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3 common errors derailing your fitness habit 2/3

You’re Over Estimating Recovery Needs And Should Train Every Day

Article 2 of 3. Read article 1 here.

Common Errors: 

  1. Setting the bar too high.
  2. Over estimating recovery needs.
  3. Not focusing enough on enjoyment

I will address each of these in this 3 part series, one at a time.

You need less recovery than you think | Frequency beats intensity.

When getting started with a fitness habit, how many times per week should you train? Twice a week? Three times? or every single day? 

I’d bet most people would intuitively answer two or three times per week to avoid over training. But this is actually dead wrong. There is a strong argument to be made for training every single day, even as newbie. 

The reason behind this, and the secret to making it work, is understanding the relationship between volume and frequency. Volume is the amount of work done in a week. Frequency is the number of times you train in a week.

What you need to know is that if total amount of work (volume) is matched, training with higher frequency works just as well, if not better. Do this by splitting the work over 7 days rather than batching it into three.

Research

A very famous (in lifting circles) study known as the Norwegian frequency project looked at this. They took a group of international standard powerlifters and had them do the same amount of volume over a week for a number of weeks. Group 1 did 6 sessions, but Group 2 did a traditional 3 sessions. Long story short; the 6 sessions group grew more muscle and developed more strength. Remember, both groups did exactly the same amount of work. This may be the most well known study, but by no means the only one showing the effect. Higher frequency is consistently shown to be equivalent or superior to lower frequency training. (1,2,3)

Essentially, by doing less volume per session, you tax your recovery abilities less. By never getting too broken down, you are able to do more work in the fresh state. If over the course of the week you complete the same quantity but with better quality (through less fatigue both mentally and physically) you make great progress. 

This bares advantages for us when it comes to building a habit. 

  • Reduced inertia as outlined in article 1 of this series. 
  • Which leads to a better chance of getting started. 
  • This leads to positive experience, benefits of training, and the reward of having done it.
  • Which leads to greater adherence, that will compound over time. 

Ideally, this training, whatever it may be on a specific day, should be done at the same time each day. This helps build the habit and engrain the behaviour in our daily routines. Again reducing the likelihood of slipping and falling off the wagon.

The very best time of day is first thing in the morning if possible. Get it done before the day has a chance to get in the way. Speaking from experience and in house data from my gym, the 6am and 7am slots are by far the least frequently cancelled. Whereas the after work slots are much more commonly cancelled.

The Recommendation: 

20 minutes | Every day | At the same time of day | Any form of exercise will do | Focus on enjoyment over effectiveness to begin with

how to build a fitness habit

  1. Saric. 2018
  2. Johnsen and Roland. 2021.
  3. Shoenfeld. 2021

A Dose Of Motivation

  • In youth, health chases wealth, yet in old age, wealth chases lost health - Dhali Lama

  • To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise, we shall not be able to keep our minds strong and clear - Buddha

  • It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop - Confucius

  • The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence - Confucius

  • The key is to keep company with those who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best - Epictetus

  • When something is important enough, you do it - Elon Musk

  • Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask, ACT. Action will delineate you an define you - Thomas Jefferson