Optimise my exercise
February 23, 2017 11:30 AM   Subscribe

I could use some help please in figuring out whether my workout routine is good enough. I mostly work out on the weekends and don't do much during the week. Am I in danger from being a "weekend warrior"? I want to lose fat and gain muscle and flexibility.

On Saturdays I do an hour cardio class followed by an hour yoga class. On Sundays I do an hour weight lifting class and then an hour of cardio. During the week I'm much more sedentary. I sometimes do an easy half hour cardio class on Wednesdays and/or an hour yoga class on Thursdays but to be honest a lot of the time I skip them both as it's difficult to motivate myself to go after work.

I'd like to know whether I can get away with doing just the weekend stuff and not have to feel guilty for being lazier during the week. Also is there anything else I can do to optimise my routine? I'm a forty something woman who is slightly overweight. I'm much more interested in being healthy than in looking good.
posted by hazyjane to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
This is just re: the weightlifting part and please speak w/ your weightlifting instructor about any/all of this. I'm just some guy, your trainer is a professional.

Anyway, you're not really going to see a lot of results from an hour of weightlifting a week. That's not to say you should stop! Some exercise is always better than no exercise and an hour of relatively intense weightlifting has other benefits besides building strength and muscle.

You can get a cheap set of adjustable dumbbells (they're $50 right now but I've seen them at like $30 and you can pick a used set up on craigslist for a song) and keep them at home. There's about a million things you can do with just those weights and a sturdy chair or other piece of furniture.

At home you also don't have to have a gym-type time commitment. I don't know what you're doing at weightlifting class (feel free to follow up!) but if you're there for an hour you're probably doing a lot of sets/reps at a relatively manageable weight, right? At home if you can dedicate 20 mins to a half hour every few days to lifting small sets of heavy (for you!) weights, that will go a long way.

You can ask your weightlifting instructor about how to structure this best for yourself but I think you'll see more results to your liking if you do short periods of (safe!) heavy (for you!) lifting at home as well as the longer periods of endurance-type lifting at the gym.
posted by griphus at 11:59 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Losing fat is primarily about diet.

As far as building strength and muscle, if you've just started your (rather intense) weekend workouts, you're quite likely to see progress; if you've been doing it for a while, you should know whether you're improving or have plateaued.

But muscle growth occurs after exercise, when your body repairs the damaged muscles. That takes a few days, so you're losing about half the week. I agree with griphus that your opportunity for faster improvement would come from figuring out some mid-week routine that you'd actually be motivated to do.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:28 PM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

It depends on your concept of good enough. The good news is, when it comes to making a difference in regards to overall health, even just working out on the weekends is all you need to maintain healthy biomarkers. The bad news is that this is actually not the same as losing fat, gaining muscle, etc. That will probably require quite a bit more frequency.

So, weekend warrior is fine if you just want to live a healthy lifestyle. Weekend warrior is probably not enough if you are trying to conform to the image of what our society expects someone to look like when they conform to a healthy lifestyle.

My opinion is that something is better than nothing, and I would much rather someone just do something low key on the weekends than try and do all the things all the time and burn out or get injured.
posted by aaxelrod at 12:41 PM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

The simple way to optimize your health (as per the end of your question) I'll first say/ask about 1) food. 2) nutrient timing pre and post exercise. I didn't recall you mentioning anything about food, but it's important in relation to exercise.

By 1) I mean getting good food, veg and fruit, as well as getting enough protein and carbs. A lot of people like to think "If the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn." but consider putting sugar in a car's gas tank; flooring the gas pedal won't solve that. True, but of what I like about running is that I don't need to fear donuts or cookies. But when I plan my meals I'm aiming to make sure that I'm getting lots of fruit/veg/protein and good fats. Sometimes I'm too full for a treat.

For 2) google the phrase "nutrient timing pre and post exercise", there are ideal times/amounts of carbs/protein to eat before and after exercise which will aid recovery. These don't require any additional time commitment from you, but can help your body recover.

Beyond that, your body strengthens (by this I mean skeletal muscles, "Strength" as well as increased mitochondria and capilaries, increased heart size "cardio" ) as a result of stress during the recovery phase. Too much stress and you get injured. Too much recovery means that the stress has less impact. Consider the stress of doing the same workout with the same weights two days in a row; it's harder on the second day.

