Just as there is no ONE way of eating that is right for all of us, there is no one style of exercise that is right for all of us.
I think in the exercise industry this is WAY more accepted than in the nutrition industry.
But we still have a long way to go.
In order for you to truly personalize your workouts though....you're going to have to start tracking some biomarkers. Of course you can work out an entire lifetime without doing this......BUT to really understand what is working for YOUR body the tracking is pretty much necessary for most people.
Athletes already understand this and if you look into the world of what athletes are doing to optimize performance, many of them are seriously tracking.
You might think something to the effect of, "well I'm not an athlete, I don't need to track".
To that I ask, "why are you working out?"
Even if you are doing it simply to boost your mood and energy, you must have some other goals floating around? Just a little?
Body tracking can be as simple as checking your resting heart rate and seeing if it's improving over time. If not, maybe a change is needed? It can get way more complex than that. Check out Body Tracking for more info about that.
Below I go into some basic philosophies about exercise and fitness. I'm a nutritionist, not a trainer so I'm not an expert in this field. However, I really wanted to present some information about this because I think that in order to choose what you're going to do for exercise you should have a broad idea of what's out there.
FIRST of all it is important to note that all styles of fitness have their own strengths and weaknesses, much like many diet plans. THEREFORE the goal is diversification.
SECOND remember that variety is very important. Just like you wouldn't want to eat the same food over and over again, for not only taste but also for nutrition, the same goes for fitness.
Do you ever see people at the gym day after day doing the same thing? This is the enemy of true balanced fitness, the enemy of creating an ideal body composition, the enemy of HAVING fun while working out, and the enemy of optimization.
With fitness too much of anything is bad. And diversity is great! Diversity not only in various planes of movement (up, down, side to side, etc) but also modalities such as balance, stability, strength, and power and the integration of all modalities is important as well.
It is common, especially for women, to focus on aerobic exercise and ignore anaerobic exercise as opposed to the combination of both. Many women exercise for "weight loss" and think that if they just sweat a lot and run or jump around that is the best way to lose weight. However, the fastest and most efficient way to increase metabolism, and thereby lose weight, is to combine both aerobic and anaerobic training.
And unfortunately, when you just do a bunch of cardio you can actually end up losing muscle mass! When you say you want to lose weight, it's actually fat tissue you want to get rid of, not muscle right!? And if you lose weight and lose muscle, guess what happens? Your body fat percentage actually increases!!!! Oh boy!
And monitoring and regulating your heart rate is super important in all this!
Below I list some key points to keep in mind when designing a fitness program to suit your needs
Do Body Tracking
The first step is to determine your resting heart rate. You can do this by using a heart rate monitor to measure your heart rate over the course of 5 minutes and taking the average. This is ideally done upon awakening before getting out of bed or by sitting quietly for 5 minutes and then taking the average over the course of the next 5 minutes, while sitting quietly, with your eyes closed.
The next step is to calculate your own personal training zones (zone 1, zone 2, and zone 3). Once you have your zones you can train within those zones (see "Cardiovascular Training" below for more on why these are important).
Once you start doing diversified training in your zones you can also observe your "heart rate recovery time". This can be how quickly you recover from zone 3 to zone 2 or how quickly you recover to your resting zone after a workout.
Use your heart rate recovery as one barometer of progress and improvement in your cardiovascular fitness.
Other factors you can observe related to improved fitness: heart rate variability, blood glucose, fasting insulin (need prescribed blood work for this), ketones, blood pressure, oxygen (oximeter), improved body composition (more lean tissue and less fat tissue), and improved body measurements and weight.
Aim for Diversity
Include various forms of strength and stability training, various forms of cardio, and be sure to use foam rolling and static and dynamic stretching as needed.
This involves using weights, heavy objects, or body weight to recruit strength. This way of training promotes muscle development, stability, strength, and power. Some examples of strength training include:
Circuit weight training
Functional Training (think CrossFit or Bootcamp)
Heavy lifting (Olympic lifting, one-rep max, etc)
Disciplines such as yoga, Barre, pilates, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) classes, 7-Minute Workout, BootCamp, etc
Strength training should be done at least 2-3 times/week in most cases.
This involves monitoring your heart rate and moving. This form of training is best done when you know your resting heart rate and your different "zones". With this information you can train in specific zones on given days. For example, train in zone 1 for 15-120 minutes (or more) one day (endurance training), another day you can train in zone 2, and on the third day train while alternating between zones 2 and 3 (interval training).
When you train in various zones and pay attention to keeping your heart rate where YOU want it, this has a profound, and I mean profound, impact on your cardiovascular health. This is the good stuff!!
The goal is to keep the heart rate steady in zone 1 or zone 2 for an extended period of time. Think hiking, biking, jogging, walking, swimming. This kind of training can get tricky for some people because you have to keep your heart rate on the lower end (varies from person to person) and you have to keep going for quite some time to get the full benefits. For zone 1 you want to get AT least one hour in this zone for those in decent shape.
High-Intensity Interval Cardio Training
The goal is to move in and out of zones 2 and 3 and to see how quickly your heart rate recovers when you move down from zone 3 to zone 2. You can mix it up. For example, after you've warmed up, you can spend 60 seconds in zone 2, 30 seconds in zone 3, then back to zone 2 for 60 seconds, then back up to zone 3 for 60 seconds, and keep alternating. You can even go up to 2 minutes in zone 3 with 30 seconds in zone 2. The point is to move your heart rate up and down in a controlled manner. This is done most easily by working on a machine such as rower, bike, or elliptical.
Cardiovascular training should be done at least 2-3 times/week in most cases
Recovery is now becoming more and more valued in the fitness world.
This is a world notorious for pushing the limits as evidenced by terms like "no pain, no gain" and "set goals and then kick them in the face". So, this more pronounced focus on recovery is a welcome change.
Recovery is the most important factor for boosting performance. Yes, you read that right!
A lot of important stuff happens during recovery. Recovery is when your body is adapting in reaction to the stress of exercise. So if you don't rest you don't get the full benefit of your body adapting (and therefore improving) in response to your hard work. So, if you want to get the full benefit of your effort, take time to recover.
Recovery also allows damaged tissue to heal and energy and fluid levels to be restored to that tissue, making you all ready for the next workout. Without this step you are going back to training in a compromised state and will not be at your best!
Makes sense right?!
One great way to know if you are recovering properly is to measure your HRV. You can take a "morning reading" daily for 5 minutes to assess how stressed your body is. When your HRV is diving or low, it's definitely time for more rest!!
Some great ways to recover include:
Real rest: sleeping at least 7-9 hours each night and taking time to relax and chill out.
Hydration and electrolyte replacement
Foam rolling and active and static stretching
Hot baths, steam room, or sauna
Active recovery can include walking, playing sports in a friendly, non-competitive manner, or any movement that is not strenuous or stressful. Some people use gentle yoga or disciplines such as Tai Chi for active recovery.