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Does the Ideal Workout Schedule Exist?

As a personal trainer two of the most common questions I get asked are “how many days a week should I workout?” and “what is the best workout schedule/routine?” My answer to both questions, like many questions about fitness and nutrition, is always that it depends. There is no such thing as the “best” workout schedule or ideal number of days per week to workout. 

The first thing you have to ask yourself when trying to figure out the best schedule/routine for YOU is what is actually realistic for you? If you are currently inactive and decide that you want to start out by working out 5 days a week, that seems highly unlikely. It’s more important to pick a schedule that works for you and your lifestyle and that you can be consistent with. The next question you should ask yourself is what types of exercise do I enjoy? While it is important that everyone do a combination of strength training and cardio, if you absolutely hate the modality of exercise you decide to do, it’s going to make it much more challenging to be consistent and follow through. Another consideration is are you training for anything specific? If you are training for a race or a weightlifting competition then that will also dictate how you spend the majority of your time in the gym

I typically recommend strength training 2-4 days per week and cardio 2-3 days per week. This does not mean that you have to do something every day. I also recommend prioritizing the type of exercise that you enjoy the most. For example, I like lifting weights so I strength train 4 days per week and aim to do at least 2 cardio sessions per week. I may do cardio on a day that I am lifting or save it for a day that I am resting from strength training. Alternatively, I have a client who is a marathon runner. She strength trains 2 days per week and prioritizes running, as that is her preferred method of exercise. This client is also a good example of someone training for a specific goal/event, she has to focus on running in order to successfully train for a marathon. 

If you’re just starting out I would recommend starting with a small goal that you can achieve consistently. This may look like 2 days a week of a group fitness class that you enjoy or walking during lunch time. After you have been successful at being consistent with a routine like this, you can add more in. I always stress that it’s better to pick a goal that is achievable and reach it rather than striving for something that is unattainable. Working out 2 days a week for a month is 8 workouts per month and 96 workouts per year. Someone who can stick to this schedule is going to see better results than someone who plans on working out 5 days per week and ultimately ends up giving up because they cannot maintain the schedule. 

Your workouts do not have to be super time consuming either. I am a big fan of fitting short workouts into your day when you have time. Getting out for a 10-15 minute walk or doing a 20-30 minute strength circuit is always going to be better than doing nothing.  

Exercise is meant to be something that enhances your life, not something that controls it. Don’t stress about finding the “perfect” routine, because no such thing exists. Find something that works for you and that you can stick with! 

For help building a workout routine download our free 3 day week workout template here or check out one of our in person or online training options! 

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