Anyone who’s started a new fitness routine - whether it be clipping in for your first cycling class, grabbing something heavy to lift, or starting a weight loss journey - has kicked it all off with at least a question or two!
From figuring out the best exercise form or workout style to choose for your specific goals to building a workout routine that’s perfect for you, most people tend to question what they’re about to get themselves into. In fact, I find many of the questions are the same! This is why I’ve compiled the top 10 frequently asked fitness questions I get asked as a fitness trainer, to answer your burning questions, and help you unlock more effective workouts.
1. “Do I Need to Work Out Every Day?”
No, you do not need to work out every day. In fact, in most cases, I would recommend at least 1-2 days of total rest a week. However, just because you have a rest or recovery day scheduled into your calendar, doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t active at all on these days. Light, regular movement such as walking your dog around the block, or taking time for stretching or foam rolling are great recovery techniques to help increase blood flow and reduce tension in tight muscles. Participating in regular rest days and practicing a well-balanced recovery routine can help you reduce your risk for injury and promote the longevity of your fitness routine.
2. “How Long Should I Work Out For?”
In general, your workouts do not need to be long to be effective. Many people who are new to fitness imagine slogging around for hours on the treadmill. This doesn’t need to be the case.
The length of your workout will largely depend on your fitness level, as well as the type of training and intensity you’re working out at. The CDC recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity 5 days a week, as well as 2 full body strength training sessions (1). Making sure you’re hitting these minimums for exercise is a great way to make sure you’re on track. However, if you’re under the recommendation, it’s okay, we all have to start somewhere!
When it comes to the type of workout you’re completing - HIIT, circuit training sessions, or sprints will typically be quicker than moderate intensity cardio sessions, as you’re working out at a higher intensity. For strength training sessions, you may want to schedule more time for warming up and resting between sets.
3. “How Can I Increase Lean Muscle Mass?”
Adding heavy strength training into your routine is just one way to increase lean muscle mass. But there are actually many ways to increase strong lean muscle tone in your body. Any form of resistance that your muscles have to fight against that is greater than what they normally experience, can help stimulate the muscle growth process. Completing exercises with your body weight or resistance bands are also effective ways of training to build strength. Start with what you feel most comfortable with and continue building from there. As your exercises or the weight you’re using start to feel too easy, increase your weight or choose more challenging exercises to continue challenging your muscles and seeing results.
4. “How Much Weight Should I Use When Strength Training?”
When strength training, it’s important to always remember that the workout you’re performing is ‘your workout’. Don’t focus on the amount of weight others are using to complete workouts. Instead, focus on your rate of perceived exertion on a scale of 1 to 10. When strength training, you should feel a perceived exertion of 7 to 9, each rep should feel challenging with the last reps and sets feeling significantly harder. If you complete a workout and aren’t feeling challenged, you know it’s time to move up in weight the next time you complete that workout.
5. “What Training Should I Be Doing to Lose Weight?”
When it comes to weight loss, I like to focus on a full scale approach. Regular cardio training is great for increasing your daily calorie burn. While strength training will help you build lean muscle, which will increase your metabolism and help you burn more calories at rest!
I’d also recommend adding in a few HIIT sessions per week, rather it be your favorite type of cardio, bodyweight, or light dumbbell exercises. HIIT is designed to get your body working at high intensities, burning a ton of calories in a short period of time. Create a schedule with a blend of regular cardio, a few full body strength training sessions, and a few HIIT training sessions each week.
Finally, don’t forget to eat a healthy, well balanced diet emphasizing whole foods. With weight loss it’s important to maximize the nutrients in the calories you’re consuming to fuel your workouts!
6. “How Often Should I Rest?”
Your rest will depend on your workout schedule. Like I said previously, I recommend 1 or 2 full days of rest in your schedule. This isn’t only great for giving your body time to recover for your workouts, it also can be a great time for self-care to promote mental health.
7. “When Should I Stretch & How Often?”
There are a few types of stretching you should plan on adding to your routine. The first is dynamic stretching. Start your workout with dynamic stretching or exercises designed to increase your range of motion, promote mobility, and wake up your muscles like walking lunges, or leg swings! Choose exercises focused on the muscles you plan to use during your workout.
Use static stretching (such as standing forward fold, or kneeling hamstring stretch) as your post workout recovery. Just like your dynamic stretches, choose exercises focusing on the muscles you just worked during your workout to give them some TLC.
8. “What Can I Do About Muscle Soreness?”
When it comes to muscle soreness, a few things will factor in to help you recover your best. First, dialing in your nutrition is key, eating foods to fuel your body and workouts is important as this will give your muscles the nutrients they need for recovery. Rest and plenty of sleep will also play into your recovery as well, as when you’re at a full rest you’re giving your muscles that time they need to repair. For more helpful tips check out our article What to Do About Muscle Soreness After a Workout.
9. “How Long Does It Take to See Results?”
It can take anywhere from 6-8 weeks or more to see results from your program. That can be discouraging as so many of us are living in an instant world - we expect results and changes instantaneously. Don’t get discouraged. Know that your hard work is paying off, even if you don’t see the results you’re looking for on the scale right away.
A few other ways to track your progress as you go can be the fit of your clothing, being able to complete more challenging or longer workouts, or taking progress photos and comparing as you continue your journey. It’s all of the little wins along the way that help keep you going, so keep cueing into your body and all of the smaller successes and changes you see along the way and celebrate them!
10. “What’s the Best Diet for My Fitness Goals?”
Your diet plays a huge role in the overall success of your new routine. Regardless of your goals, it’s important to give your body the fuel and energy it needs to crush and recover from your workouts. There are tons of diets out there, and really when it comes down to it, the choice is personal. If I can give a general piece of advice, it would be to simply focus on including more whole foods in your diet. If you want to show up for your workout and perform your best, the nutrients you're filling your body with matter. The quality and content of what you eat make a difference, so try maximizing fresh foods where you can.
For all of my fitness newbies out there, I hope this article is a good starting point that helps you frame the building blocks of your new routine! While beginning a new fitness journey can be daunting, don’t stress about the details too much. As you get going, you’ll start getting the hang of it and learning from those around you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Let us know in the comments your fitness questions! We’d be happy to help.