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Can you improve your fitness in a week? [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Dec 6, 2017 10:00:00 AM


Can fitness improve in a week?

Yes, you can improve your fitness in a week. The lower your level of fitness the more likely it will become to make significant improvements in the first week. You will be more likely to have breakthroughs on cardio than on strength within this timeframe. 

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Why do you want to improve?

This is the first question I like to ask my clients as this helps to reflect and adjust your goals and plans. If you want to achieve something it gets a lot more likely to happen if it is written down. The first exercise for you is therefore not a physical but a mental one. Answer these two questions on paper to make success more likely. Come back once done.
  • What happens when you improve your fitness? 
  • What happens when you do not improve your fitness? 
Once you have written the answers reflect on them by asking yourself "why" five times to get to the root of what motivates you. A little example 
What happens when you improve your fitness?
I will make the team
Why do you an to make the team? 
So that I get a scholarship and go to college
Why do you want to go to college?
Because I come from a deprived area and want my family to do better.
Why do you want your family to do better?
Because I see my parents struggle to provide for me 
Why do your parents struggle?
Because they never went to college themselves and could not unlock better job opportunities
Why did they not go to college?
Because they immigrated from another country
Writing down why you want to improve your fitness and understanding your motivation better will driving achievement. 
This five-tiered process was taken very serious by Toyota to built some of the most reliable cars ever invented. It will help you to find many points and think multi-layered about improving your fitness. Toyoda Sakichi is commonly referred to as the inventor of this method.
The written record can be shared with your coach and reflected upon. 

What do you want to improve?

After this reflection, your goals will fall into one of these three broad fields
  • Looks 
  • Performance 
  • Health 
It is important to know that you will have a hard time improving in all of these three areas at the same time.
Looks usually come at the expense of performance and health when taken to the extreme. Same goes vice versa. If you optimize for health you might not get the best looks or performance possible.
Therefore the next step is to prioritize these three training philosophies in order of importance to you. This will help you at a later stage to pick the approach which will improve your fitness in a week.

How do you want to improve?

The next choices to make are the fields of interest you have in fitness and how much time you want to invest in your fitness.
The major fields of fitness improve one of these three things 
  • Strength 
  • Endurance
  • Mobility
Just as you made a choice before for looks, performance and health you also rank these three in importance to you which will help to pick your program. 
Again you will not be able to improve everything at the same time. You have to decide how to allocate your time between these goals.

What is your current fitness level

This will be the most determining factor of whether your fitness can improve in a week. The lower your fitness level to start with the more likely you are to improve it in a week. 
The worse your habits the easier they are to improve by scaling them back or quit altogether. 
The less exercise you do the more impact it will have to start doing something.
Fitness levels can be determined via exrx for strength and via the Cooper test for endurance.
It is usually a good idea to find a standard which is relevant to you and I compare you to see whether you are improving or not. 

Relative vs absolute fitness

The easiest way to explain the beginner effect is by numbers. You can use numbers to visualize the difference between relative and absolute improvements. 
When you want to improve in a week and actually notice it, you want a high relative improvement. The more advanced you are in your fitness journey the more it will be about absolute improvements.
If your fitness level is 1 on a scale of one to ten and you move it to two you have improved your fitness by 100%. That is usually noticeable. 
This is the difference between being able to get out of the chair or not.
This is the difference between being able to do a back squat or not.
This is the difference between jogging or walking 3km. 
On the other end of the scale if you move from a nine to a ten on the same scale the absolute improvement has stayed the same, +1. The relative improvement has dropped to 11%. 
In the real world, this improvement is almost not noticeable to the layman or outsider. Whether you run 10k in 45 minutes or in 40 minutes is not as noticeable a difference as to whether you walk or run it.
For the professional or athlete, the absolute gain on their personal best or winning against others by being a heartbeat ahead is what it is all about. 
In addition, based on the rule of diminishing returns it becomes harder and hander get fitter. This is easily explained by a jenga game. Even though you are doing the same thing over and over again it becomes harder each time you do it. 
These are models to help you understand how likely it is that you will improve in a week. 

Bones vs muscle

It is usually easier to drive growth in your muscles than in your bones and ligaments. For that matter cardiovascular improvements are usually achieved quicker than strength gains. 
Strength gains need all muscles of the body to adapt depending on the exercise you pick. Gains for endurance highly depend on the amount of blood your heart is able to pump and how much oxygen the blood carries
In essence, at least at the beginning, losing weight and training your heart will make you progress quicker on running goals, especially when you are overweight. 
The quick win in strength are adaptations of the neurological system of the body. The speed at which your nervous system makes the fibers twitch usually has the biggest impact on beginning lifters. This is a system which learns very quickly.
Once the nervous system reaches its limit you have to move on to growing your muscles or working on your leaks. Leaks are places of your body which are weaker than the rest. For most people, this is abs, lower back, and their grip

The least promising approach

If you want to make sure you do not improve your fitness the best approach is to pick something that you are already really good at. Then only do minimal work on a million different things within that week and wonder why you did not improve.

The most promising approach 

Start with something you really suck at. A good example would be burpees. Then do a ton of them during the week. You will see that you are able to do more burpees within the same time by the end of the week. You have Improved your fitness. 


You can improve your fitness when you know what fitness means to you. A clearly defined goal will mark the path to the top of the mountain. If you want to Improve your fitness significantly within a week you have the best chances if you are a wreck to start with.

Further reading 



Topics: Lift stronger, Run Faster, Fitness