Considering something like training stress balance (a great phrase to google) (I think it's more cardio minded than strength). Usually fatigue is calculated over 7 days, and fitness over 42 days. If you're getting 5 days of rest all the time, you're pretty much starting Saturday fresh which means the only stress you're taking advantage of is those two days, instead of a full week's worth. Your TSB will maybe be negative 1-2 days of the week, and might not be hitting the "optimal" zone even then. Usually you're TSB will be strongly positive. A third or fourth in the tue-thur range would be a great idea.
posted by nobeagle at 12:57 PM on February 23, 2017

For improving joint health and flexibility/range of motion, buy a used copy of this book by physiotherapist Dr Kelly Starrett on amazon. You can do most of this in front of the TV on weeknights. It is helping me a lot with back pain and knee problems, so I'm sure it will improve your flexibility and help prevent you from injuring yourself over the weekend. In the first couple of chapters he discusses why static stretching and "just stretch more" is really not what helps people gain better range of motion and flexibility.

My favorite thing about this book is that it is for people who don't workout, just as much as it is for career athletes. It teaches you to move well, whether you're lifting something really heavy or just getting up off a chair (or struggling to counteract the effects of a sedentary life during the week).

As someone said above, losing fat is about diet ("abs are made in the kitchen not the gym" is a common saying about this), so look at some ways you could adjust your diet.

Doing more resistance training will increase your muscle mass which will increase your metabolism and allow you to burn more calories at rest, in addition to the increase in metabolism right after workouts.

Weightlifting can also help prevent osteoporosis because it helps build bone mass. Explore some ways that you could add more weight bearing movement into your life, even if that's just short sessions of calisthenics on weeknights - some pushups, bodyweight squats, etc. It doesn't have to mean you haul ass to the gym for a whole long workout on a Weds at 7pm when you've come home from work and are tired.
posted by zdravo at 1:08 PM on February 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

Could you add a 30 minute walk to every weekday?

I'm a big believer that perfect can be the enemy of good - especially in fitness. In a perfect world you might go to the gym and workout more frequently. If that's not realistic, then just adding some walking is a good start.

This is an interesting study that compares the effectiveness of long and short walks on increasing activity levels in women. The sample is about your age and scroll down to the section on changes in health indices. There are a bunch of relevant articles linked.
posted by 26.2 at 1:27 PM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm also in your general cohort and I pay attention to heart health guidelines. Sounds like you're close to what they suggest but you might want to add one more walk in during the week. Some of it depends what your goals are: muscle tone and flexibility, balance, heart health, lowering cholesterol or blood pressure, bone health, weight control, etc.

AHA Recommendation For Overall Cardiovascular Health:

At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 OR At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity


Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.

For Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol: An average 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity 3 or 4 times per week
posted by jessamyn at 2:54 PM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I actually know Kelly Starrett (sort of; not really, but he's a friend of a friend), and he and his wife Juliet are really awesome and knowledgeable people. His wife is also really involved with getting girls into physical fitness. Just for what it's worth, very tangentially!
posted by bookworm4125 at 3:04 PM on February 23, 2017

Here are two no-equipment bodyweight exercise plans that you might be able to fit in before work during the week, or after work (while dinner is heating?). "In my jammies" exercise requires least planning, for me.

Lifehacker's general bodyweight planning

The Hacker's Diet exercises

Personally, I gain most flexibility with 5 minutes of what I need to work on *every night*.
posted by clew at 3:08 PM on February 23, 2017

You don't have to feel guilty about anything, when it comes down to it :) But I'm with Jessamyn, the guidelines are where it's at for general health and functioning. A ton of research has been done on this, and that's what the evidence says atm. (Also, nb, those are the minimum recommendations for helping us hit key health markers - more exercise is better. Not that anyone with an office job & commute & friends & family & even a tiny little hobby can realistically do more than that, but that's what they say.)

For me, optimizing it means having it be convenient and minimizing obstacles. You've got to be able to weave it into your day. Home workouts are great, 2nd getting gear for that (maybe a stationary bike for rainy days, or if your joints aren't happy with YouTube cardio videos, which are also easy to do at home). I need equipment, so go to a gym that's less than a 10 min walk from my place. (This is an absolute for me - if it's 15 mins, I won't go when it's gross out.)

Try out a few different timings - right after coffee & before breakfast, after dinner, immediately after work (if you go to a gym, this is good, it's just done so you can put your feet up when you get home). Lunch-time can work for some, but a lot of people feel rushed and stressed at that time. (I would never, ever cut into precious sleep to work out in the early morning, though, if it comes down to that kind of choice... sleep deprivation is pretty rough on your system, in all kinds of ways.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:18 PM on February 23, 2017

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