This is one of the most common questions I hear during my consultations over the past decade. It depends and there are many reasons why.
Rarely does a person walk in who has never participated in any form of exercise. It’s usually someone who has tried a variety of things over the years and ultimately nothing stuck. Infinite reasons could be to blame for the lack of a long term solution, but I’ll address three regulars.
You do too much too soon
When someone reaches out to a personal trainer, they’re motivation and desire is at its peak. All downhill from here! In reality, it’s normal for your excitement to come and go. I definitely do not feel like pushing myself 24/7 every time I walk into the gym but I have a plan and I follow it. I have a lot of experience, I know the plan works, I trust the plan works. Going from 0 to 100mph is not a good plan. In my opinion, baby steps are the best way to avoid a hard crash and burn and you accumulate tiny victories along the way to boost momentum and confidence.
If you’ve never trained in your life, then starting with 6 days is not going to last long. Consistently hit two days and make zero excuses to skip, that’s your starting point. You have the rest of your life to add a day or two.
When you have a few years of experience, if you’re running in circles and working out 5 days per week then you may need to take a step back and look at your overall diet and exercise routine, then reassess.
Not putting what you read into perspective
What may work for a celebrity or what you read in a health magazine likely isn’t tailored with you in mind. If you read about The Rock and J Lo, they’ve been athletic their whole life, they’ve had a diet/exercise plan for the entirety of their adult life. Scale it back. Start slow, obtain many small victories, be consistent and that’s how you improve yourself. If you jump into their program, you’re not ready.
Too stubborn to change your pattern
This can actually apply to beginners and more advanced individuals. If you’re seeking to change you cannot repeat the same pattern and expect a different outcome. I’ve seen many repetitive routines over the year:
3 sets of 10 on everything
Not a good workout unless I’m soaked in sweat
I must cripple myself for the following day
Use as much weight as possible
Reach maximum failure every time
All of the above are fairly common and have their place at times…But alone, there is no logic, there is no plan, there is no clear path to progression. Don’t stick with something that’s not working simply because it was successful once upon a time in your “newbie” phase.
To answer the question “How much should I be working out?” you need to take a comprehensive look at where your starting point is, what you would like to invest (money AND time), and what you expect to accomplish before settling on an appropriate and sustainable frequency.