Sometimes I scroll through Instagram or Facebook and, I swear, steam starts streaming out my ears. It’s always especially bad in January because it’s the month of fitness/gym resolutions, and the guides and gurus start in full-force. My problem with this is that most of them are offering your standard, Women’s-SELF-Shape-Fitness-Hate-Yourself-to-Love-Yourself Magazine advice. Sometimes it’s merely over-simplified or wrong, sometimes it’s counter-productive, and sometimes it’s actively harmful.
Your standard advice tends to be some version of “eat less and exercise more,” but the “eat less” turns into WAY TOO FEW calories, and the “exercise more” turns into “as much time as you can spend at the gym as many days a week as you can get there.”
Here’s the thing…
There IS such thing as too few calories, and there IS such thing as too much exercise.
We can get into how and why exercising too much is bad and “calories in, calories out” is over-simplified and overdone, but for now:
What the heck are you supposed to do instead?
That’s where I want to offer some help. What I want you to know is that it can be a lot less time consuming, painful, and complicated. Unless you’re an athlete training for an event or have a specific health problem, this is a format that you can use and get positive, long-lasting results.
HOW TO BUILD AN EFFECTIVE FITNESS ROUTINE
focus on adding movement into your everyday life. Try to walk as much as possible – park in the back, take the stairs, go for a walk on your lunch break, that sort of thing. This adds to the energy used throughout the day, gives you movement momentum, and produces positive hormonal responses and genetic expression that contribute to health.
add in a couple of low intensity, moderate duration workouts. I’m talking about something as simple as going for a 30 to 60 minute walk at a brisk pace or hopping on a bike while you watch your favorite show. Anything that gets you moving for more than 30 minutes counts!
Pace yourself such that your heart rate is elevated, but you’re still able to carry on a conversation without gasping for breath. In the gym-goer, magazine quoting, fitspo world, this wouldn’t even count as a workout – that’s how easy it should be.
OK, you’re doing well.
add in 2 workouts a week that are higher intensity. The simplest form of this would be something like:
do as many pushups as you can without stopping
rest for a minute
do as many squats as you can without stopping
rest for a minute
hold a plank as long as you can
repeat 4 to 6 times
Don’t exceed 20 minutes.
If you’re at a little higher level or want an extra challenge, think CrossFit style workouts. Short & intense. Just don’t overdo it or you’ll counteract the benefits. Twice a week is enough for most people.
This is awesome! You’re already treating your body really well by exercising this way. There’s just one more piece you can throw in here to help stimulate “fat burning” and optimize your health and fitness…
No more than once a week. It doesn’t have to be track style sprinting either. For some people doing brisk, uphill walks is enough; it just depends on where you are and how familiar you are with sprinting.
Basically, pick an activity that you can do at an “all out” effort without hurting yourself – uphill walking, running, biking, rowing, elliptical, kettlebell swings, jump squats… so many options.
Warm up thoroughly
Do your selected activity “all out” for 10 to 30 seconds
Rest until your breathing returns to normal
Do that as many times as you want, but stop when your sprints start deteriorating (if you did 20 squats the first time and now you can only crank out 12, you’ve gone too many rounds) and don’t exceed 30 minutes total (including rest time)
And that is it. This is the base that I use to build off of for myself and my clients. Here’s the bullet version:
- Move slowly as much as possible
- Do 2 moderate to high intensity, 20-30 min. workouts per week – this is where you want to include strengthening exercises
- When you feel confident, add 1 sprint workout per week
Within this basic framework, there’s a lot you can play with – different methods you can try and ways you can build each individual exercise session. It should be fun and as flexible or rigid as you want.
What I want to get across here is that it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Getting to the gym every day doesn’t have to be a chore because you DON’T HAVE TO DO IT. Figuring out which day should be lower body and which should be upper and exactly when in your workout you should do your cardio and what you heart rate should be and should you do weights before or after plyometrics…
Move a lot. Lift heavy things sometimes. Get your heart rate up a few times a week. Don’t overdo it.
You’re body and your stress level will thank you.
And if you want to get into the details or have someone else take care of the “what should I do today?” for you to help you improve your health or reach a specific goal, I’d love to help.