How to Optimize Your Workout

Pamela Malo, MHS, RD, Arivale Coach
Pamela Malo
MHS, RD, Arivale Coach

Are you bored with your exercise routine? Maybe you love your workout but don’t feel the burn anymore. Or you might be trying to get back into things after some time away and aren’t sure where to begin.

Many of us have been there at some point. And while they say “consistency is key” to a great workout plan, so – ironically – is variability. Even if you love your current routine and aren’t bored, if you’ve been doing the same thing for months or even years on end without switching it up, you’re only maintaining your fitness, not gaining.

Introducing FITTE

FITTE is an acronym for five variables that are present in any well-constructed workout plan. Leveraging these variables, ideally by changing one a time, supports a safe and efficient workout that reduces boredom, overuse injury, and the dreaded weight-loss plateau.

FITTE stands for:

Frequency

Intensity

Time

Type

Enjoyment

Frequency

The general guideline for aerobic exercise is to do 30 to 50 minutes three to five times a week. Another way to look at this is 150 minutes of intentional cardio per week. Strength training benefits can be seen in as little as two sessions per week. The most important consideration in determining workout frequency isn’t your goal but how often you’re working out now.

If you’re just getting started, once a week is a great place to begin. Give yourself time to build this into your regular routine before adding more.

If you’re ready to amp it up, consider what the next step is for you. If you’re taking two walks a week, how can you make it three? If you’re lifting weights once a week, how can you make it two?

Intensity

Working out taxes the body – in a good way. Over time, this stress increases the strength of our muscles, blood vessels, and lungs – all of which increase our body’s endurance and ability to take on more challenging tasks. Once our bodies adapt to the intensity of our current workout, it’s time to increase it to continue improving our cardiorespiratory fitness!

That doesn’t mean you need to tackle high-intensity workouts for it to be worth your while. Most people get enormous benefit from regular moderate-intensity exercise, and research shows simply taking breaks from sitting in order to move can have a positive impact on heart health and diabetes risk1,2.

The easiest way to measure the intensity of your workouts is by monitoring your breathing. At moderate-intensities, you can still talk but singing is uncomfortable. You’ll know you’re working at your body’s high intensity of you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

If you are just getting started, aim for low-intensity activities like brisk walking or water aerobics and see how your body reacts.

Ready to amp it up? Higher intensity activities include jogging, swimming laps, and jumping rope.

Type

There are countless ways to fit in movement into your day, from going to the gym to running around the yard with your kids. All activities will fall into one of the following three categories.

  1. Aerobic exercise (aka cardio) includes activities that get the heart rate going strong, such as brisk walking, swimming, hiking, ice skating or playing tag. These activities foster greater endurance through increased oxygen-carrying capacity.
  2. Anaerobic exercise (aka strength training) includes pushups, squats, lifting weights, and physical therapy exercises. These activities firm, tone, and strengthen muscles
  3. Flexibility activities include things like yoga, Pilates, and simple stretching. These activities support better balance and posture, joint flexibility, and lengthening muscles.

The best type of activity for you depends on your health goals and whether you’ll enjoy it enough to keep doing it. (More on that later!) But remember: The goal of FITTE is to introduce variance into your workout routine. Mix up the activities you perform from each category, swap dumbbells for resistance bands, try combining multiple types of activities, and so on.

Time

One of the most straight-forward variables to alter is the time you spend doing something. Most of us need about 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity per week to keep our hearts healthy. How close are you? Can you tack on five more minutes to your stretching routine, swim an extra lap in the pool, or hold your squat for 10 more seconds? These small additions will add up over time.

Enjoyment

In the end, the way to keep your physical activity going strong is to make sure you enjoy doing it! Some people are cut out for the gym, but certainly not all of us are. Maybe your friends are doing CrossFit, but the thought of group activities makes you squirm. That’s OK! The beauty of movement is that there are so many ways for our bodies to do it.

The best type of activity for you, the one that will be most sustainable, is the one you enjoy doing the most. In other words, try to find something that’s comfortably uncomfortable; you’re not sitting on your couch, but you’re not in agony either.

If you’re just getting started, or if past exercise experiences haven’t suited you, consider leveraging a “habit loop.” Pair each workout with a small reward, or earn a bigger reward after a set of workouts. Need some reward ideas? Check out this list of 155 ways to reward yourself and see which ones pique your interest.

No matter if you’re a novice or pro, using the FITTE principles will help you take your workouts to the next level.

 

 

References

  1. Dunstan DW, Barr EL, Healy GN, et al. (2010). “Television viewing time and mortality: the Australian Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle Study.” Circulation, 2010 Jan 26;121(3):384-91.
  2. Dunstan DW, Kingwell BA, Larsen R, et al. (2012). “Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces postprandial glucose and insulin responses.” Diabetes Care, 2012 May; 35(5): 976–983.