If you were my personal trainer, how would you schedule my workouts?
April 19, 2015 10:28 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for guidance on how to maximize the effectiveness of my workouts while keeping my overall fitness practice diverse, challenging and appropriate for my body's recovery needs.

More specifically, I want to take my current running practice, strength training practice, and yoga practice and put them on a calendar in a way that maximizes my fitness productivity without compromising my ability to 1) do more than one type of workout in a day (ex. cardio + strength training, or strength training + yoga, or yoga + cardio), 2) keep my workouts diverse, so that I'm not doing the same dull strength training routine, or relying on one or two of the same exercises to keep my biceps strong or my pectoral muscles strong, 3) avoid over-training, 4) interfere with my body's crucial need for recovery, 5) still be able to do it all without dedicating more than 2 hours a day to fitness.

Much of this comes after the great responses I received on a previous post about fitness nutrition, and the realization that I really need to rev up my workout regimen.

Here are the things I want to be able to fit into a one week schedule (one week meaning a 6 or 7 day period, depending on your opinion as to whether or not a once-a-week 'rest' day should be completely fitness free, meaning even no recovery runs or restorative yoga):

- HIIT treadmill runs (I alternate between 1 minute of brisk walking and 1 minute of fast-as-I-can-possibly-run sprints, for 15-30 minutes; occasionally changing it up with treadmill inclines, covering about 1.5-3 miles per session)
- Longer straight runs (4-7 miles in one session)
- Road cycling (I used to be a somewhat avid road cyclist who would do 30 mile rides 3 days a week) - is this okay to be my once-a-week cross training to complement my running?
- Strength training that targets my upper body, my lower body, and my core
- Vinyasa and hatha yoga for strength and flexibility; some power yoga; regular restorative yoga post-cardio
- Foam rolling for fascia release (I'd like this to be daily, as it's already made a lot of improvements in my life; maybe as a pre-bedtime thing?)
- I'd also like to start throwing in some pilates and ballet/barre practice, to diversify my strength training practice (which is currently just a lot of exercises using dumb bells, body weight and the occasional weight machine----I do not have any access to barbells)

Concerns I have:
- Is it true that I should not do aerobic exercise immediately (less than 2 hrs) before anaerobic exercise, and if so, what is the science behind that?
- If it is okay for me to do aerobic exercise immediately before anaerobic exercise, what is the science in support of that?
- Should I group all of my strength training (upper body, core and lower body/legs) at the same time, or break it up over a series of days - upper body one day, core the next, lower body after that? Again, I only have about 2 hours a day that I can dedicate to exercise (split between my 1-hour lunch break at work, when I usually run, and another hour when I get home), so I feel like it would make the most sense to spend 45 minutes to an hour focusing on all of my upper body (chest, back, shoulders, arms) one day, so that I can spend an equal amount of time focusing on my lower body the next. And, of course, this gives those muscle groups the 48 hrs of time necessary for them to recover. Correct? (I feel like this always comes up for debate)
- Is it true that your core muscles are the only muscle group you can exercise daily? My research indicates this is a myth, but I'm interested in what others think.
- Should I focus on yoga one week and pilates/barre the next? Or replace dumb bell strength training one week with pilates/barre the next week?
- Is this plan too ambitious?

Most of the above information is to just give an overview of what I like to do for exercise, and my concerns about what I may or may not be doing right or wrong.

Ultimately, I'm looking for examples of Monday - Sunday workouts that involve breaking up running, cycling, strength training, yoga, and/or pilates and barre into a schedule that is not only realistic, but highly effective (meaning maximum results without hampering my body's need to recovery).
posted by nightrecordings to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
As far as strength training goes, if you're crunched for time you will get much more bang for your buck by focusing on whole-body exercises rather than upper/lower splits. (Actually, even if you're not crunched for time that's true.) Split-body workouts are good if you're a bodybuilder trying to focus on specific areas; for general fitness, they don't really make sense.

Is there any way you can get access to a kettlebell? Most of the kettlebell exercises (Turkish get-up, swing, and clean, specifically) are whole-body. They're also a really good HIIT/cardio workout if you want them to be. Even if you don't have access to a kettlebell, you can buy a T-handle, stick it on a dumbbell, and do the exercises that way. (For reference, I currently do kettlebell training 3 days a week and play soccer 4 days a week, with one day doing kettlebells in the morning and soccer in the evening.)

As far as foam rolling goes, IMO that should be part of your warmup and cooldown, not a separate thing.
posted by asterix at 11:15 AM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, and as for the timing of aerobic/anaerobic exercise... that sort of thing matters if you're a highly-trained world-class athlete. Unless and until you get to that point, exercise in whatever order and timing you want and find what lets you actually get the work in.
posted by asterix at 11:23 AM on April 19, 2015

What is your goal here?

It seems to me you are trying to make exercise itself a hobby.

I'm a lifter, and when I make plans for workouts, I have a specific goal, such as to increase my squat by xx pounds, or increase my record on pullups in a few months time.

After I have set a goal, then I design my plan around that. I'll spend the vast majority of my gym time on strength, with 20% or less on cardio and mobility (yoga, pilates, body weight stuff).

If your goal is to be good at all the things, as your post suggests..... That's really hard.

I'm also concerned about the sheer number of hours your are exercising. I know strength people like me are really different than runners, but boy, even if I'm working really hard toward a contest I don't ever see myself doing more than 6 hours a week in the gym.

If your goal is to just look good, maybe do some research into what bikini competitors do to prep.

So maybe choose one goal (run the 5k faster) and go after that, and think about all of the other things you do as supportive of the goal. And drop anything that's not supportive of the goal - I think less is more for you.

