It’s one of the first questions I get during my assessment sessions and consultations with clients: how often should I exercise? This is trickier to answer than you would think.
I want to start out on a positive and realistic foot with any new client, especially those who have never really exercised with purpose before. I want to avoid overwhelming them with high expectations but at the same time I want to inspire a new kind of mind set when it comes to their health. If you are starting out with a low impact/high efficiency workout, one that fluctuates throughout the week and, over the long run, evolves at a slow and steady rate, then there is nothing stopping you from getting going with a “full time” routine.
No matter what your goals are, be they weight loss, muscle gain, agility, power, general fitness and longevity, all of it takes commitment and hard work. If your job, hobbies, recreational activities do not keep you in shape, then purposeful exercise is the only way you are going to reach these goals. It would be a mistake to avoid facing the scope of the challenge ahead of you; in fact, understanding and accepting the commitment that you are about to embark on is the right first step. If you are training properly, there will be regular physical and mental challenges along the way and each time you overcome one of these challenges you will be better equipped for the next one. The first thing you need to do is figure out your plan of action and move forward, full speed ahead.
There are an endless amount of excuses to not do something you find difficult, I’ve heard them all, I have also used some of them myself! None of us are immune to complacency, and there is always room for small hiccups, but if you create the right mind set from early on, you are building the only tool you need to keep going and the most valuable tool of your life.
Almost everyone I have ever trained hates doing burpees, so much so, that some of my clients beg and plead to do something else, use “future effort” as bargaining chips, or pretend to be too tired or nauseous to perform them. I choose my battles, and depending on the situation I may let them do another exercise (something just as hard) but most times I encourage them to do it. I make sure to draw attention to their behavior, and explain that they are perfectly capable of completing the exercise, that nothing bad is going to happen except that they are going to be tired. These moments are exactly what you need to experience in order to be prepared for the next challenge. Not only will you be more prepared, physically and mentally for the next time you do a tough exercise, you will also be able to handle any other challenge throughout your day with ease, knowing that the worst case scenario will have much less impact than not even trying.
So how often do I have to exercise, already!? Give me a number!
If losing weight or putting on muscle or becoming more adept at a sport was easy, you wouldn’t have to ask the question. Everybody knows the answer.
Beyond the physical aspirations, we all need to add one mental goal: the ability to forget about time commitment. Don’t get me wrong, this absolutely is a commitment, and yes, it does take time, but it’s not time out of your day, it’s time in to your day. You might be preoccupied with your tight hamstrings but it is our restrictive or ‘tight’ outlook on time that is the biggest barrier to succeeding. Playing angry birds or trolling facebook is taking time out of your day. Playing a sport or taking part in activity is adding time. Obviously you aren’t adding hours to the 24 hour cycle we live by, but you are using the time you have with purpose, initiating change to your physical and mental state and most likely, adding time to your life in the long run. With so many positive after affects you are doing yourself an injustice by being overly focused on the time it takes from your day/week. Not to mention, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the exercises themselves. It may take time to get to a place where you can be comfortable enough to enjoy each and every challenge in a routine, but when you get there, time slips away.
Okay, okay, all that said, is there a set amount of time that you should spend working out if you want to see results?
No. Everyone is different and everyone’s goals are different. You need to take into consideration too many other factors to come up with a universal number that works. Is your nutrition on par, or better yet is it helping you thrive? Are you sleeping enough? What are your stress levels like?
The very best advice I can give you is to forget about time and think more about consistency. If you feel you are very limited as to how much you time have outside of necessary activities, like work, and sleep and family, then make some changes so that time is not an issue. This IS a necessary activity. We all need to put money in the bank, but we all need to put time in the bank too. Put the time in your day and do it with purpose and consistency and you will meet your goals.
Train safe, and have fun!