Yesterday, I posted a question in our Hygge! FB group – “What’s your biggest hurdle to exercise?”  I got a ton of great answers but the overwhelming answer was simple – “time.”  To be completely transparent, I posted that question for topics to write about.  Since realizing time what the most popular answer (usually with a caveat about how their work and family life makes it hard), I have been thinking about the best way to talk about time in relation to working out.  I realized there are so many angles you can talk about time and working out and here are just 3:

1.  Priorities – how should we prioritize working out and is their times where it is right to not prioritize our health?
2.  Time Management – how do we spend our time?  How can we me more efficient with our time especially in a world where work never ends.
3.  How we view our workout – some people view working out as a chore or even a selfish endeavor.  Is that true?  Does how we view our workout affect our results or satisfaction?

These are all great topics so I am pretty psyched I have some topics to tackle the next few Thursdays, but then I thought of a simple question to start with.  How many hours a week does it take to get in shape?

I started out by thinking about my workout schedule over the last 10+ years.  I started doing Crossfit following their main site workouts and they do a 3 days on, 1 day off schedule.  This schedule worked when I was a college kid but quickly fell apart after.  First, the workout days rotated, making it impossible to have some sort of consistency for workout days.  The bigger issue was that this was 6 workouts across 8 days and I found that amount of work to not really be sustainable.  Every 3-4 weeks I would find myself pretty exhausted and not feeling the drive to workout.  For time commitment, let’s figure 1 hour for each workout and a 10 minute commute (10 there, 10 to home) – this was 7+ hours of working out a week.

My next workout schedule turned into Thursday and Sundays off.  This was 5 days a week of working out and solved the issued with my previous schedule having different workout days each week.  5 days of working out a week is definitely a manageable amount as I was able to follow this schedule consistently for a long period of time and the work felt sustainable.  I also was able to learn and improve new skills like double unders and olympic lifting at a really good rate with this frequency.  I was also able to see huge changes in my body composition and strength.  I am a huge fan of 5x a week and especially the Thurs/Sun off schedule.  The biggest drawback for most people is simply the time requirement.  Assuming that 10 minute commute, the commitment works out to just under 7 hours a week.  I definitely understand how 7 hours a week on top of work/school, kids, and everything else can simply be out of the question.

Over the last few years I have slid around from 2x a week and 5x a week so I feel I can really give some feedback on each one.  I also will admit that I had some 1x and 0x a weeks and that’s OK.  Life will get us all at some points and a week off is not what ultimately stops your progress – it is the weeks after if you don’t get back onto a schedule.  From this experiment, I have found 3x a week to be minimum amount of days to see consistent progress. Assuming the 10 minute commute, 3x a week works out to 4 hours a week.

The first reason 3x a week is the minimum requirement is that idea of frequency and consistency.  It is really easy to commit to a Monday, Weds, Friday schedule or Tuesday, Thursday, Sat schedule that has a good flow of day on, day off, and 2 days off once a week.  When you get down to 2x a week, you can’t really create that consistency.  Yes, you can workout every Monday and Thursday but now it is 1 on, 2 off, 1 on, 3 off – you are spending so much time in between workouts that you never create that momentum from workout to workout.  Also, lets imagine if you miss a workout occasionally.  Now that 2x a week becomes 1 workout for that week, effectively killing any momentum you were feeling from your previous workout.

The second reason I think 3x a week is the way to go is physiological.  The progress we see through working out is a process or breaking down your muscle fibers and then repairing them to be stronger.  We have to be breaking down the muscle to see progress.  Below 3x a week we just aren’t creating enough of a stimulus for our body to respond to long term, week over week which will slow down your progress and results.  (One disclaimer, I am talking about how many times a week to workout long term – we have many members who come in and can only handle 2x a week for their first few weeks and then move up to 3x after that and that is completely normal.  2x a week can be effective for those people).

When I first opened the gym, we only offered 1 membership.  We wanted you to be committed and not have your membership be the reason you came a certain number of times in a month.  Over time, I decided to create a few options based on how many times you come in a week.  I ended up deciding on 3x a week to be the minimum option because the ideas I explained above played out to be true again and again with our members.  Committing to anything under 3x a week just did not have the staying power for most people and would lead to them feeling unsatisfied.   I have a ton of really amazing before of afters of people who simply committed for 3 classes a week and just nailed that schedule for the long term.

Well that was a lot of words to answer a simple question.  How many hours a week do you need to get in shape?  I believe the answer is 4 hours (3 hours working out plus 1 hour commute).

Next week, I will talk about priorities and where those 4 hours fall on the spectrum of your life.  This week think about 4 hours in your day that you could give up if you needed to.  I started thinking about this last week and mine involved simply putting my phone down at night.