Question Time: A Typical Week

We recently asked you guys to send us health and wellness related questions, and of course we received hundreds of thoughtful queries. In today’s post, I thought I’d tackle a fitness question that I really liked:

“What does a typical week of workouts look like that includes all the components deemed necessary: stretching & flexibility, cardio (HIIT & endurance), balance, strength (upper, lower and core)? Goal to be fit and active in middle age. Limited time to workout like 1-1.5 hrs per day.”

Let me start by saying if you have an hour or an hour and a half to exercise every day, you’re not limited, you’re lucky! Plenty of time to get in everything you need! If you have considerably less time than that, don’t fret, you can still get in what you need during the week, you just have to be intentional and efficient, and perhaps raise the intensity a bit. If you’re really short on time, check back to our recent Express Workout video.

Next let’s check out some of the components mentioned in the question, talk about general guidelines, and look at how they could all fit together in a week of fitness, which is known to coaches as a microcycle.

Cardio

  • Interval Training, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Great for: burning a lot of calories/weight loss, building anaerobic power, strengthening the heart, building tolerance to fatigue. How much: 1-2 sessions per week, or around 75 minutes total per week.
  • Endurance, LSD (Long Slow Distance). This is your longer, steadier, less intense exercise: walking, jogging, running, cycling, XC skiing, hiking, swimming, etc. Great for: strengthening the heart and circulatory system and burning calories, particularly fat. How much: 3-6 sessions per week, or 150-300 minutes (which can include the higher intensity minutes mentioned above). A lot of this category’s duration will depend on your overall goals and your fitness level—beginners may spend the majority of their weekly exercise minutes in this category.

Strength Training

Great for: building strength, developing lean muscle mass, maintaining bone density, burning calories, and developing movement patterns that are useful in everyday life. For this category, I prefer a full body workout—there’s no real need to split up your strength training into body parts/areas, unless you are a body builder or just want to lift every day. Each session may include lower body exercises, upper body (pushing and pulling), combinations (ex. squat to overhead press), and core. Check out our Exercise Library for ideas. How much: 1-3 sessions per week.

Flexibility and Balance

An oft neglected part of our overall fitness, being properly flexible and having good balance generally leads to better movement in all aspects of life, and less pain. Strength, balance, and flexibility help prevent falls and debilitating injury as we age. Flexibility and balance exercises can be done daily, and can be easily built into our other workouts as dynamic warmups, cool downs, and even active rest between sets. Flexibility and balance may also be practiced as standalone sessions, such as in a yoga class.

Weekly Schedule

I’m not going to assign days. Everyone has a different schedule, and different exercise time preferences. But in my best attempt to answer the question, here is one EXAMPLE of what the prior recommendations could look like. Please keep in mind that this example is malleable and customizable. In other words, it’s a template, and not set in stone. Bend it to your will.

  • Day 1 (55-60 minutes)
    • Dynamic Warmup, including dynamic stretching and flexibility exercises: 15 minutes
    • Easy Endurance Cardio: 10 minutes
    • Intervals or HIIT: 20-25 minutes
    • Easy Endurance Cardio Cooldown: 10 minutes
    • (Many group fitness exercise classes will follow similar formats)
  • Day 2 (60 minutes)
    • Dynamic Warmup: 10 minutes
    • Strength Training or Group Fitness Strength Training Class: 40-45 minutes
    • Easy Cardio Cooldown: 5-10 minutes
  • Day 3 (30-60 minutes)
    • Dynamic Warmup: 5-10 minutes
    • Low intensity Cardio: 25-60 minutes
  • Day 4 (30-60 minutes)
    • Yoga Class, or session focusing on balance, flexibility, & core strength
  • Day 5 (30-60 minutes)
    • Do another day of HIIT, strength training, or long endurance—whatever fits your goals best.
  • Day 6 (30+. i.e. as long as you want)
    • Do something fun that you like.
    • Run a race, go for a hike, get outside and play with your kids, ride your bike to a park and have a picnic.
    • Whatever it is you like to do—go do it. This is what you’re training for.
  • Day 7
    • Rest. Relax. Clean the house. It’s cool to take a day off. Rest is where the magic happens.
    • For those of you who are going to do something everyday anyway, repeat the suggestions of Day 5 or Day 6.

It’s good to have a plan! I feel more fit and well-balanced already!

As a concluding remark, I’d just like to say that I appreciate that the goal of the workout plan is stated in the question, and it is a worthy goal: “to be fit and active in middle age”. We all have different goals and aspirations, but most of us share this common goal—we’re all aging and we all want to continue to be fit and active as we age–to live life well. When it comes to overall health and well-being, I truly believe that the answer was already present in this question. The answer being a blend of cardiovascular exercise of various intensities, along with strength training and the incorporation of flexibility and balance, done consistently over time, will yield fantastic results!

Have fun with it, and keep moving!

Neal

P.S. We’ll continue to answer questions right here on Montana Moves & Meals, in every Wellchat Podcast, and in a webinar or two!

References: AHA Exercise Guideline Infographic