Have you been training and training and still not achieving the goals you sought out for? Maybe you are guilty of jumping into every new fad style of fitness that comes out trying to find the magic routine that will finally give you the results you are looking for. As a fitness coach, I have had lots of clients complaining because their workout routine isn’t giving them the results they need leaving them frustrated and ready to quit.
In order for you to get the most out of your workout routine, you need to ask yourself these questions:
Have you established a GOAL?
Does your workout routine have BALANCE?
Are your workouts MOTIVATING?
As simple as it sounds, take the time to really think about what you want out of your fitness regiment. For the majority of us this may be simply to feel healthy, strong and confident in our own skin. For others, you might have your eyes set on running the NYC marathon, hitting that first strict pull-up, competing in a Power Lifting competition, etc. Be open to what you really want to achieve and plan accordingly to make that your priority. It is important to remember that a marathon runner will not have the same programming as someone that is simply looking to be healthier and more confident. So if your goals fall more in line with the healthy, strong, confident mantra you will need to take a much more balanced and sustainable approach to your training and nutrition.
It is important to remember when planning out your training, you take into account your ability level and time availability. A weekly/monthly workout plan will look vastly different for someone just starting their fitness journey to someone that has been training for years. As well, be realistic about your time commitments. Take a look at your weekly schedule and realistically calculate how many hours a week you can dedicate to fitness. This will help you build a schedule that will not only be suitable for the other demands in your life, but also provides you with an attainable goal. There is nothing worse than starting out a new fitness regiment full force to only fizzle out a month later because you found that your expectations set were not realistic.
If you are one of the many people out there whose main goal is to feel good and look good then this is where balance comes into play. Running for an hour a day and not reaching your goals? Going to that Bootcamp every morning and finding yourself hitting a plateau? Burning a hole in your Yoga mat from practicing Yoga for hours every week? One thing all of these have in common is a lack of balance. If your goal is to achieve a running milestone, than yes, you will be spending the majority of your training time running. Just like if your goal is to hit that inversion pose you have been idolizing for so long, than you will be spending the majority of your training doing Yoga. But so many clients come to me with the goal of body composition and feeling healthier and stronger and when I ask them what their current workout plan looks like, it usually involves training within the same modality and at the same intensity level day in and day out.
Our bodies are amazing, and one thing we are really good at is adapting to outside stimuli. That means our bodies are very good at adapting to stress put on the body from working out. What happens when we adapt? That same stimuli that once worked will not create a response in our body. Our body has learned how to handle that stimuli and therefore we stop seeing changes…we plateau. This is where smart programming involving some form of progressive overload and making sure to monitor your intensity levels so that you aren’t always working in that middle heart rate zone comes into play.
What are some of the different training modalities you can utilize?
Strength Training: Ideally 2-4 times per week generally lasting approximately 45min to 1hour. If you are just starting out as a beginner, aim to do 2-3 strength training sessions a week. If you have more experience and enjoy strength training, aim to do 3-4 training sessions a week. One thing to remember about strength training is that you should be working with a programmed set/rep scheme, built in rest between sets and some form of a cyclical based approach where you can progressively overload your body week to week ending with some type of de-loading week to allow for full recovery.
Strength training has been shown to have benefits no matter what your goals may be. Marathon runner? Yoga enthusiast? You can still benefit from properly programmed strength training. Beginner/At Home Training? Don’t worry! Bodyweight strength exercises and/or using resistance bands can have some of the same benefits as weights, especially when you are just starting out and need to focus on technique and range of motion. Not only does strength training help to build lean mass but it also increases fat loss, improves bone density, helps to improve any performance-based goals, and helps to reduce your risk of injury and back/joint pain.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Ideally 1-2 times per week (depending on your goals) generally lasting anywhere from 15-45min. Some people may be surprised by how short a HIIT session can be if done properly. If you are truly working at what is considered high intensity (around 75-85% of MAX Heart Rate) it is extremely hard to continuously stay in that zone for too long. HIIT training involves INTENSE work followed by short periods of rest which is then repeated for time or for a number of sets. Think Tabata training: 20sec of work followed by 10sec of rest for 8 rounds. This is just one type of HIIT style that can be varied by changing the ratio of work:rest or setting a number of sets. Runners, think sprint interval training or hills/stairs. Gym junkies, think some form of circuit training, barbell complezes or some of your Crossfit WODs.
Low Intensity Cardio (LIC): Ideally as often as possible! Low Intensity Cardio involves any type of movement that you enjoy where your heart rate is below 120bpm (below 50% of MAX Heart Rate). This can include, walking, hiking, jogging, slower Yoga, etc. The key point to remember is that it should be relaxing and not stressful to the body. I suggest wearing a heart rate monitor to make sure you don’t accidentally push yourself into the moderate intensity zone which can take more of a toll on your body and could inhibit your progress towards your prioritized goals.
Mobility/Stretching: As often as possible! Probably the most forgotten modality of training, it is easily the most important. If you can’t move properly due to tight muscles and joints, training will be much harder and you will be more susceptible to injury and body aches and pains. You can build all the muscle in the world, but if you aren’t focussing on maintaining your mobility it will be like taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back and could lead to injuries etc.
I will end with what I think is the most important aspect of any successful program. Do you enjoy it? Are you going to fully enjoy every day of your training? Highly doubtful. But if you find yourself dreading what you currently think you “need to do” in order to hit your goals, you should maybe think about why you are feeling this way. Have you lost motivation? You can try to set a smaller more specific goal that can be reached within a few weeks to kickstart your motivation again. Or I have clients that come to me and say they hate being in the gym, but when I look at their previous workout routine they were hitting the gym 4+ times a week. If you don’t enjoy strength training, then don’t do 4x a week of strength training. Studies have shown that even as little as 2 days a week of a well designed strength program can build lean muscle mass and provide you with all of the benefits strength training provides. Don’t like running? Choose a different method of conditioning that you will be less likely to brush off when the time comes to train. Your road to health and fitness should be fun and motivating!
Any questions about what you have just read? Ready to start working towards your goals and looking for a coach and program that is right for you? Feel free to contact EVOLVE by Melissa at any time. http://www.evolvebymelissa.com.
Written by: Melissa Gut; Strength and Conditioning Coach