As far as cardio before weights or vice versa.... I get the feeling you aren't lifting enough to worry about these kinds of things. If you were lifting enough you would know you start your workout with your heaviest lift that uses the most joints, because you need all of your energy for that. So until a single lift leaves you sweating and swearing and panting, your lifting is just supportive of your running and you don't need to worry much about when you are doing it. Which is what I think you are trying to accomplish anyhow.
posted by littlewater at 12:19 PM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I guess if I were answering your question from my fitness angle, assuming your goal is to look fit (based on your earlier question) your week is simple:
4 days per week full body heavy lifting, no more than 1 hour
3 days a week do cardio after lifting absolutely no more than 20 minutes at a time, prefer 6-12 minutes (tack on a finisher, do HIIT, stay away from steady state)
1 day per week of supportive things like yoga or barre or Pilates

At least 8 hours of sleep every night
At least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight
Cut carbs as possible
No booze
No dessert
Dairy only if you can handle it

It's under 6 hours per week in the gym with 2 days per week off. You could do a fun fitness day (not cardio!) on an off day.
If you program your lifting well you will look incredible in 4-8 months.
posted by littlewater at 12:39 PM on April 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

I don't think you can "maximize results" in all of those parameters at once. Best to focus on training just one at a time. Think Selye's Theory of Adaptation
posted by tiburon at 5:59 PM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have been training for about 6mos on a regimen similar to what littlewater describes. I am 6ft, 150lbs, but I wear the same clothes as when I was 135 (I started at 145 with 10lbs fat to lose)

I do 4x a week group training. We don't do heavy heavy lifts but lots of kettle bells, TRX and body weight exercise. No dedicated cardio but that includes metabolic resistance training and HIIT maybe 2x a week. I also do yoga 1x weekly for mobility and the soul.

I avoid cardio like the plague b/c my goal is to be functionally stronger, and left unchecked, my supermetabolism will devour muscle mass in a matter of days (I don't know if this is a physiologically accurate description, but I have to eat a LOT to maintain my weight and strength gains)

I would not alternate my strength training with anything else (e.g. 1 week strength / 1 week barre) for that reason.

I am no personal trainer but my experience with back-to-back workouts is that your body will tell you if it's too much exertion on a particular muscle group... My trainers are big on rest/recovery as an essential part of the muscle building process, so I generally listen to them and try to lift only +/- every other day (except stuff like pushups) But of course some people lift 2 or 3x a day and do just fine.

Will be watching comments with interest from folks with more experience and expertise!
posted by ista at 6:28 PM on April 19, 2015

You sound like a good candidate for Crossfit, supplemented with yoga, mobility training, and running. I'd recommend either reading up on the training philosophy (Crossfit.com has many free resources available) or visiting a nearby Crossfit gym. There are many out there who have yoga or mobility classes available and participate in running/endurance programs as well. You would have access to people who could help you design a program and/or join an existing training program that fits your needs. If one gym doesn't seem like a fit for you, you can always try another if there's one available.

To be honest, I'm surprised that Crossfit doesn't come up more often in these "How should I train?" threads. I know that some people have bad associations with it, but in reality, there's a lot of variation between gyms, and as with any trainer or fitness program, there are some bad ones out there. Overall, if you're looking for variety but still want to gain strength and ability in multiple areas, it's a good place to turn.
posted by Fuego at 7:19 PM on April 19, 2015

Best answer: In terms of making fitness decisions based on science, you should check out Evidence Based Fitness. It's run by a guy who is a fitness enthusiast, statistician, doctor. He does some really good analysis on most of the fitness research that comes out, especially ones that get sensationalized in the media.

Since I've been reading his site most of what I've gleaned comes down to; creatin is about the only supplement that really works, lots of different approaches to fitness work well (it's hard to do it wrong) so don't worry so much about optimizing every single little thing unless you're an elite athlete.

I really would recommend using creatin. I notice the effect most in my recovery. The day after I lift, I'm a lot less sore if I've taken some than if I haven't. The stuff is dirt cheap, there is plenty of science supporting it's use and safety.

Personally, I'm pretty down on crossfit but mostly because of it's reputation for causing injuries. As long as you're aware of that and make sure you're extra careful about it, it might be a good fit.

Other than crossfit the only things I would make I was doing if I were you is to use big, heavy, compound lifts for my strength training. Something similar to "Starting Strength" if you haven't done a program like that before, one of the intermediate programs (like the Texas Method if you have and are already a more advanced lifter). By using compound lifts you end up doing fewer total exercises between that and using heavier weights with fewer reps you spend less time on the strength workout and it's more effective. Search craigslist for "Olympic weights" and you should be able to find plenty of good, cheap, used weight sets.

The thing to remember about strength training is that gain aren't made in the gym, they're made in your sleep. If you haven't done a lot of strength training, you can work a group of muscles every other day and still get gains. As you progress, you need more time to recover and gains are slower. Every strength coach in the world will tell you the same thing and the iron doesn't lie so you can try it out yourself.

I would also make sure that you do yoga last or at least not immediately before any of your other workouts. There was a pretty good study (we had an FPP about it on the blue IIRC) that said that stretching before a workout/competition lowers performance. So your warm-ups shouldn't include a lot of stretching but your cool-down sure can. Though personally I just save the stretching for my off days.

You could probably come up with a scheme where you alternate different HIIT exercises instead of just running. And I think it would be fine to swap around running and cycling as they should be pretty complimentary.

Lastly, because of how much you're working out you need to be intimately familiar with the signs of over training and commit to doing something about it if you see them.

It kind of sounds like what you need is some sort of spreadsheet that you can use to track what exercising you need to do, when, and put some numbers to them so you can track your progress.

There are hundreds that you can download for strength training but one that combines the running, cycling, HIIT, etc. that will let you track your progress you'd probably have to make yourself.
posted by VTX at 6:34 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

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