This past week I came across a fitness instagram account with a caption on a post that really resonated with me.
“I don’t workout because I dislike my body. I workout because I love my body, want to take care of it, and actually do enjoy a good sweat sesh” @hollyjfitness
For those of you who read this quote and could not agree more, that is such a fantastic mindset to hold. On the other hand, if you read that quote and thought “Yeah, I wish! I workout because I need to stay skinny, I ate too much this weekend, I hate my body, etc…”, then you and I can relate on a whole different level.
Establishing a healthy relationship with fitness has been something I have struggled with ever since my senior year of high school. It is so easy to get caught up in harmful mindsets related to exercise. I have been guilty of this and within the past year have worked really hard to reshape the way I think about health and fitness. It is hard. You are not alone.
Today I want to provide some tips for scheduling a weekly workout routine while also addressing common and extremely damaging exercise mindsets. The truth is that if you are not working out for the right reasons, you are likely holding yourself back from achieving your fitness goals and from living a healthy and happy life (dramatic but true). Additionally, if you are new to the workout scene, I hope this provides a helpful path for beginning to improve your physical health and fitness. If you are not seeing the results you want from your current workout routine or you are too afraid to start working out, this post is for you! Here are my top tips for creating a week of workouts:
1. Don't workout to punish yourself
First things first: Your body does not need to be punished. Don’t run on the treadmill for an hour because you ate something unhealthy or because you think you are fat. There are so many better reasons to work out!
Exercise reduces stress and improves your mood. It builds muscle mass and stimulates higher bone density. Exercise reduces your risk for chronic illnesses. It provides increased energy and greater focus abilities. The list is endless!
Acknowledge exercise as an opportunity to take care of yourself and to feel stronger, healthier, more energized, etc. Your body is strong and you have the opportunity to make it even stronger. To have arms to lift with, legs to run with, and access to some sort of fitness equipment is a blessing. Choose an important reason that exercise matters to you. Do not allow this reason to revolve around punishing yourself for not being enough.
2. Make a plan
Plan out your week of workouts ahead of time, perhaps every Sunday evening. When are you going to fit this into your schedule? Put it into your calendar and do not quit on yourself.
One of my favorite authors/bloggers/motivational speakers, Rachel Hollis, always talks about how quick we are to quit on ourselves. The promises you make to yourself matter. Honor them like you honor your commitments to the people around you. If you say you are going to the gym on Monday at 6:30 AM, get yourself to the dang gym.
Don’t just have a plan for the week, have a specific plan for the day. Enter the gym knowing what you are going to do. It is easy to not push yourself hard enough or to not focus on specific muscle groups when you go to the gym without a plan.
3. Don’t overdo it
Balancing hormones, losing weight, reducing stress, building muscle. All of these things CAN NOT be accomplished if your body is over-worked. There are so many resources and data on this topic. If you want to look into it, start here.
To briefly summarize, if you overwork your body (two a days, excessive cardio, no rest days) it will think you are literally dying, increase your stress hormone levels, and subsequently store fat to prepare for the impending doom it believes is approaching. The amount of evidence and data for this is overwhelming. Overtraining can do more harm than good, so do your body a favor and:
- Give yourself a rest day. It can be hard to take a day off, but it is so important to let your muscles recover from a week of exercise. Aim to make it an active rest day. For example, take a walk after dinner.
- Space out high-intensity workouts such as HIIT or long cardio sessions. HIIT and cardio are awesome for increasing your fitness levels and improving metabolism. However, these types of physical activity are particularly difficult on your body and you need to allow ample recovery time to reap the benefits of high-intensity exercise. Keep HIIT to 2-3 times a week and never do HIIT workouts on consecutive days.
4. Work all body parts
It is not physiologically possible to target fat loss. If you do a series of ab crunches, you will not lose stomach fat. If you wish to lose fat stores in a particular area in your body, the only effective method is overall fat loss. Strength training is an important component of body fat reduction for many reasons:
- When you challenge your muscles with weights or free body exercise, the body burns fat to expend energy for movement.
- After strength training sessions, your metabolism continues to spend energy on muscle repair (continuing to burn fat).
- Building muscle increases your basal metabolic rate because muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than other tissue types such as fat.
All of this considered, if you target specific muscle groups during a certain workout you will challenge muscles, burn fat, and increase muscle mass. If you target specific muscle groups on different days, you will allow time for essential muscle repair and will successfully increase your muscle mass. Your entire body will be strong and well-toned. This will ultimately allow you to increase your BMR and decrease overall body fat. Kayla Itsines has a great fitness program with targeted strength-building days. For example: Monday is legs, Wednesday is abs and arms, Friday is total body.
