How often should YOU be working out

People often ask me, “How do you come up with what to write for your blog?”  (People never ask me this, nor do they really ever ask me any other blog-related questions… I simply live in a fantasy world where my throngs of imaginary followers are in a constant state of awe at the top-notch material I churn out)

This week, for whatever reason, the question of how frequently one should workout has come up at least a dozen times (full disclosure: actual number is far closer to three times), so I took it as a sign.  Besides, it’s actually one of the more important questions I feel I can answer.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming there is some set number of minutes of exercise one should be getting or an exact number of days per week you need to workout to benefit from it.  Our government, in seemingly common act of deliberate stupidity and malice, says we should workout, well… here, take a look and see if you can figure it out, because I sure as hell can’t: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html

Let’s pretend for a second that the government didn’t make the infuriating mistake of dividing cardiovascular and strength training.  (“According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, you need to do two types of physical activity each week to improve your health–aerobic and muscle-strengthening.”  The individuals responsible for these guidelines, I’m assuming, received their training in exercise from the people who invented this.)

They still make a broad recommendation that takes probably four to six days a week of your schedule.  Now, a professional work-avoider such as myself may have time for that sort of thing, but I don’t think most people do.

What if you work more than full-time and have an hour-long commute?  Are you really supposed to pretend that it’s a realistic goal to do daily exercise?

First of all, don’t believe that you have to exercise a ton to benefit.  If you’re not working out now, but you can commit to ONE workout a week, you’ll walk around feeling like a superhero compared to how you currently feel.  And, contrary to what the government will tell you, that’s great!

When you’re trying to figure out the right amount of exercise, remember that you don’t get to make the decision in a vacuum.  Sure, if you’re a stereotypical movie character who has amnesia, and is trying to piece together who killed his wife (sorry, I watched Memento recently and apparently it’s stuck in my head), you do get something of a blank slate, lifestyle-wise.  And if you have a blank slate, and the free time that comes with it, try to get in some daily exercise.

But if you’re not living in a Christopher Nolan movie, you should probably start by making a more realistic commitment.  And this is where I can only step back and hope that you have some common sense.  What sounds like something you can commit to?  If it’s three days a week, do that.  If it’s one, fine – it’s better than none.  The goal is to make this something you can stick to, and if your exercise schedule is making you feel like it’s all you can do just to keep your head above water, it probably means you’re trying to do too much.  If you can’t keep the commitment, you’ve made the wrong commitment.

I’ll refer you to my previous post about motivation to address the concerns of anyone who would like to say, “You just need a little will power, and you can do it!”  Well, as comforting and appealing as the silly notion that all things are possible so long as you just want them bad enough may be, at the end of the day, realize that you’re human.  Even the toughest among us are going to fail if we set ourselves up for more than we can handle.  If you can handle daily workouts, awesome.  But whatever your decision, know that what works for you and what works for everyone else you know is going to be different, and that’s just fine.

‘Til next time!

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “How often should YOU be working out

  1. Avery

    This is exactly what I’ve been fighting with myself about! I just recently let myself be ok with only doing 3 workouts a week and only working out for about a half hour. I was working out daily for 45 minutes! Way too much time and completely burnt me out. Now I feel better and i feel like I’m losing weight! Thanks for the reaffirming message!

    • Glad to hear, Avery! I’m really happy to reaffirm that belief. I just see so many people thinking, “If I just worked out more…” as though that’s the answer we all need. But we all have lives – jobs, relationships, kids, etc., and those things are very real and very important, too (in fact, they all take precedent!). You’re not always going to want to workout and that’s normal, but it really helps to give yourself a realistic plan to stick to that will work with your schedule, rather than against it. Thanks, Avery!

  2. Amber Fischer

    I like the post Mark!!!
    I had just gotten to the same idea myself!
    I kept waiting until I had time for a workout “routine” and at least 4 days a week to schedule it. If that didn’t happen I would be overwhelmed and give up. But I’ve recently decided that if it’s a measly once a week, that is better than I have been doing, and it’s a start.
    Thanks for affirming that! : )

    • Thanks, Amber! Glad you’ve bought in – it never pays to feel like you “have to” do something X amount of times to benefit. Like you said, something is always better than nothing, and it helps to give yourself the reminder that your schedule isn’t going to just get out of the way for you – you have to be smart and work with it the best you can!

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