How much
is enough?

Understanding how often you need to train, beginners and beyond

June 2, 2019

Understanding how often you need to train, beginners and beyond

June 2, 2019

If you’re not moving often throughout the day, if you’re not going to the gym or getting your heart rate up regularly through vigorous exercise, then you have to start by setting a low bar, for now.
People all too often shift from being sedentary to taking on huge fitness commitments, locking themselves in for 5–6 sessions per week only to come out the other side of their “12-week challenge” feeling exhausted or just giving up along the way. This ‘all-or-nothing’ approach breeds inconsistency and a feeling of failure when people inevitably hit burnout.

Becoming stronger and fitter doesn’t need to be an all-consuming, unsustainable process, in which you have to surrender all other joys in life. It’s about progressing over time. It’s about maintaining consistent training and setting aside days for recovery in order for your body to adapt and grow. It’s about choosing exercises that build toward your goal and are an efficient use of time. And it’s about knowing what you want to achieve, setting a realistic time frame, and making sure it’s sustainable so you don’t end up back where you started.

So, how much is enough?


Break down your goal


Get clear on what is driving you. Understanding what you want to achieve and connecting strongly to that goal is half the battle. Once you are clear on your WHY, it will help direct your training volume and intensity.

Getting started


Moving more than you are currently is a great place to start. You can significantly improve your overall health by making small lifestyle adjustments like incorporating movement into your daily commute or planning ‘walking’ phone meetings. It’s important to note that whether it’s cardiovascular training or strength training you will have greater leaps of progress with less effort as a beginner in comparison to a trained individual.

Studies show that improvements with strength training occur with as little as one session per week however the results dramatically increase when training is boosted to 3 times per week. Beginners will see very fast strength gains which can be noticed in the first couple of weeks. In comparison, more experienced people require a consistent 8-12 week training block to see results.

Similarly, studies found that you need to be training for 30 minutes for cardiovascular improvements, and do so at least 3 times a week for an 8–12 week block. While frequencies of twice per week can result in cardiovascular improvements initially, sessions must be increased to 3 times per week to avoid plateaus.


Keep up the stimulus. Focus on maintaining consistency week by week. You are better off training 2–3 times per week regularly, as opposed to 8 times one week and none the next. Develop a routine you can maintain and stick to as much as possible.

Progressive overload

Once the consistency is in place, it’s time to ramp up the intensity. This may be by adding sets or changing repetitions, increasing the weight or reducing the rest intervals. (For cardiovascular training, for example, you might increase work-to-rest ratios or choose more challenging conditions). Progressive overload is important in continually increasing the demand on the body, as it creates a need for the body to respond and develop through adaptation.

Exercise choices
Many people waste time during their workout with poor exercise choices. If you’re time-poor and want the most bang-for-your-buck, focus on exercises that use as many large muscle groups as possible. Aim to include compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull ups, and overhead presses in your workouts. And try interval training for an efficient way to improve cardiovascular fitness, speed and power.

Rest & recovery

If your body is already highly stressed, adding extra training volume often becomes stress-inducing rather than a stress relief — overload can be counter-productive to results if you are too close to your edge. Appropriate time for rest and recovery means your body has enough time to bounce back and make the necessary training adaptations it requires before your next workout. Listen to your body and stick to at least one full rest day per week. This may need to be increased during particularly stressful chapters of your life where work and family demands are high.

Whether you are just starting out or driving towards an epic fitness goal, remember, more is not always better. Sticking to a balanced routine is a great long-term approach that will help you become stronger and fitter without the risk of burnout. By training smarter, not harder, and making room for those all-important rest days, you’ll find exercise much more sustainable and fun. And you’ll never want to touch a stand-alone 12 week challenge again.

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