Knowing that I wasn’t very active on the blog in January, I’ve been trying to pick up the pace with posting, especially since my creative juices have accelerated drastically! Nothing feels better than letting your ideas run loose on a concrete platform.
Anyways, though the New Year’s resolutions wave ended way back when, there are fortunately some people who have stuck to their goals, as well as others who are just starting to try and make healthier choices for their bodies. One way involves going to the gym more often or just keeping more active in general. This is great and all, but like anything else, how should you incorporate exercise into your everyday schedule, especially if you have a plethora of other commitments on a weekly basis? The short and sweet response: you just make it work. Obviously, other complications arise.
Though I will talk about the little complications when it comes to your fitness routine, it’s important to establish the general guidelines of creating a regimen that is not only enjoyable, but also effective and flexible for your goals and personal life. I say enjoyable and flexible because, in reality, nobody lives in the gym unless if their living relies on exercise. So without further ado, let’s just get into the broad nitty-gritties of creating a workout schedule!
- Establish your goals. Do you want to lose weight? Gain weight? Improve strength, flexibility, endurance, or general performance? All of these ambitions require some form of physical activity. Depending on how much weight you want to lose or gain, or how quickly you want to suffice your goals, frequency and intensity of your workout schedule will vary. This will also depend on how much time your general schedule will permit you to exercise.
- Highlight the areas you want to work on the most. Everybody has trouble areas and everybody has areas of pride. Moreover, everybody has areas that they prefer to exercise or would like to improve on more than others. 2016-present has been the year of growth and development, so growing in size and redefining muscles have reigned supreme in the fitness world. Find your body parts that you want to emphasize the most, and you will find the corresponding moves to help enhance them.
- Research the types of exercise that will help you accomplish your goals. Though each type of workout can help each other out hand-in-hand, certain workouts are made to boost certain types of physical consequences better than others. For example, yoga isn’t a go-to for those who want to increase muscle mass and strength, whereas weight training wasn’t made for improving relaxation techniques and flexibility. The two can be blended together in one routine, but they stand for different purposes. However, you may find that more than one exercise will enable you to achieve your goals in a more efficient manner. One of the most common instances would be fat shrinkage–which in this case, would involve combining cardio and weight lifting since one helps with using fat stores as a direct source of energy and the other tears the muscles, which increases the metabolism by causing the body to burn more calories at rest during recovery.
- Time your workouts accordingly. If you study or work for a long period of time during the day and have a limited amount of free time during the week, then it’s best to lower the frequency and increase the intensity of your workouts. If you have more free time, you can spread out targeted body parts more widely throughout the week rather than completing only two or three total body workouts. On another note, your training sessions never have to be insanely long. You can still obtain wonderful effects from a twenty to thirty minute session in the gym if you’re doing HIIT, plyo work, and intensive strength training rather than an hour or more of steady-state cardio or low-intensity work.
- Diet smartly. Fuel your body properly. Most newcomers who want to lose weight often undereat and therefore experience a dip in energy and performance. Maintain a modest caloric deficit for the most sustainable lifestyle, not a deficit so drastic to the point where walking up the stairs is a workout in itself. Alternatively, others have this misconception that exercise can cancel out any junk food they consume. But, whether dirty bulking or cutting, you can rarely ever, if not never, out-train a bad diet. Make sure to focus on nourishing foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, grains, starches, and lots of hydrating beverages. The micronutrients allow for recovery efficiency and will just make you feel better overall. But yes, you can indeed treat yourself every now and then!
- Don’t forget to recover properly. Too many neglect to stretch before and after working out, which I am totally guilty of myself due to impatience and my personal schedule. But, don’t ignore that foam roller! Saving at least five to ten minutes post-workout for static stretching, foam rolling, or even just some extremely low-intensity cardio can highly benefit muscle synthesis, strength restoration, and energy recovery. What I like to do is use walking as a warm-up and a cool-down. Whenever I go to my college’s gym, I walk there for around twenty minutes instead of using a bike, which I find too stimulating. After my session, I walk back to my apartment for another twenty minutes. Boom, warm-up and cool-down incorporated.
