What Days Should I Workout?

How many days each week should I come to CrossFit and on what days? These are common questions I get from members just starting out and CFB veterans alike.
The easy answer to the first one is as often as you can, optimally 4-5 days each week (there is a caveat to this and I will get to it later). I know many of you cannot commit to 4-5 times a week so that answer might not work. Here is the truth though, you will get out of this program, just like any other program, what you put into it. Working out 2 times or even just 3 times per week will only get you so far - there are ways to make this work but it takes some dedication and effort outside the gym. You have 168 hours in a week and spending just 2 of those hours training leaves a lot of hours that you are possibly sabotaging the work you did do. And if you have big goals, like dropping 30 pounds or getting that first pull-up, you need to understand that only spending 2-3 hours a week working towards them will take you a long time to reach them.
So what do you do if you are that person that is truly committed to making big changes in your health and fitness but your schedule only allows you to attend CrossFit 2-3 times each week? You do a lot of homework. You commit to making big changes to your diet and nutrition (lasting, lifestyle changes - not crash diets), you put in extra work on your own on the days you are not at CrossFit, and you dedicate yourself to reaching your goals. It isn't easy, but it is the only way. If you need help, we will gladly work with you to come up with a homework plan and give you some guidance on your nutrition to help you when you aren't in the gym with us - but you have to ask and you have to be willing to commit to it. You don't have time and neither do we to spend on coming up with a strategy to get you to your goals if you are not truly ready and dedicated to following through with it. Your first step is setting up an appointment with one of us to talk.
For those of you who are coming 4-5 times each week, you need to know you aren't off the hook. 4-5 hours a week working out will only get you so far as well. It is the best strategy in terms of getting the work done, but it does not exempt you from putting in the effort outside the gym, namely in the kitchen. I don't care what you read in the popular fitness magazines, you cannot out train a bad diet. Even those of you who are genetically gifted and can eat pizza everyday and still have a 6-pack under your shirt - you are nowhere near reaching your potential in terms of performance and overall health. And that is after all what we are after here right? Believe or not CrossFit is not a program designed to make you look good in a swimsuit. CrossFit is a performance based program designed to make you move and perform like an athlete, to make everyday tasks in your life easier and to make it possible to be playing in the backyard with your kids and grand kids as long into your adult life as possible. How you look in a swimsuit just happens to be a great end result.
So now that we have established how often you should be training lets look at some scenarios based on how many days you can be in the gym to determine the best days to come in.
Looking at our template for July here are some good options to ensure you are getting a good balance of training:

2x/week - Not a lot of options here but you definitely want to hit a Monday or Tuesday every week. Do not skip the strength days (we will talk tomorrow about how heavy resistance training affects fat burning). If you can switch it to where one week you hit the lower body day and the next the upper body day; that will ensure you at least get 2 of each every month and that is better than nothing. Then pick another day based on your goals. If you are using CrossFit to supplement training you are doing outside the gym and you are looking for performance results more than anything else, pick a Thursday or Friday as your 2nd day. If you need to lose weight and just get to moving better, pick Wednesday as your second day. Regularly hitting at least one strength day each week and making your second day a longer workout day that has you moving continuously for a longer duration will do you good. You will still need to do a lot of homework.

3x/week - A great plan would be Monday/Tuesday and Thursday or Friday. However you have more options here and really you cannot go wrong with any of them if you do some homework on your own. Here are some possible schedules:

  • M/T - at CFB / W - off / Thursday - at CFB / Friday - long workout on your own / Sa/S - be active and play something new.
  • M - at CFB / T - off / W/Th - at CFB / F - off /Sa - at home on your own or at CFB open gym / S - off.
  • M/T/W at CFB / Th off / Fri at home / Sa open gym or at home / S off

4-5x/week - You have a lot of options. What you need to do in this scenario is really pay attention to your body and make sure you are not over training or pushing the intensity in every workout. Some possible schedules:

  • M-T-W  - CFB / Th - off / Fr - CFB / Sa-S - at home or off
  • M - T - CFB / W - off / Th-F - CFB / Sa - long workout at home / S off

You can play with the 4-5x/week scenarios all day long, the goal would be to make sure you are getting the strength days in and then hitting at least Thursday or Friday each week. If you workout 3 days in a row, the 4th day should be off. If you come in to CFB M-F, then Wednesday should be taken a little easier, possible even just work on mobility and do some active recovery work. There needs to be a day built in that you do not push the intensity and you let your body recover. Otherwise you run the risk of burning out (adrenal fatigue being one possibility) and plateauing or even worse,  regressing in your performance. Ultimately it takes listening you your body and letting it recover appropriately. We will dive into recovery and it's importance on Thursday.

Tomorrow we will talk a little about fat burning. Until then here is your first homework assignment. If you are truly committed to making a healthy change in you life and putting in the effort to make it happen, sit down and write out a plan of attack. Schedule in the days you will train at CFB and the days you will work at home. Make these appointments and write them in your calendar or whatever you use to schedule your time - then plan to commit to them just like you would a work appointment. Do not let anything stand in your way of getting yourself healthy.