Are you considering which exercise routine fits perfectly into your crazy busy schedule? If so, read on to learn the surprising truth. There is not a one size fits all exercise routine, if there was everyone would be fit and healthy. The perfect exercise routine is one that is individualized for you.
When designing your own routine, there are two vital questions you need to ask yourself:
- “What type of exercise?”
- “How am I going to do that exercise?”
Start with what you enjoy. Discovering and using that one workout that keeps you coming back will ensure that you get what you and your body needs. This could be anything such as swimming, dancing, playing a sport, weight lifting, or something else that you enjoy.
You want to choose your favorite; this is not necessarily going to be your friend’s favorite, but if it is you will have someone to partner up with.
While creating that perfect, one of a kind routine that fits into your crazy busy lifestyle use the following three factors: type, how and when, and frequency.
Types of Exercise
Cardiovascular (cardio) exercises are the exercises that get your heart rate up and improve endurance. Cardio must be included in your routine for successful weight loss as it will burn the most calories at one time. This is the exercise that makes you feel the most excited about your routine (your favorite). You want to be between a 6 & 10 on the RPE scale and aim for 6 days of cardio a week.
Strength training (ST) is the part of your routine where you will create tone and definition in your body. Strength training will not cause you to bulk up unless that is your goal. Creating more tone with strength training will make your cardio easier, and make you feel stronger. ST needs to be included 3 days a week. Yes, you will have to schedule strength and cardio on the same day.
Flexibility Training is very important to include in your routine, as well. Flexibility training can be a session of small stretches after your main workout, or a long session of stretches such as yoga. By including flexibility into your routine, you will de-stress and be able to complete your daily activities with greater ease. Flexibility training helps your muscles stay flexible and have greater potential.
Rest is a necessary part of any exercise routine. Every week needs to include one rest day. Your muscles also need adequate rest; about 24 hours in between workouts. Alternating between your upper body, lower body, and core muscles daily will provide adequate rest for your muscles. You also need one day of rest for your whole body; this day can include a leisurely walk or trip to the zoo rather than plopping on the couch for the day.
How and When
Once you have chosen the type of exercise it is necessary to determine the intensity, duration, and frequency of that exercise.
Intensity will guide you in determining how hard you are working during your workouts. The more intense your workouts, the more weight you will lose.
Each week you need to include at least 2 days of high intensity workouts that get your breathing and heart rate to rapid levels. Each week you also need to include at least 3 days of mild to moderate intensity workouts that get your breathing and heart rate to moderate levels.
I know you’re probably thinking that this means you need a heart rate monitor (which would help), but you do not. You can determine the intensity on your own by using the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale.
Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale:
- Inactive – no change in heart rate
- Barely moving – little change in heart rate
- Moderate – moving, but could do this forever
- Getting tough – heart rate is going up, but could still do this for a long time
- Tough – heart rate getting faster, but can carry on a conversation
- Tougher – sentences are becoming staggered words
- Hard – breathing is hard and I have to concentrate
- Very intense – have to push myself and concentrate to maintain this level
- Superintense – I don’t think there is anything harder than this
- Very, very hard – I can only go a few seconds at this level
You can use the RPE Scale to increase or lower your intensity levels throughout your workout to reach the levels you need. Ask yourself how you are doing several times ( about 5 minutes in, half way, and ¾ of the way) and answer with one of the above answers to ensure that you are at the intensity level that you set for yourself.
Once you have determined your desired intensity levels, you need to consider the duration (or how long the workout needs to last).
The duration completely depends upon you and your lifestyle and your goals. Make the workout fit into your day.
Do you have time for a long or a short workout? Have time for a 90 minute workout? That is wonderful. Only have time for a 15 minute workout; that is great! When scheduling shorter workouts, you will get the greatest benefit from high-intensity workouts. It’s like money; you want to get more for what you pay. Using shorter workouts that are at a higher intensity level will allow you to reach your goals just as well as using longer sessions at lower intensity levels.
Frequency (how often) is the third factor you want to consider when creating your perfect exercise routine. Can you exercise 6 of the 7 days? That would be awesome. 7 out of 7 days would be perfect, but I know life happens. This is also a good time to decide which days you will do your strength training, flexibility work, cardio or get your rest.
When creating your first exercise plan, aim for 3-5 days of exercise. Include at least 30 minutes on three days and at least 10 minutes on the other two.
TIP: I find the more days that I have scheduled, the more likely I am to remain consistent. Even if 4 of the days are just 10-15 minute workouts.
Here is an example of what your week may look like:
Monday: 10 minutes of cardio + 5-10 minute stretch
Tuesday: 30 minutes of cardio + 5-10 minute stretch
Wednesday: 10 minutes ST + 5-10 minute stretch
Thursday: rest – leisurely walk around the block
Friday: 30 minutes of cardio + 5-10 minute stretch
Saturday: 10 minutes of ST + 20 minutes of cardio + 5-10 minute stretch