Principle 1: Consistency
Perhaps the largest predictor of fitness success revolves around your dedication to being consistent. Without this turning into some kind of dissertation, the idea we need to get our minds wrapped around is that the body needs a continual stimulus to create change or adaptation.
Fat loss, muscle gain, strength gain, cardiovascular fitness, you name it — they’re all dependent on consistency. If I want to create measurable change in any fitness variable, I need to expose my body to a very specific stimulus over and over for that change to occur.
No matter what your goals are, here are some general rules of thumb to follow when it comes to the number of times you workout or train each week:
> One day a week will do nothing but repeat the cycle of getting sore, then taking a step back.
> Two days a week will reduce the soreness, but will lead to nearly no discernible changes in fitness.
> Three days a week tends to be the tipping point where your training begins to show reasonable payoffs.
> Four days a week is usually the sweet spot. You will get continual payoff from your investment and create dramatic change in your body.
> Five days a week begins to introduce the idea of overkill. Yes, this level of dedication is admirable, and you will see dramatic change, but you must watch for overtraining after some time.
> Six days a week is typically too much for the average Jane or Joe. Overtraining will likely appear after a short time and you will see injuries popping up from overuse.
> Seven days a week, the “no days off” approach (yes, this exists), is a great way to get hurt. The cumulative effect of fatigue will become insurmountable and the only thing I can guarantee with this approach is eventual and complete burnout.
My recommendation for consistency is to stay in the zone of three to five training days a week and on your off days, be truly “off.” Recovery is critical for continued progress.
Principle 2: Intensity
There are two great things about intensity. First, you are in complete control of your intensity at all times. Think of intensity as your “effort” level. Second, if you don’t know how hard you should be going for given routine, remember that progression is the key with good form!
Look up CrossFit, kettlebell training, Zumba, spin classes, etc. and you’ll find they all have predetermined levels of intensity prescribed alongside exercises, sets, reps and pace. So the only thing you need to do is to adhere to that prescribed intensity. It’s actually very easy.
Stick with what is prescribed. If you are doing long duration, moderate aerobic work on an elliptical that asks for a heart rate of 130-150 bpm, don’t change the prescription. If you are doing a CrossFit WOD and they want to you to do 3 sets of 3 repetitions at 82% of your one-rep maximum, do exactly that. Intensity is a vital for success and if you find yourself having poor results in your program, look here first.
Principle 3: Technique
This one is a little more involved than the other two, but the payoff is immense. If you are doing a specific routine, especially if it involves weight training, spend the money on a couple of personal training sessions with someone who is certified and have your techniques evaluated. Most training programs assume your technique is spot on. The upside of this is that you can nearly guarantee success if your techniques are dialed.
Technique is also the mother to staying healthy. The fastest way to get injured is to do some big dynamic weightlifting exercise with poor form. If consistency is a critical principle, the easiest way to sabotage this principle is to get hurt. So, take the time and make sure your movement is clean.
Principle 4: Does It Make You Happy?
This one is a no-brainer. The easiest way to see the biggest results is to do something that makes you happy. The easiest way to have an epic fail is to try to do something that you dread, that makes you miserable, or that is not sustainable.
Truthfully, all of us coaches and trainers who genuinely care about you simply want you to move.
Do you love to run? Do you dream about your next lifting session? Is the happiest place on earth anywhere that you are sitting on your bike? Do you want to try CrossFit? Give it all a go. These routines, those exercises, and that fitness system all work.