Variety in work out plan.
June 27, 2012 1:07 PM   Subscribe

I started going to the gym 5 days a week last year and am managing to hold steady with that. I do one hour a day, 15 minutes running, 15 minutes yoga, and 15 minutes weights. (The remaining 15 minutes is me lying on the ground breathing heavily at various points.) Should I be concentrating on one of the three at a time?

Does it make sense to continue as I am, or should I dedicate one day to running, one day to weights, etc. I was thinking of keeping with doing all three, but having 30 minutes dedicated to one of them, switching it up every day.

I'm a former deeply rooted couch potato, so at first I was happy to be doing anything, but now I figure I might as well do it efficiently while I'm there. I do enjoy seeing my abilities improve, but I'm not trying to tone, build muscle, lose weight, or anything really. Just wear myself down so I sleep better at night.
posted by Dynex to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Personally, I would focus each day on something different. M-W-F weights, T-Th running, then do a yoga class on Saturdays or something.

But if you're achieving your goals (abilities improving, sleeping better at night), why switch it up?
posted by downing street memo at 1:14 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think if it's working for you, you shouldn't change it.

That said, I have read that if your goal is to build strength then you shouldn't be doing any kind of serious cardio immediately before your strength workout; you want all your energy for lifting. Maybe experiment with a dedicated strength day a couple times a week to see how you like it?

But yeah, the biggest factor is having a plan that you'll stick to. So don't do anything that makes the gym less appealing to you.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:17 PM on June 27, 2012

Efficiency? If it helps to improve abilities faster, it's not a problem to try something different.

Trust me, the gym could not be less appealing. Insomnia is just even less so.
posted by Dynex at 1:22 PM on June 27, 2012

If you're pushing yourself with weight lifting, you'll have trouble maintaining your form (which is important for lifting safely) if you're tired. So, if you're going to combine them, do weights before cardio.
posted by tantivy at 1:35 PM on June 27, 2012

At this time, the conventional wisdom is - mixing it up is better.

From "Which comes first, cardio or weights":

"The solution, according to Derek Hansen, the head coach for strength and conditioning at Simon Fraser U. In British Columbia and a speed consultant to numerous Olympic athletes, is to mix it up. For basketball players, he says, "we typically have our athletes lift weights, jump, and spring one day, then do their aerobic work the next day." When Hansen's court-sport athletes are combining weight training with cardio in a single session, the weights come first, since building muscles is their first priority."

This approach- starting with whichever activity is most important to you- is widely used by elite athletes. ....It turns out that the sequence of cellular events that leads to bigger muscles is determined in part by the same "master switch" - an enzyme called AMP kinase- that controls adaptations for better endurance. But you can't have it both ways: the switch is set either to "bigger muscles" or to "better endurance", and the body can't instantly change from one setting to another. How you start your workout determines which way the switch will be set for the session"
posted by justlooking at 1:38 PM on June 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

I think it's good to do at least one longer period of yoga per week because it takes a few minutes while to get into the right state of body/mind where you really benefit from yoga. If you're doing 15 minutes, then I assume that means you're jumping right into poses. And poses are great, but they're really only one small part of what you can get from yoga. I also think going to a yoga class with a skilled instructor every week is a really good way to ground your practice.

My yoga routine is 1-2 classes/week (1.5 hours) and about 15 minutes in the morning (5 of which are breathing at the beginning) 4-5 days/week.
posted by lunasol at 2:57 PM on June 27, 2012

I'm having trouble imagining what you could be accomplishing with 15 minutes of weightlifting, and if you're pushing yourself at all, 15 minutes won't be an adequate run for very much longer for you. I do weights one day, sometimes with a short (15 minute) run afterward, and my running (>30 minutes) on other days. I've fallen off of my yoga wagon lately, but sometimes I'd do that separately or at a different time of day than weighs or running, but those yoga sessions also lasted an hour.
posted by cmoj at 3:44 PM on June 27, 2012

Intensity, not variety, is probably a better option given your time restrictions. Instead of running at the same speed on a treadmill for 15 minutes, try pushing yourself hard for one minute at a time. Only do compound lifts with weights, not smaller muscle groups, and steadily increase your weight. And yoga is more of a recovery activity than exercise.
posted by meowzilla at 9:51 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also exercise in order to exhaust myself enough to sleep. This is just for me personally, but the best thing seems to be hard, driving cardio followed by some bodyweight exercises to wring every last ounce of energy from my body. Like meowzilla points out, interval training might be a good thing. I find it much easier to sleep at night after having exercised so hard at some point that day that I literally panted and gasped for breath. Running is great for this, but might be easier to injure yourself sprinting than with some other exercises such as the stationary bike or swimming. (If you have access to a pool, swimming is great for turning oneself into a sleepy zombie. I've made the mistake of going for a hard swim before work, and could barely focus on anything for the rest of the day I was so tired. And hungry, but that's a different story.)
posted by indognito at 4:59 AM on June 28, 2012

I run as hard as I can for 15 minutes, I AM exhausted after, I am pushing myself within those 15 minutes, and my ability is steadily improving. I'm not having any issues with sleeping so my workout is fine on that angle.

I am really honestly wondering if changing the workout to focusing on one thing at a time would actually make a difference in increasing my physical abilities. They are currently increasing, I know they would increase if I spent more time in general on each one, but I don't know if it makes a difference to spend more time on one for a day, and then less the next.

And, yah, it started as yoga, but now it's more like stretching. I'd prefer to take yoga classes, but the ones at the gym are led by someone who treats it like some sort of jazzercise, and going to a yoga studio would be an added expense.
posted by Dynex at 7:35 AM on June 28, 2012

I would suggest doing a M-W-F with weight days, T-Th cardio and no weights. In addition, structure your weight days so that they are targeting generally different muscle groups (Chest+Shoulders+Tricep, Back/biceps, and Legs/Core is fairly standard).

The reason for this is that resting muscle after working it out hard enough is very important, almost more important than the original workout. Muscles don't get stronger when you work them out, that is just a damaging stimulus that causes them to get rebuilt over the next couple of days. It's the rebuilding process that gives us all those beneficial effects from working out. It seems to take about 4-7 days to fully recover, but if you stagger the groups as described above you can work out 3 days a week at full intensity and still have a week's recovery time for each group.

This only applies if you are working out very strenuously, though. If you are not failing on your rep sets and not lifting enough weight, then you are basically just doing cardio everyday. Which isn't terrible by any means, if you're in the gym you're ahead of most people, but the ideal way to build strength is to lift heavy, give the affected groups a lot of rest while eating at a caloric surplus with enough protein.
posted by spatula at 3:58 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

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