Are you stuck in a workout rut? Do you find yourself asking Google “what’s the “best workout”? What makes a workout “the best” anyway?
Rather than heading to the couch because you are overwhelmed with all the workout choices, you can take this as an opportunity to spice your workout up or just start moving again. Because unfortunately, curling up on the couch with Netflix and some popcorn doesn’t count as a workout (if only — right?).
This article will help you find and choose the best workout for you. And “best” is one you’ll look forward to doing and want to do consistently.
Workout vs. Movement — Why it Matters
Intuitive Eating focuses on movement vs. workouts. But, what’s the difference, and why does it matter?
Movement is something you enjoy doing and will do it consistently whether or not you are on a diet, trying to lose weight, gain weight, or change your body shape.
Workouts, through the Intuitive Eating lens, are done when you’re on a diet or trying to change the shape of your body. Workouts have a dieting connotation – you typically workout when you’re trying to lose weight. When the diet stops, so do the workouts, and the shame and disappointment set in.
Labeling what you do as a “workout” or “movement” matters because a lot of us have a negative connotation with working out, such as “I’ve got to go work out.” Instead, when you choose to move, your perspective is “I get to work out!”
Finding activities that you enjoy doing, and even look forward to – gasp – is a big part of choosing the best workout for you.
Choosing activities that fall in the movement category means you’ll continue doing it because you enjoy it.
One HUGE Benefit of Movement vs Working Out
Getting in your hour at the gym then sitting for the rest of the day isn’t good for you. Research has shown that the benefits you get from working out for an hour are erased if you then sit for 13 hours. (Akins, et al, 2019)
That’s right! Doing an hour workout then being a desk or couch jockey for the rest of the day negates the workout you did. While research hasn’t been able to determine why this happens, it has shown that lipid, glucose, and insulin metabolism aren’t any better in people who work out for an hour then sit for 13 than those who don’t work out at all. (Atkins, etc al, 2019)
Now, just because it doesn’t show an improvement in three measures doesn’t mean working out is a waste of time. Getting in a workout helps elevate mood, work out stress, and just help you feel better. And, like so many things, the research is still evolving.
I hear you asking, “What am I supposed to do?”
Get your “workout” in and then add in bursts of movement (even just walking for a few minutes) throughout the day. That is one reason why finding a way of moving you enjoy doing is important. If you enjoy it, you’ll do it more.
Now, on to finding your best workout!
7 Steps to Choose Your New, Best Workout
The seven steps below will help banish the overwhelm, and help you figure out the best workout/movement that will make your couch put out a missing person’s report for you.
While moving through these seven steps might seem lengthy right now, the big idea is to create your own preferred menu of options that you enjoy doing, without needing to take so much time to decide (and get overwhelmed with) in the future.
Remember — there are no right or wrong answers. You’re looking for a workout you will enjoy and stick with in the long term.
Step 1: What’s your goal?
I recommend looking for benefits other than weight loss. There are so many benefits to consistent movement, the options to pursue are endless!
What’s your goal for your workout? Do you want to:
- Get stronger
- Maintain or increase bone mass
- Increase cardiovascular fitness
- Unwind from the day
- Support an upcoming trip
- Be able to keep up with your kids or grandkids
- Run your first 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or full marathon
- Have a workout you love to do
Keeping your goal in mind as you answer the rest of the questions will help ensure you choose a workout you love and that helps you achieve your goal. Write down your goal so you can keep it handy as you move to Step 2.
Step 2: What workouts do you loathe or love?
Sometimes knowing what you don’t like is just as important as what you do like. Are there workouts you loathe? Are there workouts you’ve loved?
Maybe you run for 45 minutes on the treadmill each day and dread it. What about looking for other activities you do enjoy doing? Perhaps you discover you like mixing in hiking, an occasional run, yoga, Pilates, and weights. That way you get off the treadmill and outside as well as get a variety of workouts in.
If workouts you’ve loved in the past don’t come to mind, think back to when you were younger. Are there activities you loved or loathed as a kid? When we’ve only been working out for the purpose of weight loss, we miss the joy of celebrating what our bodies can do.
Maybe you loved running around with your friends. Then joining a walking or running group may work.
Are there any workouts you’ve seen and thought, “that might be fun”?
If you’re not sure, just pick one and try it out. You won’t know if you love or loath it unless you try it out. Explore with a sense of fun and curiosity. You might be surprised at what you learn.
You can have a lot of fun choosing and trying new workouts. You’ll probably find some you don’t enjoy. And, you may just find your perfect workout.
Step 3: Where do you like to work out?
In the past, do workouts only count if they happen at the gym . . . but don’t actually like going to the gym?
You’ve got options! Do you want to work out indoors, outside, at a gym, or at home?
Maybe you like working out in a gym so you don’t have to worry about the weather. Or, maybe you like to use your workout as a time to get outside. Or, maybe a blend of the two?