5. Fill the days that aren't strength focused with cardio… that you ENJOY
Balance is key in constructing a week of workouts. We have already covered the topic of not over-exercising and also the importance of giving your muscles time to rest. An easy way to accomplish this is to alternate strength-focused workouts and cardio-focused workouts. Cardio does not have to be a dreaded activity. If you don’t like running, DON’T RUN! There are many benefits to incorporating LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) cardio into your workout routine. The great news is that LISS can be incredibly enjoyable. Find some form of cardio, either LISS or higher intensity cardio, that you enjoy doing.
Examples of various cardio activities:
- Walking on an incline
- Cycling Class
- Stair Stepper
- Running/Walking Intervals on the treadmill
- Elliptical Intervals
6. Start small and build the habit
If you haven’t worked out in 3 years, don’t set yourself up for failure by saying you are going to workout 6 times a week. Start small, that is perfectly okay! Everyone has to start somewhere. The key is to start with a realistic schedule that you can stick to and work to build the habit of exercise into your lifestyle.
- Aim for working out every other day and then slowly increase the number of days per week that you exercise
- Start with light walking or lower intensity workouts to increase your base level fitness
- Find a friend to go to the gym with or even to plan a week of workouts with. Exercising with others is a great way to be more accountable in the exercise department.
7. If you are unsure what to do at the gym, look online
There are so many online fitness resources! If you feel lost, use routines other people have taken the time to create and share.
- Youtube has a ton of fitness videos. PopSugar Fitness, in particular, has a wide variety of workout types that I like to follow along with.
- Instagram is home to a billion (don’t fact check me on that) fitness accounts with pre-made workout routines
Ex. Kayla Itsines, Kelsey Wells, Amanda Bisk
- Workout Programs
- Group Fitness Classes, although not an online source, are a great way to get a good workout in without ever having to think and plan a daily workout.
- This Blog, It's Mich! Subscribe down below. I will be uploading fitness routines and examples of my weekly workouts all the time. Check out the right-hand column of this post for an example of how I scheduled my workouts this past week 🙂
8. Start Today!
Don’t prolong it. Don't wait until a Monday or the first day of the month. Start right now. Today. You can do this!
I hope this post provides all of you with either a great place to start or serves as a good addition to your health and fitness journey. If you liked this post and want to be notified when more content is published on It's Mich, enter your name and email address below! If you have friends and family that might find my content useful, click the facebook, twitter, or pinterest icons to share this post.
Talk to you soon everybody.
Sample Week of Routines:
Here is an overview of what an ideal week might look like in regards to the tips provided on the left-hand side of this post. This is just a rough outline, so keep scrolling for a more detailed report of what I did for exercise last week!
** Note that it is perfectly okay if you do not have access to group fitness classes, I guarantee you can find similar workouts by searching on youtube.
- Monday: 45 Minute Group Cycling Class.
- Tuesday: HIIT Strength Legs workout.
- Wednesday: Walk on the treadmill; incline 7.0 speed 3.8 for 35 minutes. Followed by 20 minutes Yoga Flow.
- Thursday: Rowing warmup and Arms strength focused routine.
- Friday: Walking/Running Treadmill intervals.
- Saturday: Muscle Pump (Total Body) Group Class.
- Sunday: Rest Day. Light Walk.
In reality, some weeks I workout less or even too much. Some weeks I do not work all muscle groups as much as I should. It is impossible to perfectly carry out a week of workouts, but the tips I gave in this post should serve as an excellent guide for creating a weekly workout routine.
- Pilates Class with an intense core focus.
- Total Body HIIT Class.
- Walking on the treadmill; incline 7.5 speed 3.7 for 35 minutes in my fat burn HR zone.
- Stair Stepper; 2nd highest level, alternating side facing and front facing climb for 10 minutes.
- Running on the treadmill; 1 mile at an 8 minute per mile pace
- Rowing; 30 seconds on 30 seconds off of rowing as fast as you can, 5 minutes total.
- Arms; Popsugar 15 minutes Arms of Steel video.
- Intervals on the treadmill (I LOVE this interval workout. I end up running about 3.5 miles and get such a good sweat in)
- First 24 minutes: Walk and Run intervals; 1.5 incline; 1 minute walk at 3.8-4.0 pace then 2 minute run at 7.5 pace.
- Last 10 minutes: Walk and Sprint intervals; 1.5 incline; 1 minute walk at 3.8-4.0 pace then 1 minute sprint at 10.0 pace.
- 3 minute cooldown: no incline, 3.0 walking pace
- Sally Abs & Arms; for those of you who are unfamiliar with the wrath of "Sally", play the song Flower by Moby.
- Forearm plank when the song says "bring sally down"
- High plank when the song says "bring sally up"
- Dolphin Push Ups when the song has a musical break in between planking sets (there are 4 sets, have fun!)
- Outdoor Walk; 1 mile at a leisure pace with my friends.
- I had an awesome day with my friends; swam in a lake, walked around town, and danced it out like my life depended on it (some non traditional cardio).
- Day of rest, the only physical activity I had was walking around the grocery store 🙂