“Each moment of the year has its own beauty” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Consistency is something I highly value and strive for. In my own life, I try to be consistent with the things that positively impact my health and happiness; my workouts, my prayer and meditation, my diet, my relationships, and the energy I put into running my business. When I am consistent in these areas, my life runs more smoothly and I feel more fulfilled and at peace. When I feel like crap it’s usually because I’ve slacked off for too long in one or more of these departments.
Consistency is a huge factor, probably the greatest factor, in the success of my clients. And by success I mean their ability to reach the goals they have set. Eating like shit is a big time detriment as well, but today is not about broccoli, it’s about consistency, frequency, and something else that I’m about to get to if you keep reading.
“How often should I work out?” is a common question I get from new clients. Generally speaking, training 3-4x per week will usually result in some juicy results after 8-10 weeks, and training 2-3x per week will maintain fitness levels. But these recommendations are, like I said, general, and need to be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, your current fitness level has a huge impact on the formula. A deconditioned beginner could see serious fitness gains training only twice a week, while a highly conditioned athlete may need 6 or 7 sessions a week to make minor improvements. Determining proper training frequency (ie. how many times a week you should work out) requires taking a look at your current fitness level, as well as many other factors, like diet, sleep, stress levels, time management and goals, but I can’t write about all of them right now, that would take forever! So for today, let’s talk about that “something else” I promised I’d get to…
When I start working with a new client, I don’t have them do the same workout every session for the rest of their life. That would be silly and boring, and would make me a bad trainer. Just like our bodies require different workouts for different phases in our fitness levels (which is my job as your trainer to determine), our bodies require different frequencies in our training based on the “life season” we are in (which is your job to determine, but I’ll help).
Some of my clients who have been with me for a while train twice a week with me and maybe once a week they hit the treadmill on their own. This can be an excellent schedule, AS LONG AS IT IS WORKING FOR THEM. It’s important to step back and re-evaluate every so often. If two sessions a week plus a jaunt on the treadmill is getting you to your goals and making you feel good, then keep it up. If two sessions a week plus a jaunt on the treadmill is what you’ve always done so you just keep doing it, then your training plan probably isn’t jiving with your life season.
The relationship between life season and fitness training is highly individual. We all have unique experiences of life, and those experiences help determine our season. I will use myself as an example to explain what I mean by this.
Last November I entered a season of extreme stress when my mom’s health quickly deteriorated and she passed away. One of the ways I’ve typically dealt with stress is by working out, but I quickly realized that escaping to the nearest Crossfit gym in Minnesota on a daily basis wasn’t helping. I would force myself to go to the gym, but then spent the workout worrying about my mom and wishing I was at home with her. Not to mention breaking down in tears at the very thought of lifting a barbell. The extra effort required to train at my usual level was too much for my already overwhelmed nervous system. So I cut back my workouts and changed what I was doing because what I was doing wasn’t working for me anymore. So instead, a couple times a week when I needed a break I would jump rope in my mom’s garage or run hill repeats in front of her house in the crisp November air. It’s a far cry from the training I’m used to, but it’s what I needed at that point in my life. For a couple months after her death, and over the holidays, my training remained kind, gentle, and infrequent because upping the frequency or intensity while in a fragile season of my life would have done more harm than good.
Just like it doesn’t change from winter to spring overnight, my life gradually shifted to a season of renewal. My last series of blog entries were from that time, when I was doing the Whole30 and training at Crossfit 2-3 times a week. Upping my training intensity and frequency felt good and right, so that’s what I did.
Maybe it’s the season to increase your training frequency. Maybe it’s time to back off a little. In a world that values “more is better,” backing off of training might seem like a lazy choice. If you’re just being lazy, then keep showing up to training! But if the signs are there that what you are doing isn’t working, then change it. Only you can decide.
Denying these seasons would be denying that life is change and change is constant.
And that’s a beautiful thing.