Optimize Your Workouts
Going into a fitness program without a plan is akin to going into battle without a strategy. Like anything, fitness can be optimized to meet whichever goal you have: either losing fat, burning calories or gaining muscle tone.
Too many head to the gym to repeat the same several exercises they are aware of, or, head straight to the treadmill. Time to get smart and learn how to optimize your workouts.
how to optimize your workouts
To optimize your workouts, you need to factor the following into your plan:
- Variety and periodization so you don’t get bored and comfortable with repetitive movements.
- Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, to maintain a well-rounded level of fitness.
- The freedom to work out anywhere is essential for consistency.
1. Variety is Key
The word “exercise” is an umbrella that covers a lot of ground. There are significant differences between hopping on the StairMaster for 20 minutes or doing hot yoga. While both are good for you, they perform different functions for your body and health. Maintaining variety is crucial to optimize your workouts.
The critical thing is to make sure all parts of your body are worked – beyond just your muscles. If you’re repeating the same eight moves a trainer showed you months back at the gym, you’re at risk of boredom, plateau, and injury.
Instead, we prefer to follow calendars created by professional trainers and research teams that include a mix of workouts for different body parts (shoulders, back, arms, legs, core, etc.) as well as various types of workouts (cardio, resistance, strength, dynamic recovery, flexibility, etc.).
We’re not experts at optimizing our workout programs, so we leave it up to the professionals rather than reinventing the wheel. These programs typically creates a balanced body with an engaging and motivating schedule.
Read more: How we work out together and get results.
2. You Need Aerobic Exercise (aka Cardio)
You can’t have an optimized workout plan without this. Aerobic exercise is the slower-paced workout, like a bike ride, light yoga, or brisk walk, that gets your heart rate up over a long period of time. Aerobic exercise burns both fat and oxygen. It increases blood flow throughout the body.
For your muscles, this means they receive oxygen faster and toxins are removed from the cells. For your brain, cardio increases the size of your hippocampus and sharpens focus while promoting neuroplasticity. This process is especially important for those susceptible to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Generally, aerobic exercise is what burns the most calories and increases your endurance and stamina.
However, solely sticking to cardio means you’re at risk for losing muscle mass and staying at the same overall body composition. For many years, this was my problem. I was “skinny fat” despite running marathons. Cardio had kept my physique small but maintained my higher fat to body ratio.
When I started lifting weights, I made a huge transformation.
Pro Tip #1: Aerobic exercise is supposed to be long and slow – if you can’t maintain a conversation, then you’re going too fast, which can lead to a cortisol spike. Opt for a 90-120 minute hike over a grueling 45-minute run. This low, slow movement increases lymphatic fluid movement, develops capillary beds, and keeps joints healthy.
3. You Also Need Anaerobic Exercise (aka Strength and Power)
Anaerobic exercise is also required in your optimized workout plan. This type of exercise is the fast, burst-based workout including sprints while running, biking, and rowing at ~20 seconds near maximal effort. It also includes weight lifting, interval training, isometrics, and intense yoga.
Unlike aerobic exercise, your muscles are working so fast that the blood can’t deliver enough oxygen. Thus, instead of burning fat and oxygen, your muscles burn stored sugar called glycogen. Anaerobic exercise is key to building lean muscle mass and becoming stronger. With more muscle, a whole set of benefits follow including more calories burned, a faster metabolism, increased bone density, and lowered blood sugar.
As always, only doing anaerobic exercise can have its disadvantages. Depending on how strenuous the workout, the muscles may become overtaxed and you could experience delayed-onset muscle soreness, or worse, injury. Additionally, anaerobic exercise does not build endurance or have the same cardiovascular and respiratory health benefits that cardio has.
Pro Tip #1: Research says most people are not performing their anaerobic exercises as intensely as they should be. A hard session of high intensity interval training has been shown to improve this as well as anaerobic endurance. To learn how to choose the best cardio workout, see our cardio experiment.
Pro Tip #2: For the women out there, weightlifting will not make you bulky which I know from personal experience. Bulky women likely use illicit substances.
4. Freedom Is Essential
This is our secret to optimizing our workouts. People often ask us how we manage to stay consistent. We have always been busy people who travel significantly for work. The only way we can remain consistent is by having total freedom. Optimizing your workouts to have more freedom includes but goes beyond building a home gym.
To us, that means freeing yourself from the gym, class schedules, and unnecessary commutes by setting up a home gym. Another benefit is saving $5,000. At home, it’s necessary to have a structured program (either streamed on any device or downloaded for use without WiFi) that you can follow. Our preference is Beachbody On Demand.
Then, there is more. To optimize your workouts you also need to be able to stay consistent while away from home. We bring our streamed workouts with us, yoga mats, and resistance bands (just as good as weights). All the programs we follow allow you to modify the moves using bands.
Creating this freedom and flexibility helps optimize your workout plan and allows you to eliminate all excuses. For example, during one workout attempt, our yoga instructor was a no show. It was a bummer since we like to attend in-person classes occasionally. But since we had freedom, we streamed a yoga routine on our phone and did yoga, alone, right there in the unlit studio.
- This Is What Happens To Your Body When You Exercise – Huffington Post – “Exercise also triggers a surge of chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters, which include endorphins, often cited as the cause of the mythical “runner’s high.”
- The 5 Components of Physical Fitness– Fit Day (per the American College of Sports Medicine) – “Flexibility is one of the most important, yet often overlooked, components of physical fitness. Without flexibility, the muscles and joints would grow stiff and movement would be limited.
Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “happiness engineers.” After eight years working as corporates engineers internationally, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — leading couples to engineer their best lives. The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship, as a couple.