessions are limited and can be used for most lifts upper or lower.

When programming your endurance work over periods of time like this I find progressively overloading the volume and intensity of the training will aid in increase performance. So for example if the goal was to run a faster 5k, then this is how we could program your sessions over a 4-month period if you had 2 running sessions per week.

Week 1 session 1 – 2.5k steady run
Session 2 – interval runs faster than 5k pace 500m x 4 runs
Week 2 session 1 – 2.75k steady run
Session 2 – interval runs faster than 5k pace 500m x 4 /1 x 250m runs
Week 3 session 1 – 3k steady run
Session 2 – interval runs faster than 5k pace 500m x 5 runs
Week 4 session 1 – 2.5k steady run
Session 2 – off
Week 5 session 1 – 3k steady run
Session 2 – interval runs faster than 5k pace 500m x 4 runs
Week 6 session 1 – 3.5k steady run
Session 2 – interval runs faster than 5k pace 500m x 5 runs
Week 7 session 1 – 3.75k steady run
Session 2 – interval runs faster than 5k pace 500m x5/ 1 x 250m runs
Week 8 session 1 – 3k steady run
Session 2 – off
Week 9 session 1 – 3.5k steady run
Session 2 – interval runs faster than 5k pace 500m x 5 runs
Week 10 session 1 – 3.75k steady run
Session 2 – interval runs faster than 5k pace 500m x 6
Week 11 session 1 – 4k steady run
Session 2 – interval runs faster than 5k pace 500m x 6/ 1 x 250m
Week 12 session 1 – 3.5k steady run
Session 2 – off
Week 14 session 1 – 4k steady run
Session 2 – interval runs faster than 5k pace 500m x 8
Week 15 session 1 – 4.5k steady run
Session 2 – interval runs faster than 5k pace 500m x 8
Week 16 session 1 – 2.5k steady run
Session 2
Week 17- 5k test

The beauty of this style of training is if you set yourself a new goal and need to adapt training, then it’s just a matter of changing some blocks around to stimulate a new training response.
This is something I’ve wanted to talk about for a while and although the purists out there will probably not agree with this article I feel that we have one life and if training is going to be a part of it the. Why not enjoy every moment, in other words, live life, love training!

Thank you for reading

Ricky Mcfarlane
By Ricky McFarlane
Mash Elite Performance writer/coach
Sports performance coach/ Trainer at Spartan Strength and Conditioning, England
Sport exercises science student
Twitter: Ricky_mc90

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