You may find getting outside helps you reset and be ready to hit the office. Or, doing a killer HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) class at the gym helps you work out all the stress from the day.
Maybe sometimes you like to be outdoors and sometimes indoors.
There is no right answer to any of these questions — just the answers that help you choose your best workout. If you’re not sure, try a few of each and see which you enjoy most.
Next step: who are you joining…or are you a lone wolf?
Step 4: Do you want to work out alone or in a group?
Do you want the community of a group class or the private time of working out alone?
Some people like (or even need) to get out and be around other people — especially if you’ve been cooped up at home. You may work out alone in a gym and find that just being around other people can mentally help break the isolation of being at home.
Maybe you’re an extrovert who loves to be at the front of a group class working out alongside the group and the instructor.
Maybe you like the competition of having an online class on a spin bike and seeing your name climb up the leaderboard.
With all the options out there, you can find the perfect workout (or workouts) that you’ll love doing.
Now…the question is: when to do this movement?
Step 5: How will it fit into your schedule?
You should work out when you’ll actually do it. I don’t care if some expert says that the best time to work out is in the morning on an empty stomach. Or, if another says you should workout after work.
The perfect time to work out is when you’ll actually do it. Maybe it’s morning or evening. Or, maybe it depends on the day. All that matters is that you do it.
Take a look at your weekly schedule and see where you can fit your workout in.
Does the workout you’ve got in mind happen when you can fit it in? This is most important if you’re planning on doing scheduled classes. Don’t forget to include the time to get ready for the workout – changing clothes, gathering gear, etc. – as well as post-workout things – showering, changing back into work clothes, etc.
If you’re not doing scheduled classes, think about the same pre- and post-workout things that have to be done. Will all that fit in the time allowed or do you need to adjust some things?
Next, make a commitment to get that workout in by scheduling it on your calendar.
Step 6: Just do it!
Time to keep the commitment you just made by actually doing the workout! (Notice the words “get to” vs. “have to.” “Get to” means that you get to do it!)
If you’re working out alone or don’t know anyone in the class yet to help keep you accountable here’s a trick I find helpful. . .
I think about how my future self will respond to what I do today. Will my future self be proud I got the workout in? Or, be disappointed because I skipped it?
The “future self” accountability partner works really well if you’ve got a goal in mind that is on a date – like a 5K, 10K, etc. “What will my future self say about me blowing off this workout when it comes to race day?”
Now that you’re ready to keep that commitment, realize that a new activity takes time to master.
Step 7: Give yourself permission to be a beginner
Let’s face it — starting something new that other people have mastered can be intimidating.
You may not want to be the new person in a group class where everyone else seems to know what’s going on and how to do everything and you don’t (yes, I’m talking about you ariel yoga).
John Greene said, “I just give myself permission to suck. I find this hugely liberating.”
When starting a new workout you probably won’t get it all right the first time or at least for a little bit. Acknowledging, and even embracing that, can help you get over the fear of trying something new.
Everyone was new at some point, which also means that everyone sucked at one point. You’re just going to embrace being a beginner for a little bit.
There’s being a beginner, then there’s breaking your workout streak.
Oops! You missed one. What’s next?
Missing a workout is inevitable. For those of us who have a bit of perfectionism in us, that can be the end of workouts.
“I missed one day. If I can’t be perfect, why do it at all?”
Ah, perfectionism has raised its ugly head. And, you don’t have to buy into perfection’s messages.
In his book “Finish” Jon Acuff says:
You will not be perfect, but do you know what’s even more important than perfection? Do you know what will serve you far longer than perfectionism ever could?
Moving forward imperfectly.
Reject the idea that the day after perfect means you’ve failed.
That’s just not true.
You get to try again.
Today, tomorrow, next week.
Life isn’t perfect. Things happen. Workouts get missed.
And, that is OK because there is always the next one that you can do.
So, DO IT!
Now that you’ve picked a workout, what about avoiding sitting for hours on end?
What About Movement Through the Day?
You can use these same seven steps to find movement that you enjoy and will do through the day so you’re not sitting for hours on end.
These will probably have to be smaller, bursts of activity (10 or 15 minutes or less). The same 7 steps you went through above can help you choose a few activities you can sprinkle in throughout the day. You can also use your smartwatch to remind you to move every hour. Even 250 steps an hour count.
These 7 steps can help you find your perfect workout. And, you can also use them to find some other activities you can work in through the day so you aren’t sitting for hours on end. Remember, walking is a great way to get some movement in during work hours.
If you want a quick reminder of the 7 Steps to Choosing Your Perfect Workout you can download the infographic.
Akins, J.D., Crawford, C. K, Burton, H.M., Wolfe, A. S., Vardarli, E., Coyle, E. F. (2019). Inactivity induces resistance to the metabolic benefits following exercise. J Appl Physiol. 126(4):1088-1094. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00968.2018.