6am: teach Spin class
7am: teach yoga
Lunch break: 45 minute run
5pm: 60 minutes of weight lifting
6:30pm: 90 minute kickboxing class
Rinse, and repeat.
This was my schedule, day in and day out when I was living in bright-lights, big-city Las Vegas. For years and years, I was grinding away, teaching up to 13 (!!!) group fitness classes a week, running on my lunch break, hitting the weights after work, and then icing all of that crazy off with a 90 minute, high-intensity kickboxing class with my girlfriends.
I was tired. I was so effing tired all of the time. And the real kick in the pants?
My body wasn't changing for the better. Quite the opposite, in fact.
When my dear friend and on-staff Exercise Physiologist took my body fat, it had increased. Yep. Gone up.
Amidst my workout madness, I was blasting away precious muscle mass, and still gaining fat, even though I was driving myself into the ground with exercise.
Something had to change, and it finally did.
If you follow my writing, you know that those days of working harder have long been replaced with days of working smarter.
I am a huge advocate of the Minimum Effective Dose. If you aren't familiar with the theory, it basically says that we want to do the least possible in order to get the desired results.
My good friend Jen Sinkler is totally on board with this theory as well, which is precisely what has helped her become one of the most well-rounded fit chicks in the biz.
Jen is insanely strong (she boasts an incredible 320 lb squat, and 369 lb deadlift. Yowza!), however, unlike many that are viciously strong with the barbell, Jen's conditioning game is on point, which puts her at a serious advantage.
It's one thing to be able to lift a barbell once or twice; it's another entirely to have the aerobic capacity to train with the amount of volume necessary to become even #strongrrrr.
How, exactly, did Jen become so strong and so well conditioned? She is going to tell us all about it below, with an ode to a favorite childhood tale: The Three Bears
Take it away, Jen!
Not too much. Not too little. Juuust right.
No, I’m not talking about porridge, even though the story of Goldilocks and three bears perfectly illustrates the idea that too much or too little of a good thing isn’t quite right. I’m talking about something far better than porridge: your fitness routine, and making sure you’re doing just the right amount of work required to get the results you’re looking for.
The rules, if you can call them that, are pretty simple:
- Get enough sleep to feel rested and alert.
- Eat enough food to easily sustain the demands of your day.
- Move your body in a way that feels good to you and helps you achieve your performance and physique goals, should you have any.
But, that’s not quite the end of the story.
Because the question is two-fold: First, what type of exercise is going to give you the most bang for your buck for the goals you desire in the time that you have? And secondly, how much of that exercise is enough, and won’t tip the scales into “too much” territory?
Not A Fairy Tale
Most of us, when we think of getting fitter, we want to achieve or maintain a healthy body composition, we want not to get winded chasing our kids or pets around the backyard, and we want to feel good.
How to get there? Here’s what the research is telling us: High-intensity circuit training, performed at various levels of intensity consistently over a period of time, is superior to steady-state cardio when it comes to shedding fat, strengthening muscle, and improving our capacity to do work.
And it’s a fun way to train, in a twisted sort of way: You get to incorporate a wide variety of movements and equipment that challenge your body in every plane of movement for a duration lasting anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes. It’s fun and fast enough for those of us with limited time to spend in the gym. Here’s how to make it work for you.
The Biggest Bear
I’m going to skip ahead and give you the moral of the story: Too much of a good thing is still too much. If you are constantly challenging your body to its very limits, you are setting yourself up for injury. You will also fail to recover between bouts of exercise. Your muscles won’t have time to repair themselves and emerge stronger than they were before. And if that doesn’t happen, the suck factor of your workouts is gonna be high. But how, exactly, do you know if you’ve gone too far?
Turn your eye inward and take a closer look. Symptoms that can indicate overtraining include an elevated resting heart rate, difficulties sleeping, and an inability to focus on everyday tasks. Nagging aches and pains stemming from incomplete recovery, a hypervigilant focus on maintaining your exercise routine (whereby your self-worth is wrapped up in whether or not you trained), or a feeling of dread about your training sessions may also occur are signs to look out for, as well.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it’s time to start making your exercise program work for you, not the other way around. Exercise can and should be fun! When you take a little time to experiment with what works best for your body and your schedule, it can feel almost like a fairy tale.
An Exercise Routine That’s Just Right — For You
Just like the bedtime story, it could take some trial and error to find the exercise routine that works best for you. You can work short, high-intensity circuit training into your schedule as few as two and as many as five sessions per week, depending how your body reacts, so it’s important to honestly assess yourself to figure out where you might fall on the spectrum.
If your nutrition is on point enough — meaning that whatever your diet looks like, it’s providing you with the fuel you need to get you through your day — you’re regularly getting quality sleep, your joints feel good, and your schedule allows your body adequate recovery time between exercise bouts, you may thrive on the higher end of the spectrum, providing you mix up the length and intensity of your sessions. If, however, you’re struggling with one of these key factors, give yourself permission to scale back a bit. Rest and recovery is not only good, it’s great! Most likely, workouts aren’t paying your bills, so there is no workout on the planet worth you running the risk of overtraining or getting injured.
Remember, when life stress is high, your workouts need to be chill. Fewer, shorter, and less intense conditioning sessions paired with long walks, gentle yoga, and meditation are an excellent recipe for maintaining your fitness level while keeping your body, and your mind, in a positive, healthy balance.
To reap the benefits that high-intensity circuit training has to offer, it’s important to recognize where your mind and body are at right now and adjust your workout schedule accordingly. Now doesn’t that sound like happily ever after?
If you’re looking for a program that’s just right for you, I’ve put together a mammoth 181-workout pick-and-choose library with plenty of options for pace and intensity called Lift Weights Faster 2. Complete with a full exercise glossary that includes written descriptions and photographic demonstrations of nearly 270 exercises (from classic moves to more unusual ones — the Jefferson deadlift, anyone?), a video library that includes coaching on 30 of the more technical lifts, 10 challenge-workout videos, plus a dynamic warm-up routine, I’ve combined my training and athletic experience with my long background in magazine publishing to create a clear-cut, easy-to-use resource that you’ll want to turn to all the time.
Every workout is organized by the equipment you have available, how experienced you are as a lifter, and how much time you’ve got, with options that last anywhere from five up to 30 minutes.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I teamed up with my husband, David Dellanave, to create a strength program companion resource called Get Stronger Faster 2 to help you take your strength to the next level. This completes the total workout package and helps you get results, faster.
For more info, click HERE.
|You can Lift Weights Faster, too, by clicking HERE|
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Jen Sinkler is a longtime fitness writer for national magazines such as Women’s Health and Men’s Health. A former member of the U.S. national women’s rugby team, she currently trains clients at The Movement Minneapolis. Jen talks fitness, food, happy life and general health topics at her website, www.jensinkler.com.