Three Key Components To A Great Exercise Program

Three Components to a great exercise programI get a lot of questions about what to do for exercise for fat loss or even weight loss. Plus, I get a few questions of what to do just to stay healthy! While changing your nutrition alone can help you see results, proper workouts are just as important. Here’s a breakdown of a great exercise program.

If you have 2 hours to dedicate to exercise a week, focus on strength training first. 

1.) Strength training (2-3x/week for 30 minutes – 60 minutes)

Most clients I work with want to tone their bodies, but in order to do so, you have to build muscle first. The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn during your workouts, but also during your sleep and your normal activities throughout the day. If you’re looking for weight loss, you need to strength train to keep your metabolism up. It’s easy to just do aerobic exercise to see the number on the scale move. Unfortunately, this may mean you are losing precious muscle and the moment you quit your aerobic exercise and healthy eating, you can gain back more weight than when you started.

Another note: the older we get, the easier it is for our bodies to lose muscle. In return, this means our metabolism is burning less calories and it’s easier to gain weight.

Strength training allows you to see your body change. Some people may not notice the scale budge, but they will see their frame decrease in size. EX: A woman may notice her clothes fit better, but she hasn’t lost a pound on the scale. She shouldn’t be discouraged because her body is changing!

Action Steps: 

1.) Dedicate time every week to strength training at least one time a week. Two-three sessions are ideal with a day or two of rest in between.

2.) Use big movement patterns like squats, lunges, push ups, lat pulldowns, cable rows, step ups. They require the least amount of time and the most bang for your buck. I love doing total body workouts 3x a week.

3.) If you haven’t done strength training in months or years, start small. Complete each exercise 10-15x for 1 set. If you’re more advanced, perform 2-4 sets per exercise. Reps can vary.

4.) Follow a program & write down your weight/set/reps. I write myself a new program every month and will increase my sets or weight throughout the program to progress each week. If you’re brand new to strength training, find a coach, follow an at-home DVD or begin a class. My biggest take home message: commit to something!

If you have 2.5 to 3.5 hours to commit to an exercise program, add interval training. 

2.) Interval training (1-3x a week for 15-30 minutes)

Interval training is great at burning calories and giving your metabolism a boost. It’s also great to do on days you don’t strength train. Dedicate 15-30 minutes to interval train 1-3x a week. I want you to think of interval training as two steps: working at an intensity until you can’t push any longer, then recover until you can push another interval. Custom interval training with a heart rate monitor is the best type of interval training because it’s built around your heart rate zone.

Action Steps:

1.) Choose your form of interval training. My favorites include: my boxing class,  incline walking, stair master, rowing machine or a lighter kettle bell or dumbbell workout.

2.) Start with a warm up for 2-3 minutes then increase the intensity to a challenging pace. Push for 20-60s then recover by decreasing your pace/intensity for 20-60s. Complete 5-12 rounds. Your workout time can be a total of 15-30 minutes.

Beginner Example: 20 seconds hard, 60 seconds rest (shorter work, longer rest)

Intermediate Example: 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds rest (equal ratio of work & rest)

Advanced Example: 40 or 45 seconds hard, 15-20 seconds rest (negative rest)

*You can get creative with your interval times.

My favorite is heart rate training using my Polar Beat App & HR monitor: Push as long as you need to until you reach the red zone then recover at a low intensity until you hit the green zone.

3.) Choose to complete your interval training on days you don’t strength train.

Interval training can help with fat loss & many notice the scale decrease, as well. Following a diet that’s 80% right is important for good results.

If you have 4 to 6 hours to commit to exercise a week, add leisure exercise. 

3.) Leisure Exercise 

If you can dedicate more time to your workouts each week, be sure to include some leisure exercise like walking, yoga, foam rolling, or stretching. Even doing a moderate cardio workout falls into this category. If you like to go for a run, go for it! Walking is a great low intensity exercise and can be done most days of the week without stressing your body. It’s great for recovery, as well as stretching/foam rolling/yoga. After receiving a fitbit, my goal is to reach 10,000 steps a day. Some days it’s easier, while other days require serious effort. So far, my streak has not been broken & I’ve hit my goal everyday since January 1st. Not wanting to break my streak has been extremely motivating for me and I do what it takes (even when I don’t want to) to hit my goal.

Action Steps:

1.) Find ways to move every day. On breaks at work, go for a leisure walk or practice getting up from your desk every hour. Go for a leisure walk on days you aren’t performing a challenging workout.

2.) If you need motivation, look to invest in a pedometer to know where you’re at each day. I don’t think you’ll regret the purchase!

3.) Feel free to do this daily or after strength workouts. Keep your intensity low.

Note: Many people may notice their clothes are fitting better & they see the number on the scale budge when they incorporate leisure exercise on top of interval training & strength training. Eating 80% right is crucial for this to happen for most individuals.

The biggest questions you need to ask yourself are…

1.) Am I enjoying what I’m doing? If so, you’ll do it forever.

2.) Are you seeing results? Remember, you cannot use the scale as your only method of tracking results. Take measurements with a tape measure, pay attention to your mood, how your clothes are fitting and noticing if you’re sleeping better are all positive wins!

Here’s what my current exercise program looks like: 

Monday: 30-60 minute leisure walk (really whatever it takes to hit my goal of 10,000 steps)

Tuesday: Total body strength training (45-60 minutes) + leisure walk

Wednesday: 30-60 minute leisure walk with or without 10 minutes of interval training

Thursday: Boxing Class + leisure walk

Friday: Total body strength training (45-60 minutes) + leisure walk

Satuday: Boxing Class or Incline TM/Stair Master Intervals for 20-25 minutes + leisure walking

Sunday: Total body strength training + leisure walking

Note: Do I need to leisure walk every day? No, but I enjoy it. I find it relaxing and I enjoy my time going for a walk with my dog & family. Plus, I like the personal accomplishment of hitting my goal of 10,000 steps a day. It’s motivating!