Over the past 27-years, I’ve interviewed and advised thousands of clients from young teens to those well into their 80’s, and I’ve been asked, “how often should I workout” more times than I can count.
Without fail, my inner voice always speaks up, “more than you think you should.” But what comes out of my mouth is more diplomatic. Usually. The truth is: I don’t believe they’re asking how often they should work out, but rather, they want to know what the minimum amount of work they had to do to reach their goals.
The foundation of my method and is firmly rooted in the belief longevity matters more than quick fixes or self described “transformations.” In order to enjoy good health at any stage of life, you have to keep moving and improving. And just like any journey that you set out on, it’s a good idea to have a map and a plan in order to get where you want to go.
Instead of prescribing how many times per week people should workout, I prefer to go macro and calculate the amount of times per year a person needs to exercise in order to reach their unique goals and desires (i.e., maintenance, weight loss, increased cardiovascular health, etc.)
That looks different for everyone and we’re all presented with scheduling conflicts and obligations that challenge us to remain consistent with our exercise program: family members are going to get sick; vacations are going to take place; doctors appointments are going to come up; relatives are going to come to town and stay with you… That’s just life, so it’s a good idea to factor those things in from the start.
“What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in a while.” –Gretchen Rubin
Let’s take this list and give it a yearly context. You’re going to devote on average one day per week to things you haven’t factored in to the big picture, which leaves six days left in the week to go to work or school, shuttle kids around, do yard work, grocery shop, fix dinner, have date night, get the oil changed, pick up some mulch from the garden store, etc. That still leaves you with a whopping five days left each week to workout! Are you excited yet?
In order for the exercises you perform to be effective (or in strength training lingo “cause an adaptation”) they need to be repeated within a 2-5 day time frame, which has you lifting weights 2-3 days per week depending on your goals and availability.
So, let’s say you choose 2 days times per week– chances are that the list of life events that we don’t necessary take into account are on average going to conflict with 1 of your 2 days per week every other week, which now reduces your goal of strength training 8 times per month to 6 times per month. Then the holidays hit and with the extra demands on your time you’ve now worked out a total of 5 times between thanksgiving and the New Year. I know that it’s January, but you get the picture.
The basic message here is if your goals dictate that you need to strength train twice a week then you need to plan to train three times per week. Most successful long-term exercisers understand that they have to workout on the weekends to stay consistent and exercise is fully integrated into one or both of the days.
The takeaway: workout on the weekends. It doesn’t have to be every weekend to be effective, but it needs to be consistent and in addition to your weekly exercise program. If you workout 35 times per year on the weekend you’re pretty much guaranteed to stay fit and strong year in and year out.