One of the most common questions I get from my clients involves exercise/working out — specifically around how often they should be working out, what types of exercises are best for weight/fat loss, and how to get/stay motivated to exercise regularly.
This can be a loaded question (and one that can vastly differ depending on each person) so I’m going to break it down for you as best I can, so you can then go and tailor it to your lifestyle, goals + needs.
Let’s get started with the most commonly asked questions:
This one depends so much on your schedule, the types of workouts you’re involved in, your hormones, your energy levels, your preferences, etc. What I’m basically saying is you can’t just follow a generic guideline and expect results — you really need to tailor this to you.
For example I could tell you an average of five days a week is ideal, but if you’re already juggling kids, a job, running a household, etc. five days might not work for you to schedule in hour-long sweat sessions.
The answer? Try this simple rule of thumb that can apply/benefit to almost every single person:
Moving improves everything: your metabolism, your gut, your sleep and body rhythms, your immunity, your stress response, and the overall balance in your life. It even decreases inflammation. You don’t have to be a rock-star cyclist or sculpt a body of steel. Just ask yourself, upon waking, “How can I move more today?”
+ Walk the dog (or just go for a walk)
+ Take the stairs instead of the escalator/elevator
+ Set a timer at your desk every hour to take a break, walk around the office and get some water
+ Play more (i.e. wrestle or play catch with your kids, ride around on a skateboard or a bike, climb a tree, jump on a trampoline, join a kickball league or intramural sports team, play music and dance around the house, etc.)
+ Take frequent stretches at work or foam roll at night while watching tv
+ Try riding your bike or walking to work (if it’s an option) or getting off the bus/train a few stops early to build in more walking
While this is another tricky question that is dependent on your hormones, body type, genetic makeup, etc. there is plenty of science-based evidence that these types of workouts help to maximize weight/fat-loss:
This method of exercise (think short bursts of high-intensity training like crossfit, boxing, sprints, etc.) stokes your metabolism and Excessive Post-Exercise Oxygen consumption (which replenishes your oxygen supply and keeps your body burning calories post workout) as well as helps you burn fat and use excess sugar that’s floating around in your blood.
This is because your muscles are like gas tanks, and when you exercise you draw from your tanks of glycogen as the preferred source of energy. When your tanks are empty of glycogen your body will then burn fat for fuel, but if you can’t access fat storage fast enough, it’s a slower process and can cause you to hit the wall.
Lifting weights stimulates your lean body mass (i.e. muscle) and strengthens, tightens, tones, and enhances your musculature. Having more lean body mass (versus more fat mass) provides us with the strength needed carry out our daily tasks, supports our core and spine, supports hormonal and bone health, AND allows our bodies to burn more calories and fat (even while sitting).
Workouts like yoga help to reduce stress and lower cortisol levels in the body (a hormone responsible for weight gain, especially around your midsection). Not only does yoga work on your outer body for balance, strength and flexibility, but it also works on your inner world, helping to calm the mind and create peace.
While workouts like reformer pilates or barre won’t help you to burn the most calories, they do help you to increase muscular strength and endurance, build core strength and overall muscle tone, improve flexibility and stretch/elongate the muscles (helping to get you that coveted long and lean look).
I personally have noticed a huge difference since adding a reformer pilates class to my routine twice per week at The Pursuit Studio (PSST — if you’re a Seattle Local check them out and use the code “SOFRESHSOGREEN” for 15% of your first 5,10 or 20 class purchase — AND first class is free).
In general, building in a variety of workouts into your routine will work and target different muscle groups, expose you to a variety of different benefits, and help you to beat boredom. Try to mix it up when you can, but don’t overcomplicate it. When in doubt, just stick with what you love/ feels good to you.
At the same token if you want to maximize your benefits, consistency is key. And when I say consistency, I don’t mean frequency (i.e. working out 5 days per week for one week, zero days the next), I mean consistently, over time, building it into your schedule whenever you can. Consistency breeds habits, and habits breed a lifestyle.
First of all, it’s super important to note exercise is not the biggest driver in fat-loss, diet is. So if you want to maximize your workout benefits you need to combine it with a healthy diet. For tips on how to fuel your fitness in an optimal way nutritionally, check out this post.
Also, while getting in regular movement/exercise can help aid in stress-reduction, increased energy, a better mood, more toned physique, weight-loss and overall health, there can be too much of a good thing. I’ve noticed quite a few of my clients tend to push themselves too hard and over-exercise in an effort to lose weight. This actually increases inflammation in the body and affects their immune system, stalling weight loss and contributing to added stress, increased cortisol levels (which causes you to store fat instead of burn it) and adrenal fatigue.
This is the easiest way to get into any sort of consistent workout routine. As humans we are hard-wired for pleasure, and the more we dread/don’t enjoy something the less likely we are to stick with it. Positive habits build off one another, so start with whatever you enjoy (hiking with your dog, yoga with a beloved teacher, walking with your bestie, etc). and it will be much more likely to become a part of your routine and lifestyle.
