Developing A Fitness Routine: Essential Advice | #CP

According to NHS guidelines, those between the ages of 19 and 24 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week, along with strength exercises twice a week. As this would take at least four hours, for most people - and especially parents - meeting this recommendation means that the exercise has to spread over a number of different days.

As a result, one of the best ways of ensuring that you achieve the minimum recommended levels is to try to create a weekly fitness routine. Doing so allows you to keep track of your activity levels without infringing too much upon your usual schedule, but actually developing a fitness routine that can be stuck to consistently can often be challenging. Below, we have provided a few tips that can allow you to develop a fitness routine that meets your health and exercise needs, and that aligns perfectly with the rest of your life too.

#1 - Identify more time slots than you need each week

One of the biggest issues people experience when they create a fitness routine is that other things get in the way. If you were, for example, to set a very rigid schedule - such as one hour of moderate aerobic activity every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6pm - then it would likely only be a matter of time before this was disrupted, either through a late night at work, a social event, needing to attend an event with your kids, or simply feeling that you really need to relax after a long day.

As a result, try to keep your planning relatively flexible. Every Sunday night, think about the week ahead and identify time slots that might be suitable for exercise - even if it’s just a possible half an hour here and there, highlight it. In most cases, doing this should leave you with more time than you actually need to meet the NHS requirements, but that’s okay; it affords you a little flexibility, so if you need to skip one of the time slots, then you know there is more available later in the week.

#2 - Avoid “back loading” your exercise schedule

There is, however, a possible issue that can arise with the method above: you “back load” your routine, as in you are busy earlier in the week, potentially to the point where you need to jog or cycle for three hours on a Saturday to meet the recommended exercise amount. Not only is a three-hour stint of exercise difficult to manage on a physical level, it is also hugely strenuous on your schedule, so avoiding such a scenario is always preferred.

The best way to prevent “back loading” is to try and fit in as much exercise you can every day, even if you don’t completely “fill” the time slots that you originally identified on Sunday night. For example, if you thought that you’d have time for a half-hour workout on Tuesday, but when Tuesday arrives you actually only have time for a 10 minute workout, then it’s still worth doing that 10 minutes. Every little helps; see the 150 minutes as a target for the week, that you can gradually reduce with little bursts of activity here and there.

On occasions when life dictates that loading the latter part of your schedule is the only option, do be cautious. Long workouts may make sense when it comes to meeting the 150 minute requirement, but overexercising can be harmful, and could make injuries more likely. It may be better to “roll over” the minutes missed in one week to the next week if this helps prevent a need to exercise for a long duration just to meet your target.

#3 - Consider more intense exercise

The 150 minutes that the NHS suggests is related to moderate exercise activity, such as cycling or jogging. However, if you are struggling to find time in your schedule, then it may be worth considering vigorous activities instead. The NHS state that 75 minutes of vigorous activity is equivalent to 150 minutes of moderate activity, so you can see the same health benefits with a far less cumbersome time requirement.

The question, of course, is what constitutes “vigorous” activity. Essentially, any exercise that means you are out of breath to the point where you cannot really hold a full conversation - you can just say a few words here and there - can be considered vigorous. Skipping, running, fast cycling (especially up and down hills, or on a static bike that can mimic this kind of terrain), fast swimming, martial arts, and sports such as football and rugby can all be considered vigorous exercise.

You can also blend moderate and vigorous activity, and keep track of the amount of time you have spent exercising until you reach the 150 level - just count every minute of vigorous activity as two minutes when trying to reach your total for the week.

It is important to note that even if you do switch to vigorous activity, or a mix of both moderate and vigorous, strength exercises twice a week are still advised.

#4 - Make it as easy as possible for you to exercise

Above, we discussed how it can be helpful to grab any time to exercise - no matter how brief - whenever the opportunity arises, all in an effort to reduce that 150 target down to zero. However, to do this, you will need to be able to exercise almost at will, which can be very difficult if you only work out at a gym. For example, if you have a spare 10 minutes, then by the time you have grabbed your gym bag and driven to the gym itself, that 10 minutes will already be gone.

To overcome this issue, look for ways to make it as simple as possible for you to work out. When you’re going to be out and about for the day, carry comfortable shoes and a few weights in the back of your car that you can put to use as and when you have the opportunity to do so. When it comes to exercising at home, having access to workout equipment and facilities will be hugely advantageous, and the OriGym home gym guide can assist you further in this regard. Thanks to these kinds of measures, there’s no need to sign up to a gym that eats time from your schedule.

#5 - Space your strength sessions

Until this point, we have focused primarily on aerobic exercise, but as we have mentioned, biweekly strength exercises are also necessary. For the most part, finding the time to work on strength is similar to aerobic exercise; go “as and when” suits your schedule.

However, if at all possible, keeping a few days separation between strength exercises can be advantageous. For example, you could set Monday and Thursday as your strength days and, if one of these sessions needs to be moved, you bump the second in order to preserve the clear two-day gap between sessions.

The reason for this is due to how strength is built. Strength exercises essentially damage muscles by causing microscopic muscle tears; this may sound alarming, but it is actually the goal. When the muscles are minorly torn during a workout, they then heal; a process that actually strengthens the muscle. Repeat this cycle of minor-damage-then-healing over and over, and muscle strength greatly improves.

Due to the above, when it comes to strength exercises, you need to allow time for that healing to take place. If you work on strength every day, or every other day, for a short duration each time, then the necessary healing cannot take place. Spacing your strength work a few days apart is therefore preferable, and should be conducive to building strength over a long period of time.

#6 - Be willing to suspending your routine

A fitness routine is important and can greatly contribute to your overall health and well-being, and hopefully the tips above will help you to do this. However, the best fitness routines are those that are realistic and minimise harm.

If you develop an injury or are unwell, then suspending your routine for a week or so is more than acceptable. Forcing yourself to workout when you are struggling can increase the risk of further harm, so always be willing to give yourself a break and avoid the 150 minute requirement if you need to rest and recuperate. You can try increasing the amount of time you spend working out to compensate later in the month if you wish but, sometimes, minutes will just be missed due to uncontrollable circumstances. It happens.

What matters most is that if you do have to suspend your routine that you do return to it. Consistency across a year is far more important than consistency across a  single week or month. There will be times when you need to stop working out for awhile, and that’s absolutely fine; just try to get back to your normal routine when you can.

In conclusion

The advice above should help you to create a fitness routine that fits into your life as well as it possibly can.

Karl Young

Part-time daddy and lifestyle blogger. Father of 2 boys under 2. Golfer, scare-fan, tea-lover, traveller, squash and poker player. I write on the @HuffPostUK

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