Over the years I’ve simplified my exercise routine to something that is easily repeatable, and focuses on the areas I want to improve.
Gone are the complex systems of cardio, strength and flexibility days. Instead, I have a 60 minute session (including shower time!) that I can go through as many times per week as I want to. I don’t need special equipment either, I can use the small gym provided at my office to get my workout in.
I’m not a health expert, this is just something that works for me.
30 mins cardio
I start my routine with 30 minutes on the treadmill. Last year I managed to extend this to about 45 minutes, but after lockdown disrupted my exercise I’ve dropped down a bit.
If I’m focusing on improving this, I swap targets from being time-based (i.e. running for a set period) to distance-based (running a set distance as fast as I can). So I currently run 4.2k in 30 minutes, but when I feel ready I’ll run a 5k target, then swap back to an extended running period.
I like running because it keeps my cardio-vascular system fit, tones my thighs (one of my target areas), and builds up my leg muscles for hiking (my motivation for keeping fit). My additional motivation is that I listen to podcasts whilst running, but it’s the only time I’m allowed to listen to them.
I don’t stretch before running, as I’ve read a lot about how this can actually tear and damage cold muscles.
15 minutes free weights
I keep this simple, and target the areas I want to strengthen that don’t get worked during my runs. I do three sets of overhead tricep bends, bicep curls, push-ups and sit-ups. In each set, I don’t really have a target number of repetitions and just do the exercise until the lactic acid build-up gets so much that I can’t do any more. I then have a 30 second (ish) rest and repeat with the next set.
This approach means I don’t need to count or track repetitions. I just exercise until I feel like I’ve pushed through the discomfort barrier. There’s lots of evidence that the most benefits come from exercise when you push yourself to your limit, which might be different depending on the day.
10 minutes stretching
I used to try to stretch every day as a separate habit, but I’ve found it much easier and more efficient to incorporate it into my gym session. I don’t stretch every day, but I do stretch at least twice per week which is much better than the zero times when I struggled to keep up the habit as a separate activity.
I enjoy yoga, so I just use a simple sequence of yoga movements that focuses on my lower back. This is a problem area for me, thanks to the eight hours per day I spend in front of a computer. I also do a few stretched to help me warm down from the cardio and weight exercises. The sequence is set out so that it’s easy for me to remember, and flows easily so that I’m not constantly turning over.
- Cat-cow pose
- Arm and leg stretches from table-top position
- Three-legged dog into pigeon pose
- Child’s pose into striking cobra
- Runner’s lunge
- Side split stretch
- Shoulder and tricep stretch
- On your back, hug knees to chest and massage lower back
- Bridge pose
- Spinal twist
5 minute shower
I’ve found that an important part of recovering quickly is to have a hot shower after a work-out. I always do this if I exercise in the morning, but I also try not to skip it after an evening session. I follow the hot water with a thirty second cold blast to wake up/tighten up. I’m not sure if this does anything, but I like the feeling of freshness I get and it also helps me cool down and get rid of my red face!
What does your exercise routine look like?