Does it ever seem like you’re so good at following through with your commitments to others, but tend to break them when it’s for yourself? Enter in a workout buddy. Not only can it be more enjoyable and boost connection/camaraderie, but it can help keep you accountable (i.e. you’re probably much less likely to press the snooze button if you know your friend is sitting there waiting for you at the gym).
Just like that workout partner, a personal trainer helps to hold you accountable (especially if you know you’ve already paid for the service). Plus, depending on their credentials and background they should be able to tailor workouts to you in a way that will empower you to reach your goals.
I find especially most of my female clients, friends (and myself) prefer going to studios/partaking in group classes. Part accountability (if you sign up/pre-pay you’re more likely to go), part friendly competition (exercising with others can motivate you to push yourself to new levels), part enjoyment (I relish sneaking in a Soul Cycle class in with my fave instructor, Earl) joining a group class or studio can be extremely motivating and fun. It can also be expensive, so try looking into Groupon and Class Pass to experiment, and if you find you really love the studio try opting for monthly auto-pay, which is usually the most cost-effective option (especially if you’re going frequently).
More often then not people enjoy being outdoors, especially when it’s nice out (hello summer in the PNW). Plus being outside in nature has a plethora of other benefits on your health — it’s been scientifically proven to boost the immune system, lower your heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and improve our overall sense of well-being.
Try hiking, biking, walking, running, rock-climbing, surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, playing tennis, gardening, or even taking an outdoor yoga/exercise class. You might be amazed at how much less it feels like a chore and more it feels like playing/having fun.
Refer to the answers in the question above as well as question #1. The most important thing is to build in consistent movement, however you can realistically do this. Try to start with walking laps around your office, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking your car further from the entrance, or getting outside and moving in whatever way is most appealing to you. You don’t have to get to the gym to receive benefits, the most important thing is just to MOVE.
*There are also so many workout options you can now do from the convenience of your home (from apps, to youtube videos, to streaming workouts). Check out this collection of at-home-workout ideas.
Recovery is an important part of any consistent workout routine!
The simplest and easiest way to recover is to REST. Incorporating rest into your workout routine helps you to increase energy, maximize your workouts, and get physical results faster. You must refuel not just with nutrition, but with sleep and rest to give your muscles the time they need to rebuild and strengthen for your next go!
To maximize recovery try you can also try methods like cryotherapy (which reduces inflammation and speeds up muscle recovery — check out this quick video on why I love it), stretching + foam-rolling (this is the most LEGIT foam roller ever), epsom salt baths, or chiropractic care and massage. I also love to rub a few drops of DoTerra Deep Blue essential oil (an anti-inflammatory blend that helps to soothe aches and pains) on sore muscles (use this link to save 25% off any DoTerra products).
Look no further than this post to answer all of your nutrition questions. Keep in mind that while it’s great to plan for pre/post workout fuel, it’s all about what you are consistently consuming on a daily basis (i.e. eating healthy snacks before/after your workout and junk the rest of the day/time is most likely not going to help you reach your fitness goals).
Proper nutrition and hydration is going to be the most important thing to fuel your workouts and reach your fitness goals, but you can also try taking an amino acid like L-Glutamine (which enhances immune function and exercise recovery) or BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids) which can help to boost lean muscle mass and minimize tissue damage.
Yet another question that totally depends on YOU. As a general rule of thumb (along with all of the research I’ve done and licensed medical practitioners I’ve consulted being pregnant) whatever you were doing consistently before pregnancy is most likely safe to continue in moderation. What you want to steer away from is adding in completely new movements or workouts to your routine once you’re pregnant.
It’s also so incredibly important to 1) consult your licensed medical practitioner and 2) tune into your body and listen to what it needs.
If you find you could do a type of workout before but feel dizzy/nauseous/ light-headed or begin spotting during your pregnancy, I’d encourage you to back off that workout and consult immediately with your practitioner.
Some workouts that have been recommended to me during my pregnancy include walking, yoga (especially pre-natal) and pilates/core-training (building the strength in your core muscles can actually help you have an easier birth).
Again, I’d take this all with a grain of salt. Just because these workouts work well based off my schedule, preferences and lifestyle doesn’t mean they’ll work well for yours!
But I do get asked this question quite often and I’ll say this — I LOVE to move and incorporate it into my routine every day in some way. My absolute favorite form of exercise is hiking, so during the summer I try to do this once a week, but on a regular basis I incorporate a mix of yoga, reformer pilates, cycling (Soul Cycle fo-eva) and running (3-4 miles). I was doing this all pre-pregnancy and at 17 weeks have continued to do all of these exercises in moderation (i.e. I take a TON more breaks and go at my own pace).
So far I’ve found it to be extremely beneficial for me during pregnancy (it’s a big stress-reliever for me and has helped me maintain some of my energy) but I’m just taking it day by day.
So phew — that was quite a bit of information. I hope you found this helpful and if anything take away these key points:
I’m honored to support you on your journey to optimal hormone health + happiness. Thanks for being here babe.