This spring has been big. Primary election season is in full swing, Beyonce dropped “Lemonade,” allergies are on a level beyond “fleek,” and through all of that everyone is trying to get in shape for summer.
We all wish we could be more consistent in our workouts. Here are two questions I get a lot this time of year: how do I plan my workouts for maximum effect and when should I take rest days?
Building a plan
We’re going to start with this one because most people have no idea what their fitness or wellness plan is. Exhibit A: “I’m going to go cycling every day.” That isn’t a plan. Technically it is, but it’s for sure not an overall good one. The first step is determining your primary goal and moving from there.
If your primary goal is to lose fat or raise your cardio endurance, then yes, cycling or some other cardio source can be a major piece of your weekly workouts, but not every day. When building a workout plan think about balance among your workouts and workout types. If you’re doing something cardio based three to four times a week, then your other days should be strength and flexibility based.
With the boom of boutique fitness, the biggest issue I see with people plateauing or not seeing the results they want is that they do a lot of the same types of exercise over and over. The premise of the boutique studio is that you can a la carte fitness at different places on different days and get different experiences.
Yes, you’re good at it because you do it a lot, but you should also do things you suck at and probably don’t what to do in order to get the best results. Lack of variety in any fitness plan breeds plateaus and injury. Whatever your primary goal is, you should do activities that support that goal three times a week. Supplement those workouts with other workouts that you “need to do” for the other two times per week.
Using our previous example, if my major goal is to burn fat, I would plan three cardio workout days per week and two strength days. The other two days I would use as active recovery days where I would keep the level of intensity fairly low, but work with my foam roller, take a yoga class to increase flexibility or just go for a long walk to work my body in a different way. For most to see the results they really want, I recommend a five-day workout plan per week.
Rest day what?
When it comes to rest days, there are two types of people. One group who thinks this word is evil and others who are using this word a little too much. Rest days are necessary for the body to recover from workouts, but rest doesn’t always mean stop. Again we go back to the word balance.
Think about your workout days as days meant to shake things up and shock your system, while your rest days are filled with activities to re-center your body. If your body is really sore from working out, you may notice that the body actually recovers better when some low-level activity is involved than when you stay still. My rest days are almost always yoga-influenced since my primary workouts are usually strength-based.
Rest days are also good times to use low-intensity training. Despite what every trainer is saying, you don’t have to have high-intensity training all the time. If you do, your body will eventually break down, especially at your joints and tendons. For my athletes or seasoned workout buffs who are really taking themselves to the limit, remember that recovery tools like ice baths and massage are also great tools to use on your rest days.
The most important two things to include are lots of sleep and proper nutrition. Most of us don’t get enough sleep anyway, so on those rest days, do your body a favor and crawl into bed a little earlier. Much of the body’s healing occurs while we’re sleeping, so the more sleeping you do, the more healing you get. The foods you eat on your recovery days directly affect your recovery time. Pump lots of water, veggies and lean proteins into your body while limiting the booze.
When it comes to being successful with your fitness goals, building a plan and having purposeful rest days are important components to achieving those goals. All fitness plans should be diverse in workout types while rest options should be based on the level of the athlete. If you aren’t sure what to do, ask a pro for help to be the most efficient and effective workout super star this spring. Make time for your body. You deserve it.