Phases of a Fitness Program

Posted by Ang
Sep 19 2009

The following information has been taken from the American Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety Manual.  This manual is used for the Water Safety Instructor Certification Course offered by the American Red Cross.  For more information on the WSI certification and other courses please visit the American Red Cross site.   

No matter what type of exercise program you are looking at starting, please visit your physician to help decide what type, intensity, and duration of a program would be right for you.

When an individual decides to start a new fitness regiment, there are a 4 concepts or phases to consider:

  1. Initial Phase
  2. Improvement Phase
  3. Maintenance Phase
  4. Reversibility of Training 


To start, the Initial Phase should involve lower intensity exercises.  The idea of this phase is to slowly and comfortably increase the workload for the individual.  Once the person is able to comfortably maintain 60% intensity for 30 minutes, they are then ready to move on to the Improvement Phase.  It is important to remember that the individual must be patient during this phase, it may take up to 10 weeks before the individual is ready to move on.

The Improvement Phase begins where the Initial Phase left of as the individual reaches the minimum level to attain cardiovascular fitness.  The individual must set a goal for the Improvement Phase.  They must know what they want to achieve to allow them to complete this phase.  Fitness for the individual will improve as frequency, intensity, and/or duration increase.  The individual should start this level with the ability to workout at least 3 times a week for 20 minutes at a 60% intensity level.  Improvement will come faster for those individuals who are working out 5 times a week, than those individuals who are only working out 3 times a week.  Improvement comes quicker during the Improvement Phase.

The third phase is used to maintain the fitness level when the individual reaches their goal from the Improvement Phase.  The main goal of the Maintenance Phase is to simply sustain the individuals fitness level.  It allows the individual the freedom to set different goals, like learning a new stroke or a different activity to vary their program.

The last concept to consider is the concept of Reversibility Training.  This is the one concept an individual should avoid if at all possible.  After an individual has achieved their desired fitness level they need to continue their program, for by ceasing their training or workout program, the individual will gradually return to the pre-exercise level.  It is important to remember that it does not make it any easier to return to shape if the individual has already been their once.  That individual will have to work just as hard to return to their desired fitness level as another individual who is working on achieving their desired level for the first time.  The key to remaining physically fit is for the individual to develop fitness habits that will last for a lifetime.

So when you are looking into starting a fitness program remember to consult your physician, be patient, relax, and keep it going once you start.

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