Thursday, March 22, 2018
I am frequently asked questions like “How much cardio should I be doing, should I do more cardio!?”, “How many days do I need to lift!?”, or “I should really be doing yoga, shouldn’t I?” So many people are very confused as to what good program design looks like. If you consider all of the training options that exist, it’s easy to see why people get so overwhelmed by the idea of programming. And with the almost cult like following of different training modalities; yoga, powerlifting, crossfit, Zumba, it’s even easier to understand. Program design doesn’t only refer to the exact exercises, reps, and sets in your program, but also includes what type (training modality) of exercise you are doing throughout the week. Here are a few things to consider when you are trying to figure out just what your “workout week” should look like.
CONSIDER YOUR GOALS. Wait, what? YES, I said GOALS. Do you have goals? Are you concentrating on weight loss or wanting to get into an activity or sport? Maybe you are looking for a change in quality of life; better movement, less struggle doing daily activities or chores around the home, or maybe you are continuing rehabilitation after an injury or illness. A person who is interested in losing weight is going to incorporate a little more cardio in their program during the week, while someone who is interested in building strength will incorporate more strength training sessions. People going through injury rehab are generally continuing a series of stability, mobility, and strength exercises while those recovering from illness will want to work on building cardiovascular capacity and endurance and then building strength. These different goals will determine what the bulk of time will be spent on during a workout week.
Think BALANCED. Even considering the goals I mentioned, it's still important to incorporate a little of everything in your program. Too much strength training can create immobility if proper stretching isn't executed. And while we want our bodies to look and feel good, our hearts need to be healthy as well. It's important to be doing some dynamic movements in our strength programs, or activities like walking, biking, swimming, or machine based cardio, to give the heart the right amount of exercise to be strong. All the yoga in the world isn't going to build stability and equal strength throughout the body. I've trained several "yogis", including highly certified instructors, who admit that their bodies are lacking in some major components of strength and realize the need for some form of strength training in their lives. I like to say, "More is not always more" and "Variety truly is the spice of life, even in exercise."
NOW HERE IS THE FUN PART....Do what you LIKE, maybe even find something you LOVE! Part of staying with a healthy lifestyle means finding ways to enjoy the exercise lifestyle you lead. If exercise is miserable or something you have to constantly force yourself to do, it will be really hard to do it for a long time. You should approach it as creating a lifestyle that lasts a lifetime. So, if you have been interested in taking a Zumba class, GO FOR IT! Shake it and have fun! If you have been wanting to get into triathlons, start asking around and find the instructors and trainers who participate and they will willingly grab you and drag you along for a ride, swim, or run. These people love to share their passion for their sport. Have you tried pickleball!? It's not just for the "older" snowbirds, nor is it for the faint of heart. These "ballers" are fit and are getting a great workout! The point is, find things you enjoy to get your body moving and make that a part of what you do regularly. Pretty soon, you'll look forward to your "workout" each and every day. The Y offers classes of every modality, so it really shouldn't be hard to find a few things you like, just get out their and try them out!
Think about LONGEVITY. We all have seasons in our lives where we are capable of different things. Our bodies are no different. Exercising two hours a day, most days of the week may be something we can do in our 20's, but isn't likely something we can do through our 30's and beyond. Or at least, we can't without future consequences. It's important to remember that this lifestyle should be designed with longevity in mind. Is it something our bodies can do for a long time? Is there repetitive movement that will eventually cause issues with joints? Will you be OK transitioning to something else when that activity runs it's course on your body? The bulk of what you do should be things that you can do for a long time. Of course, things will change as our bodies and zest for certain activities change, but the idea would be to not be forced to stop something we like because it negatively impacts our bodies.
Make time for REST. Even with the most serious of goals, rest is a key component. Our bodies need the time to rejuvenate, restore, and rebuild. Mentally, it's good to have a break as well. Rest can be a day of very light activity, like a walk with the family or a friend. It can be a day that you do absolutely nothing but your every day activities like house or yard work and playing. If you have a serious exercise lifestyle, rest will be even more important than the average person. Make sure that you are getting those days off each week. If your workout week consists of light activity, it's okay to get some type of activity most days of the week. It's good for our hearts and joints to keep moving. Mostly, just listen to your body. It will tell you if a rest day is in order. And when it's yelling at you "GIVE ME A BREAK", even on a workout day, just give it a break. Your other workouts will be that much more productive later.
So, here's what some typical workout weeks may look like:
For those who are concentrating on strength, a minimum of 4 strength days per week is ideal; two upper body days and two lower body days are an easy way to keep it organized and effective. One to two days of cardio based training to help muscles recover while getting some heart healthy activity in; moderate biking, swimming, or rowing are great for these days. One to two days of rest rounds out your workout week. Restorative Yoga or Balance and Flex Together would be great for a rest day.
If you are concentrating on weight loss, you will still want to get a minimum of two-three days of strength training in. Muscle burns more calories at rest, so meeting weight loss goals depends on building muscle. Quality compound exercises and supersets will ensure that your strength training workouts are also cardio based and burning fat. Two to three days of more intense activities like cycling, swimming, and group classes, at a moderate to vigorous effort are great ways to spend these days. Rest days may include things like walks with family and/or friends.
If you are rehabbing after injury or illness, your time will be spent on continuing the mobility and stability exercises you may have been given by a doctor or physical therapist. Make sure that you have been cleared for additional exercise beyond and start slow and steady with cardio based activity like recumbent bikes, rowing machines, or the Nustep (depending on abilities). Once you have built up cardiovascular stamina and basic mobility and strength in the major joints through those activities, you can begin a basic strength training protocol that looks similar to the protocol above for those building strength.
The Y offers a lot of classes, wellness staff, an Personal Training staff that can assist you in your goals and smart programming. If you have any questions, stop at any front desk to get connected and get programming your workouts for success!
Kim Elsing Greater Green Bay YMCA
Certified Personal Trainer & Wellness Coach