What, when, and how? Choosing the best workout frequency based on your goals.
Let’s open this up by drawing a poll: How many of you reading right now think about your current exercise program? Maybe you have specific goals and are wondering if you’re taking the right steps to reach those goals? If you’re still reading this, you most likely answered “yes” to one of these questions! Now I’m going to try and peer into my crystal ball and make a bold prediction: you are trying to achieve one (or more) of these three goals; (1) Improve your cardiovascular fitness (getting “in-shape” or running a 10k or half-marathon) (2) Increase your strength/muscle (3) Lose weight. Some individuals can be fit into these three categories, and many of said individuals will inadvertently swing for the fences to try and attain all of these goals at once.
This approach does tend to work with many individuals at the beginning of their fitness journey, let’s think of a fairly common scenario. You’ve signed up at Allegro Coaching (insert shameless advertising 😊) because you’re friend or family member dragged you in, or you made the decision yourself. You started slow, taking some classes and you’re feeling great! A few months go by and you’re going through some tough workouts, you even make a few friends with some of the long-time regulars. Running season starts and your workout friends start signing up for 5k/10k/marathons, and you start thinking to yourself, ”Hmm, I wonder if I can do that?” You do couple of fun 5k runs, a 10k here and there, and you’d like to step things up and get a little more serious. Where do you go from here? Maybe instead of wanting to run more you want to start getting serious about building muscle to show off your guns for beach season, or you want more specific results for weight loss. Regardless of what fitness-based goal you have, there is something called the F.I.T.T. principle (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type) that we can bring in to help you focus into developing a training program. *Disclaimer*- If you haven’t done so yet, get your Allegro Baseline Assessment (A.B.A.)! You can speak with one of our fantastic personal trainers who can develop the best possible program for whatever results you want to achieve. Best news, the A.B.A. is free!
I won’t get into all of the details of the F.I.T.T. principle, rather I’ll give you the most important points to hit for our 3 broad goals; Cardio, Strength/Muscle, Weight Loss.
Cardio: Running, walking, biking, skiing, etc.
Frequency: If your goal is to complete a run, race, or ride, your optimal frequency will be to train 3-4 sessions per week. Does that seem like not enough running upon first glance? Pacing yourself is incredibly important, especially if it’s your first race! These days off will help your body recover (which is almost as important as the training itself), and eventually give you days to fit in some very beneficial core and strength training to your schedule.
Intensity: Whatever length of event you’re training to complete, it’s a good idea to start slow. Using running as an example: it’s a good idea to see if you can complete 30-40% of the race distance (approximately 4-5 miles for a half marathon) at a slow pace roughly 3 months from the event and go from there. If that 30-40% distance was pretty long and tough, that will be your “distance” day, which you will run once per week. Pair that with one short run (2 miles) at a slightly faster pace, and one more run that’s in the middle of your long and short runs. Try to add a mile to your middle and long distance runs each week, keeping your short runs at the same distance!
Time: Given that many events are distance based, time doesn’t have as much application as it pertains to the time allocated to training. However, it is important to note when you have time to train. Knowing if you will get to trainer before the kids get up, or later in the day is important. Remember this if you have a big goal: you don’t find time, you make time!
Type: If you’re training for a specific event, you’d be calling me Captain Obvious if I told you “You have to run if you’re running a race!” However, it is important to consider cross training with strength/core workouts and flexibility/mobility on your “off” days. This is where classes such as A-Fit, Circuit Training, CXWORX and personal training once or twice a week can drastically improve your performance and prevent running injury.
Strength/Muscle: *Disclaimer*- If you are reading this section and think to yourself,” I don’t want to bulk up, I just want to tone up!” Physiologically, there is no difference between muscle growth and muscle “toning.” Muscle tone simply refers to having a certain amount of muscle mass with a low enough bodyfat percentage to see the muscle. In a nutshell: “Toning up” requires you to build muscle, decrease bodyfat percentage, but your best results would come from a combination of both. Any product or professional that tells you otherwise is just trying to sell you something, and don’t you dare fall for it!
Frequency: The frequency for strength training can fluctuate based on your schedule and goals. You can get away with training 2 days per week but also push to train 5 or 6 days per week. Research has shown that both high and low frequency methods produce the same results, as long as your weekly volume (the total number of sets and/or reps) stays the same. So you can get the same results with training 2 or 3 days per week (focusing on full-body workouts) as you would training 5 or 6 days per week (focusing on one or two body parts per workout), just as long as the number of sets and reps stay the same. I’ve experimented with both methods and the results are the same…although I personally prefer to train 5 or 6 days because I can focus much more on what I’m doing.
Intensity: Whether you are lifting weights, using bands, or doing bodyweight exercises, it’s all considered “resistance” training! The goal here is to use a load that will fatigue your muscles after a certain number of repetitions. The general rule of thumb is this: use a resistance that fatigues your muscles within 6-12 repetitions (for muscle growth) or 2-6 repetitions (for strength), and complete 3-5 sets using that resistance for each muscle group. Since we all have different bodies that respond differently to exercise, some individuals may see more muscle gained from heavier loads!
Time: The amount of time will depend on your training frequency. If you’re training 2-3 days per week, your workouts may need to be longer (up to an hour or more) to make sure you hit all of your muscles groups. Conversely, if you train 5-6 days per week, that would allow you to have shorter workouts (30-45 minutes).
Type: Anything is game here! You can use dumbbells, bands, TRX, bodyweight, it all depends where you are in your journey! This is also where taking a circuit class, A-Fit or doing personal training would cover all of your bases!
Fat Loss: This is either good news or bad news, 80-90% of your fat loss will come from nutrition. However, you can manipulate exercise for some added benefit of fat loss or muscle gain/retention.
Frequency: Try to exercise most days of the week (4-6 depending on the intensity).
Intensity: You can mix this up quite a bit. If you don’t have time to dedicate a full hour, try to increase the intensity of your workout if you only have 20 or 30 minutes! This is where Les Mills GRIT is fantastic, you get a great High-Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.) workout in a short amount of time!
Time: For easy to moderate workouts or steady-state cardio (walking, running, cycling), try to shoot for 20-60 minutes for a good amount of fat burn. More intense workouts can be shorter, 20-30 minutes.
Type: Everything under the sun! Cardio will help with increasing fat burn, strength training will help to build and maintain muscle, and H.I.I.T. training will help cover both areas!
Believe it or not, that is the short version of how to program for your specific goals! If you feel like you need help or you want someone to take out the guess work for you, sign up for your A.B.A. and our team of personal trainers will get you started on the right track!