For all the years that we’ve been delivering wellness initiatives, how to fit exercise and activity into a busy schedule is still one of the issues that people struggle with the most. So we developed this guide to tackle the issue head on.
Designing the ideal balanced fitness routine
The human body loves balance. Too much of any one type of exercise or activity can lead to overload or injury at worst but in many cases simply means that progress isn’t as good as it could be with a routine that combines different elements of fitness.
The key elements of a balanced fitness routine are:
1. Cardio fitness
2. Strength training
3. Core conditioning
4. Flexibility & mobility
5. Objectives, purpose & goals
6. Rest & recovery
This can be improved with all activities that get the heart pumping and get you breathing. For most people, resting heart rate is around 60-80 beats per minute so any activity that makes your heart beat faster than this has the potential to improve your fitness. At the same time you’re encouraging your lungs to work more efficiently so you can service the increased demand for oxygen from working muscles.
The higher you get your heart rate and the more regularly you do this, the quicker you’ll see improvements with your fitness. This is why interval training works so well – by pushing yourself harder you can get your heart rate up multiple times during each workout.
Cardio training can be a great way to manage body weight and training with a heart rate monitor provides an excellent guide to assess how hard you’re working (and how quickly you can expect results). It’s also a great way to find out what your maximum heart rate is and once you know this you can design workouts that challenge you to push yourself into the 75-90% max heart rate zone regularly.
How to find out your maximum heart rate
Typically the calculation 220 minus your age is used to provide a guide for your maximum heart rate (so if you're 35, your theoretical maximum heart rate is 220-35 = 185) however this isn’t precise for everyone.
The best way to establish your own maximum heart rate is to pick a cardio challenge – running, rowing, bike, X-Trainer or stepper for example – and to run through the workout here, to the right.
This means challenging your muscles using resistance created by gym machines, dumbbells, a barbell, resistance bands, kettle bells, water bottles, tin cans, books, body weight or medicine balls.
The aim is to work major muscle groups as well as smaller muscles and to employ good technique so that you engage multiple muscles to perform the job they were designed to perform, specifically, mobilising muscles should move you and stabilising muscles should keep you balanced. If you'd like suggestions of some specific exercises along with teaching points, check out our Youtube Channel.
Although cardio training is usually what people think of first if they have weight management goals, strength training is equally important. Strength training boosts muscle mass and, because muscle is an active tissue this raises your metabolic rate, you’ll begin to burn more calories both during exercise and at rest.
The fact that we all get moving is crucial. To get moving with good posture and positioning is even better. This helps our activity become more effective and also reduces the risk of injury.
Core conditioning refers to the training of the stability and postural muscles around the mid section – primarily your deep down stomach muscles. If these muscles are firing they help to hold your spine in its neutral position, which creates a solid base for all other movement and reduces the risk of back injury. Core conditioning is one of the reasons why Pilates has become so popular in recent years.
Flexibility & mobility training
Maintaining great flexibility and mobility ensures that your body is always capable of doing what you want it to do. Muscle tightness and imbalance can leave you feeling uncomfortable, injured or incapable of performing the sports or activities you enjoy as well you would like to perform them.
Make sure you include regular stretching and mobility training as part of your routine. This could either be a few stretches incorporated into the course of each day, or a few short slots dedicated to stretching throughout the week. Yoga is a great way to address this area, either with a yoga class or by including some yoga techniques in your weekly workouts.
Objectives, purpose & goals
At all stages of life it’s vital to be clear on how and why you want to get active. Be specific about short, medium and long-term objectives and you’ll find it much easier to make time for exercise in your busy routine and to protect the time you create.
Write out a long list of benefits and positive associations with getting active so that if you ever feel your resolve waver you can refer to this list of benefits for motivation. In time you will become so familiar with these benefits, and so used to experiencing them, that you will always prioritise your activity.
Rest & recovery
Recovery is part of your training. When we exercise, we challenge the body in new ways. We overload muscles and our cardiovascular system and stimulate our body to adapt and evolve. This adaptation takes place following a workout so it’s crucial that every balanced fitness programme includes sufficient rest and recovery time.
With this knowledge comes an added bonus. When people avoid exercising they often experience guilt and feel a little frustrated at themselves. Now we already know that you don’t need to exercise for a long duration for it to be effective. Add to this the knowledge that you can spend a day or two recovering from a workout and feel completely confident that this is the right thing to do and your week becomes a happy blend of effective exercise and quality, guilt free recovery.