How Often Should I Workout?

This is a very common question in the fitness community, especially among those who are just getting into it. We find is easiest to start of with an analogy.

It’s all about the Minimum Effective Dose

Let’s say you get an infection, and you want to get it taken care of as soon as possible. You do the responsible thing and go to the doctor to see what is wrong. At the end of the visit you leave with a prescription for some pills that will help that infection go away. On your way home from the doctor’s office, you stop in at the pharmacy to pick up your prescription. The pharmacist tells you to take two pills twice a day for ten days. If you, however, thought to yourself, “if I take the pills for five days and take four twice a day instead of two, I can get rid of my infection faster.” Now, we are far from medical professionals. Still, we am reasonably confident they have the directions written for a reason. Therefore, you may be negating the whole process by trying to expedite it. Think minimum effective dose. You want to take the least amount of pills to get the full results.

How does this correlate to your fitness and the number of times you need to workout?

Well, you should be searching for the minimum effective dose. Would you spend seven days a week in the gym for two hours a day, if you knew you could get the same results with four days a week and 60 mins at a time? It all comes down to how well you recover. It is much much harder to recover from a 7-day cycle of working out than it is a 4-day cycle. You also have to be aware of working out too little as well. You still need to work out enough to elicit the recovery response in your body and disrupt homeostasis. It would be like taking one pill every second day. You probably aren’t going to get the outcome you were hoping for.

Finding Your Perfect Dose

The founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, said that he found the best workout to rest ratio to be three on and one off. Some may have a harder time with this with varied schedules, so he also suggested that you can also do a five on and two off ratio instead. The basic idea of this is that it enables you to train at a higher intensity after you rest. Intensity is what drives adaptation. It gives you time to recover so that you can workout at full capacity while getting the most out of your time. How well you recover is a whole other issue on its own. It’s dependent on a lot of lifestyle variables, and that is why it is hard to say that there is a hard and set rule for how often you should work out. Start with three on and one-off and see how well your next workout feels and adjust accordingly. Track your progress, as well. If you find you are not progressing, it may be due to poor recovery habits when you are resting or that you aren’t working out enough.

Find your minimum effective dose. Ask yourself, “what do I need to do to get the maximum amount of benefit in a small amount of time?” Track how you feel, how you are progressing, metrics that are important to you, and then put them all together and ask us when you book your Free Consult (non-members) or Goal Setting Meeting (members only). We would be happy to help you if you need!