Regardless of whether you’re exercising to lose weight or an Olympian training for the marathon there is one basic training principle which must be realised:

Improvement = overload + adequate recovery

In simple terms this means training stress needs to be high enough to achieve the appropriate fatigue and the correct amount of recovery enables the body to rebuild stronger than it was before. Only this way will the necessary adaptations occur which lead to improvement.

To provide the correct balance between overload and recovery consider the following recommendations:

  • Alternate each day between hard resistance and cardiovascular sessions
  • Have 1-2 rest days every week
  • Reduce training volume and intensity if you’re ill

As most people won’t train more than five times per week it’s easy to achieve the above recommendations providing they’re working hard enough when required. The challenge for the personal trainer is usually to ensure the client is training frequently enough and at the right intensity for it to be effective.

The exception is when someone has recently joined the gym and is full of enthusiasm: they train hard every day for 1-2 weeks and burn themselves out. By pacing themselves more sensibly progress would be made at a rate which is more achievable and sustainable.


Improvement can only be achieved if there is adequate training stress with a suitable amount of recovery. Without this balance you’ll be maintaining your physical condition, not improving it.