Just like everyone is different in how much food their body needs, everyone is also different in how much exercise is right for them.
For some, exercise has always been a part of who they are. From the time they were old enough to walk, they were in some sort of sport. They grew up exercising and it’s not really a choice for them. It’s just what they do.
Then you have people who were never athletic and really didn’t even think about exercise until some point where they were motivated to change their clothes size. Only then did they begin to try to make working out a part of their life.
I personally have experienced both mindsets.
I did not grow up with sports or exercise. It was never a part of who I was until I was 35 years old. Before that, I was the one struggling to make myself go to a fitness class or take a walk. Then, my pants size was the only motivation for me so my exercise enthusiasm was as volatile as the Nashville weather.
Fast forward to today and I now have to hold myself back from doing too many workouts in a week. Over time, exercise has become an integral part of who I am. It is not a choice any longer. My mind and body require it. My inclination is to work out hard most every day, but I have done this and learned my lesson one-too-many times when I got injured or depleted my energy so badly that it made me sick.
I have gotten smarter about taking care of myself now and have learned to really understand what my body needs. Through my own experiences and through the experience of getting to work with so many different people, I have come to understand that there is no cookie-cutter method in determining how much exercise is right for everyone.
There are many factors to consider when deciding the amount of exercise that is right for you.
How your body recovers is one the most important factors. This will be determined by a multitude of factors including age, gender, conditioning, genetics, and hormones. This will change along the way too, so paying attention to what your body is responding to and how you feel at any given time is vital.
It took me a long time and some hard lessons to learn that my body requires more rest time than I prefer to give it. I personally am at my best when I strength train 3 days a week and focus more on other things in between. Some people can strength train more often but my own body feels better and I have a lot more energy when I don’t try to strength train on consecutive days like I used to.
Another important factor to consider when determining how much you should work out is your mindset, and this one may be the most crucial. For me, complete rest days are mentally challenging. That may sound odd, but if I take too many days of complete rest, I feel like I am not doing enough. To combat that and balance it with what my body needs for recovery, I take one complete rest day during the week and do things such as hiking, biking, boxing and yoga the other days that fall between my strength days. This allows my muscles to recover appropriately but still satisfies my brain.
I will also take an additional day of rest if my body is asking for it. I have learned to recognize the signals that I need more rest and that has been extremely valuable in keeping myself in balance.
If you are on the other end of the spectrum and are one that struggles with motivation to exercise, then maybe it’s time to change your “why” and make your workout plan manageable for your mindset. Focus on the goal of overall health and commit yourself to 3-4 days of doing something to move your body and get your heart rate up. Plan it. Stick to it.
Don’t set out to workout every day of the week in an effort to change your pants size by tomorrow. Figure out what number of days will help you find consistency for the long term. Who knows. Down the road you may just find that an exercise addict was buried deep inside all along!
The ultimate goal is to be consistent but find balance.
Regardless of your goals, if you don’t respect the amount of recovery time that your body needs and overdo, you will end up hurt, fatigued, and frustrated.
On the contrary, if you don’t exercise enough to meet your weight or health goals, you will also find vicious cycle of frustration.
Remember this, there is no magic pill or formula when it comes to your health. Don’t make excuses and don’t choose easy. Take time to understand yourself both inside and out. Only then will you be able to determine exactly how much exercise is right for you.