How I Set Up The Perfect Workout Routine
I was laying on the floor today, thinking. Yep, I do that sometimes. The floor is a good place for taking a break and figuring shit out!
In this moment, I was laying on a mat waiting for my Pilates class to start. I was thinking about how tired I was, and how much I didn’t want to do Pilates. I was also grateful that I’d had the good sense to make my Monday workout this class.
It's smart because this way I have to go somewhere at a certain time and when I'm there, let someone boss me around and tell me what to do. Of course, I could skip the class or ignore the instructor, because free choice and all that. But I don’t skip it because I really like the instructor, though I do routinely ignore her, because she tells me to do that if I want to :) Since I’m all about listening to my body and individualizing my workouts, this suits me quite well.
Like all humans, my energy levels, mood and how my body feels varies from day to day (and sometimes more often than that!). So it seems super silly to look back on how much effort I used to put into creating the ‘perfect’ workout schedule, the best routine, the most stellar plan. I like planning, and I'm dang good at it, but there was always something missing.
The problem was that I never, even stuck to my plan for longer than a couple / few weeks at a time. And it wasn’t lack of motivation or interest, or even the fact that I didn’t like my workouts. It was all me.
Sometimes I would push myself through a workout I really didn’t want to do for some legitimate reason. I would go to cycling class when my legs were already super sore, because the calendar said “Today is spin class”. That would be unpleasant and the next time it was cycling class time, my memory of the last one was unpleasant leg sensations. You can see how that doesn’t work over time - negative associations don’t lead to increases in motivation.
Other times I would just skip the planned workout altogether, in a way that seemed really logical. Calendar says “Today is swimming” but I just don’t feel like swimming. So I’ll just go tomorrow and take today off. But wait, what if I did feel like going to yoga, or lifting weights, or just going for a walk? Now I’m a reformed “all or nothing” person - I always operate on a continuum.
It took me a while to realize the formula that would really work for me. I considered deeper ‘stuff’ instead of just looking at the calendar and sticking in workouts. Even considering fitness goals - run farther, lift more, do a headstand - it’s important to check in to whether those goals reflect your values. If they don’t, it’s easy to make a good start, then lose steam quickly.
First I had to get down with my values. I value listening to my body and having the freedom to choose, so I need a workout routine that is flexible and has built in options. I value exercising in a way that feels good and makes my body smile, which means I don’t push my limits super hard on the regular (unless I want to). I like to progress gradually - I'm in no big hurry when it comes to fitness.
And I prioritize functional strength - meaning, I want to be stronger in ways that makes my day to day life easier and better. I also value balance and variety. My body literally needs balance, since I have three herniated discs which sometimes throw me out of whack. I like to do a lot of different things, and I get annoyed if I can’t consistently do them week to week.
When your values inform your choices, then your choices are things you actually want to do - not that you think you should do, or what all your friends are doing. My values help me focus on what’s really important to me in life, and by extension, in my workouts.
And having that focus means compromising in other ways. If I lift weights four or five times per week, then running two or three times gets a little more unlikely. If I do yoga four or five times per week, my muscles get too much stretching and not enough strengthening (I like the super chill types of yoga).
And don’t forget about your preferences. We’ve all heard about the benefits of having a workout buddy, right? It’s not for me. Workouts are ‘me time’ and I am a lone wolf in the exercise world
So, what does my current iteration of my workout routine look like?
Mondays, as you know, I go to Pilates. Getting to class is a no brainer, the workout is all mind body connection which is a great way to start the week. And we do lots of core work - abs, glutes, and back - which I need to start off my week feeling strong and balanced. As a bonus, I feel really fancy when I say Pilates.
On Tuesdays I do Weights or a Weights n’ Swim SuperCombo. My schedule on Tuesdays is more varied, which means that I workout in the afternoon… sometime. Having flexibility with when is important. Sometimes I’m really excited for the gym, so I just lift weights. Other times I’m a little more ‘meh’ on the gym thing so I sweeten the deal by doing half the time on weights and then swimming after.
I run on Wednesday mornings, which is a new thing for me. I usually workout in the afternoons but it’s often too hot to run then at this time of year. I was unsure at first, so I took it on as ‘an experiment’. I like it now. My workout is all done by 10:30-11am and then I basically just eat all day after that ;)
Thursdays are 'Tuesdays 2.0'. I go to the gym and I exercise the parts that aren’t tired. Sometimes I swim if I didn’t do it on Tuesday.
I run in the mornings on Fridays too!
On Saturdays and Sundays I do whatever the hell I want. Sometimes it’s nothing. Or it’s yoga, the gym, a hike or a bike ride. If for whatever reason I don’t run on Friday, then I run. Running on Sundays is extra good because my NRC (Nike Run Club) app encouragement voice for that day is Kevin Hart, and he’s my favourite guy that yells in my ear to run.
Above all I always listen to my body and do what feels good. Kevin Hart is always after me to pick up my pace, and I’m just like “Thanks but no Thanks, Kevin Hart” and I stick to what I’m doing. I'm pretty sure he understands.
My life is always changing, and so my workout routine needs to be in flux too. Maybe that works for you, and maybe it doesn't. Maybe you need your workout routine to the be the anchor in your otherwise crazy life :) The point is, do what works for you, and always be re-evaluating if your approach is still achieving its objectives.
Here’s my current iteration:
Mondays I go to the gym. If I didn’t run Sunday, I’ll do a short run to the gym and make it a half and half :)
Tuesdays I now teach yoga Tuesday nights, so that’s my workout. And I have started riding my bike there and back. That won’t last all year, but we’ll see how long it goes for ;) Sometimes I go to the gym in the morning.
Wednesdays I take off. I go for a long walk to my work place and walk home.
Thursdays I go to the gym. I’ve been going earlier, like around 8am and it’s such a great way to start the day.
Fridays I run. Usually I do a speedrun, which is nice and short and hella uplifting. I was resistant to running intervals because “they are hard.” As it turns out, I’m a stubborn idiot because I love the way intervals are broken up into smaller chunks. I find it easier and feel like the time flies by. Who knew?? The answer to that is: my partner, who’d been telling me for ages to do speed runs. Sorry, babe. I’m a stubborn idiot! (I think she already knows that, though.)
Saturdays are Tuesdays 2.0
Sundays, if I have time, I like to run because Kevin Hart hollers at me in the NRC app :)
As you can see, swimming and pilates went away. Yeah, that happens sometimes. It sucks, but the truth is that I can’t consistently juggle 5 types of exercise every week and do most of it 2x a week. Because math. I thought about it alot and I want to focus on running and being strong, which means… running of course, and being at the gym. I will go back to those when the time is right. In the past I would have wigged out about this, but I’m cool with it. (And yes, that takes tons of practice!)