- More importantly, listen to your body and do what you love. Would you stick with something that doesn’t personally fulfill you forever? Would you push yourself farther and farther until you become injured and are separated from exercise for months or even years to come? Sadly, too many people do this and suffer dire consequences. Be wary of over-training, but also challenge yourself if you’re stuck in a rut. Additionally, refrain from exercising one way that doesn’t bring joy just because everyone else is doing it, or it seems to be the most effective. The most effective workout will be what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning or enter the gym feeling pumped and ready to go. Whether it’s shooting a few hoops, swimming some laps, power-lifting, biking, running, Zumba, or yoga, mainly focus on your personal favorite types of workouts. Your body will eventually mold itself into the healthiest form when you take care of it inside and out.
Those who really devote a lot of time into health and fitness like to go on a cut, otherwise a fat-shedding and muscle-retention period, at the beginning or middle of the spring to look shredded for the summer where clothing is tighter and smaller, and then transition into a bulk around the fall and winter when everyone dresses warm and the holidays come around. This cycle generally repeats every year or every other year. Cutting periods usually involve more steady-state cardio because strength decrease is frequent, whereas bulks often center around heavy weight lifting and minimal cardio in order to maximize training from the extra food, fat, and glycogen stores.
- Do not train the same body part twice in a row. More specifically, don’t attempt the same type session consecutively. Once a body part has been intensively trained, it needs at least 24-48 hours of recovery time, especially if it was worked in a heavy weight training session where muscles were fractured. Say you work the chest and shoulders one day, so work legs the next day, and then so forth. Keeping your routine varied adds more excitement to your schedule, anyways. You want to have fun after all!
- Take at least 1-2 full days off of exercise. Believe it or not, training excessively can do more harm than good. Excessive physical exertion can lead to immunity weakness, fatigue, injury, an increase in stress hormones, decrease in estrogen, lack of time for your body to recover, and even life-threatening diseases such as cardiovascular disease due to heart muscle overdrive. At least 1-2 rest days, which can be moderately active, will benefit so much with recovery and rebalancing the physical stress from your exercise routine. The more prolonged and intensive your workout sessions, the more rest days you will need. Examples of physical activity you can try on a rest day include walking, slow jogging, or going on a light bike ride or swim.
- Try something new. Those who have been completing the same kind of workout sessions for an extensive amount of time will run into a decline in progression. One simple solution is to try a new form of exercise to surprise the body. If you usually do cardio, try strength training, HIIT, yoga, Zumba, kickboxing, or any other exercise that challenges your muscles. Alternatively, strength trainers can attempt recreational sports. Just like with food, never restrict yourself to one kind of movement. You’ll be surprised to see what your body can do, and you just may become hooked on another form of physical activity!
- SLEEP. For at least seven or eight hours, ideally, in order to completely and properly recover from each session and replenish enough energy to smash in your next workout. Too many underestimate the power of getting in enough sleep, which provides a host of health benefits, including proper neurological function, hormonal balance, and physical and mental rehabilitation. But let’s say you had a really long day, whether at work or in social gatherings, and you still want to complete a workout late at night. Does sleep triumph over exercise? In general, I would choose quality sleep over exercising while you’re tired, but if you still have enough energy to get in a short but effective workout that will benefit the way you will sleep that night, go for it and just sleep in a little bit extra the next morning if you can.
EXAMPLE OF A TYPICAL WORKOUT SCHEDULE
- 30 minutes: chest and shoulders
- 30 minutes: cardio
- 45 minutes: HIIT targeting glutes and hamstrings
- 15-20 minutes: core work
- 30 minutes: lats, biceps, and triceps
- 30 minutes: cardio
- Active rest day
- 60 minute: beginner’s yoga class
- 45 minutes: squats, deadlifts, bridges, bulgarian squats, and lunges
- 15-20 minutes: glute work on the mat
- 30 minutes: lats, shoulders, and biceps
- 30 minutes: cardio
- 45-60 minutes: HIIT targeting cardio and core
- 15-20 minutes: Pilates cooldown
How would you create a workout schedule?