As we try to fit fitness into our busy and demanding lives, worrying about how much exercise we should be doing can become an added stress that we don’t really need. Everyone seems to ask themselves the same question: ‘How often should I go to the gym?’. And it’s an impossible question to ask. One that everyone seems to have a different answer to.
We try to answer it in the number of days per week. Is three times a week enough? Or should we be going every day? What about rest days? And how much exercise per day is enough?
There’s a whole host of questions that come into play and a frustrating lack of answers. Nobody seems to have the golden rule regarding workout frequency. And there’s a pretty good reason as to why. You guessed it. Because everybody is different.
So, how do you figure our how often you should be exercising? Here’s a couple of considerations to help give you the guidance you need.
What are your fitness goals?
The amount of time that you need to spend in the gym will depend entirely on your fitness goals. For some people, going to the gym is the biggest part of their life. And to achieve certain goals, look a certain way, and have a certain lifestyle, they will spend almost every day in the gym for hours on end. For others, they just want to keep in good health. This means that two days a week in the gym is enough, with a bit of added walking on other days.
Your goals should be ones that are sustainable. Ones that compliment your lifestyle and that make you happy. Working out for the right reasons is the key to enjoying exercising. Time for a couple of examples:
Goal: Increase aerobic fitness
Gym time: Aim for 3 gym sessions per week where you test your aerobic fitness using interval training and making use of the cardio machines. Make sure to include some strength training at the end of your session to keep your muscles strong and able to support the movements.
Goal: Increase muscle mass
Gym time: Aim for 4 sessions per week. Focus mainly on lifting weights and attend to each muscle group you want to work on. This might mean splitting your sessions into upper body and lower body. Then making the focus even more granular depending on your particular goal. For example, if it’s upper body muscle mass that’s your main aim, try splitting your sessions into arms and abs, back and shoulders, and chest. Remember, recovery and rest days are just as important as the training itself.
Goal: Weight loss
Gym time: The first thing you need to do is figure out your calorie deficit per week that you’re aiming for to achieve weight loss. Then you can figure out how you can contribute towards this by doing cardio in the gym. Aim for 3 days a week. Don’t forget to add some strength training in here too to help keep your muscles strong and able to support you. Strength training also boosts your ability to burn energy in the long run.
How fit are you currently?
It’s important to be honest with yourself about your current fitness levels. If you lead a demanding and hectic life, it might be the case that you’re currently only making it to the gym once a week. And that’s okay. That might be enough. If your weekly run is all you need to keep a healthy body and mind then that’s great.
But if you’re looking to step it up, make sure it’s a gradual increase in frequency to avoid injury and burn out. They key is to continue to listen to how your body feels. As you up the ante and start spending more days in the gym, you might notice you feel more tired by the end of the week. You might need more sleep. You might feel some DOMs. It’s important to listen to these natural signals and take rest when you need it. Going from one day a week to seven days per week in the gym is a recipe for injury.
What type of exercise are you doing?
It’s important to keep variety in your workouts for a number of reasons. A big one of those is to let yourself recover in between sessions that target a certain type of fitness or a certain body part.
A runner won’t run every day of the week without rest. Doing this could result in impact injuries, physical fatigue or repetitive stress injuries. Instead, they might run three times a week and then add an additional strength session on top of this.
If you’re looking to lift weights. The days per week that you rest are just as important as the days that you go to the gym. Building muscle results in muscle tears that then rebuild. Continually tearing and not letting your muscles recover is not a good way to go. After a heavy chest session, don’t go hammering the bench press again the next day. But want to do some sprints on the treadmill? By all means.
So the key is variety. Work on your cardiovascular fitness as well as your muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, and mobility. Let particular muscle groups rest after days you’ve worked them hard.
Finding your formula
It’s clear there’s no one size fits all when it comes to figuring out how many days to spend in the gym. But there are things to consider to help find your perfect formula for frequency:
What are your fitness focuses for the week? Mainly strength with a bit of cardio thrown in.
What does life look like? Work is a bit busy this week, but week day evenings are mostly free.
How are you feeling? Bit sore from last week, but all in all, feeling pretty motivated.
What other activity have you got on? Doing a big family walk on Saturday.
Answering these questions can help you figure out your formula. For the example above, the answer might be 3 strength sessions during the week. One day chest, arms and abs. One day shoulders and back. One day legs. Then a run on Sunday morning.
Remember. You can always test it and change it. Each week will be different from the next. And everybody is different. Your Hussle is your own.