Balancing Home and Gym Workouts
Most of us have a gym membership. Whether it’s a full-service gym, a yoga studio, or a boot camp boutique gym; it’s our home away from home. We even have gym friends that are separate from our regular social circle.
Thanks in part to the pandemic, many of us now also have home gyms. At the height of the pandemic, it was the only option – buy equipment to exercise at home because gyms are closed. But now many of us are enjoying the benefits of both the gym and the home gym and we don’t want to give up either! It’s a new hybrid workout world.
Whether the gym is across town or in the basement, it’s our place to de-stress after a long day of work or start our day and get the endorphins flowing so we feel sharp and ready to tackle yet another Zoom meeting.
Hitting the workouts hard a few days a week is ideal. Any more than that and we can feel mental and physical burnout, or worse, over-train and get injured. So, what’s the perfect blend of fitness classes, workouts at home and rest to ensure continued progress and enthusiasm?
The answer depends on the individual, their goals, and the ability to execute a well thought out game plan.
Face it, you can't train like you used to
The days of partying until the birds start to chirp, getting four hours of sleep, then slamming a Gatorade and running a few miles to “sweat it out” are long behind you. These days, you look at a piece of cheese wrong or drink a few glasses of wine and you feel terrible the next day. Now try adding a head-pounding five-mile run to the morning after! No, thank you.
Remember when you could stack day after day of hard workouts, long runs and intense cycling sessions without recovery days? You had one goal for every single workout and that was to exercise as intensely as possible to maximize your calorie burn. Easy days? Never.
You’ve learned from those blissfully naïve days and hopefully know that maintaining a successful workout routine requires a planned approach to nutrition, mental health, social life and consistency.
Just like striking a balance with occasional cheat meals, alcoholic drinks and salads using an 80/20 rule, your hard-charging gym sessions need to be balanced with a gentle home routine. The opposite is true if your gym is a Pilates or yoga studio and home is where the intensity happens.
Many effective options exist for in-home exercise. Home cardio equipment is a great option to mix in active recovery cardio or high-intensity workouts to supplement your group fitness classes and gym workouts. You need to figure out what the right balance is for you.
Be realistic about fitness expectations
Whether you’re fortunate enough to still be in your physical prime, or those years are behind you, taking a smart approach to training and exercise is always relevant. Working out multiple hours per day playing a sport you love while getting paid for it probably isn’t reality. So, we must take into consideration all the variables in life: lack of sleep due to young children waking you up, high stress caused by work and poor recovery because of that darn wine.
Just because you have a plan on Sunday to hit the gym hard or get a great sweat at home on your elliptical, doesn't mean things will always go to plan. In fact, it's almost guaranteed not to.
Personally, I lay out a rough training schedule each week, but 10 out of 10 times it needs to be tweaked. Instead of freaking out like I used to, I’ve learned to roll with the punches. Life is so much easier now. I don’t get sick or injured from overtraining and forcing a hard workout despite my body telling me to rest. I may not walk around at 6% body fat anymore, but the balance of happiness, fitness and health is better than ever.
My recommendation to all our gym members is to aim each week for one to three hard workouts including high intensity intervals and/or heavy weightlifting (Sprint 8 GX is an awesome option – ask your gym if they offer this new class!), plus two to three easier active recovery days consisting of yoga, hiking, walking, Pilates, etc. Active recovery can keep blood flowing and help muscles recover and rebuild from intense physical activity. Taking a rest day or two is a must as well.
Benefits of active recovery
Active recovery workouts are beneficial for your body. They may help you recover faster after a difficult workout. Some benefits include:
- reducing lactic acid buildup in muscles
- eliminating toxins
- keeping muscles flexible
- reducing soreness
- increasing blood flow
- helping you maintain your exercise routine
If you’re struggling to strike a balance or having trouble knowing where to start, now is a great time to seek professional help from a personal trainer or coach.
The following chart outlines three common client profiles I see in my gym and my recommended weekly training schedule for them. Notice the balanced approach – easier workout days follow intense workout days to give the body those active recovery benefits, plus rest days are sprinkled throughout.
No time? No excuses!
Timothy Church, M.D., Ph. D., of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, led a team of researchers who examined the effect of various amounts of walking on more than 460 women. The The study’s results showed that as little as 15 minutes a day, five days a week of walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike improved fitness.
Just because you can’t carve an hour out for the gym doesn’t mean you should skip that day altogether. Maybe it’s not the one-hour boot camp class you planned for, but even just 15 minutes on your treadmill or exercise bike in the basement as dinner is in the oven will still greatly benefit your mind and body.
Remain optimistic about your routine and confident that even if it doesn’t go exactly to plan, you still can and will find a way to move your body. Maintaining consistency in getting some movement in on a regular basis will be more beneficial in the long run than an all-or-nothing approach of sticking to a plan perfectly. Consistency over perfection is the key.
Time to make your plan. Time to take action.
If you’ve been winging your workout routine up until this point, going to the gym when you “have time,” struggling to find consistency or simply need to mix things up, now is the time for you to take charge.
For the next month, make a commitment to prioritizing your health and fitness routine. Open your calendar to review your work and home schedules, get out a piece of paper and jot down the answers to these questions to get your plan started:
- What are your goals for the month? Start with something simple and achievable. Small monthly individual goals will add up in the long run and by the end of the year you can look back and realize how much you have achieved when compounded over 12 months.
- What days will you train at the gym vs at home? Be sure to write down class times and include drive time to and from the gym. Try to schedule the gym days when you have more time available on your calendar. Save the home workouts for days you can sneak a workout in between events.
- Which workouts will be rigorous, and which will be light? Try to schedule your easier recovery days the day after hard workouts as much as possible.
- What days will you be too busy to fit a workout in? Don’t stress trying to cram a workout in on extra-busy days. Schedule these as your rest days.
Most importantly, remember that you need to remain flexible. Life throws us constant curveballs and being able to switch things up while keeping a positive “don’t quit” attitude to maintain consistency is the foundation to every success in life, including fitness.
About the Author
Chad Yarvitz, Matrix Master Trainer, USA
Chad is the owner and president of a successful studio gym located in San Diego, CA. His professional training facility is ranked among the top gyms in the region, specializing in boxing fusion classes incorporating strength and cardio. Chad is a 2008 California Golden Glove Champion, has trained with boxing legend Freddie Roach and has been a sparring partner for world champions such as Amir Khan, Ray Beltran and Mauricio Herrera. Chad is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer.