How Much Exercise? (And the importance of putting it into your schedule!)

I am frequently asked by my clients how often I exercise (Hi Pete!). I think they are probably hoping I will say – not that much and you don’t have to do much either. (Are you having flashbacks to my last post? This one is different, I promise!). My goal is 5 times a week – 3 Pilates sessions and 2 cardio workouts. Plus a 5-10 minute morning stretch before my first client arrives and a walk at lunchtime every day.

One reason to plan to take this much exercise is that it adds to the amount of movement I am getting each day (see my last post – But another main reason is that we need to exercise more frequently if we are going to achieve the goals that lead us to exercise. Those goals can be varied – good long-term health, weight loss, more strength or tone, to improve balance, to build bone density, to get out of pain, better posture. Or all of the above! Whatever your goal, it won’t be easy (possible?) to achieve it if you only address it once a week. Many of us exercise because we know we should, so if we come to class once a week we can tick exercise off our list and feel good about ourselves. Which is a great start. But if you want to make goal-related progress, once a week isn’t really enough. 2 sessions per week as a minimum, 3 even better. Joseph Pilates is famous for saying, “In 10 sessions, you feel better, 20 sessions you look better, 30 sessions you have a completely new body.” Note he didn’t say in 10 weeks you feel better. If you wanted Mr. Pilates to train you, you had to commit to 3 times a week for 10 weeks or he wouldn’t take you on as a client.

This isn’t my way of trying to drum up more business for myself (as it is I have almost no spare time in my teaching schedule!). But research on health and exercise invariably shows that more is merrier. And it is becoming more and more apparent that it doesn’t really matter what form of exercise you choose as long as you do it and do it often. So finding a form of exercise that you LOVE is the key. For me, at the moment, that is Pilates. I love that there is always a further level of depth to the exercises and a further level of difficulty of exercise – there is always more to achieve. I am still learning new things about my body and about the Pilates method every day.

But just because I love Pilates doesn’t mean you should too. You may prefer salsa dancing or wall climbing or hiking or tennis. Or a martial art, fencing, yoga, football, the outdoor gym in Primrose Hill, running, biking. Or a combination – probably the healthiest choice of all!

Whatever form of exercise you decide to try, the most important thing is to schedule it into your diary. However good your intentions, if you don’t put it into your diary ahead of time, it is extremely unlikely to happen. I listed my exercise goals at the beginning of this post: the truth is I rarely achieve it all. The exercise sessions that always happen (as long as I am not away) are my Saturday Pilates private with my teacher Rebecca Convey in Crouch End, my Tuesday evening group skype Pilates class with my American mentor Shari Berkowitz and my Sunday morning cardio + Pilates own practise session. Because they are in my schedule and I have committed financially and emotionally to doing them.

When formulating your exercise goals, make sure you find a way to put actual exercise session times into your schedule and not just think – I’ll fit it in when I can. If it’s not in your diary it is extremely unlikely to happen! If Pilates is your thing, try online Pilates classes at Pilates Anytime. Or find a training buddy to go for runs or to the outdoor gym with. Or google classes in a new sport that you have wondered about trying, or experiment with a bunch of different movement classes through Class Pass –  Whatever kind of exercise you decide to do – SCHEDULE IT!

One more important thing. When you go off and try your new class or sport, don’t forget to take everything you have learnt from me about good alignment with you. Biomechanist Katy Bowman talks about how much of our exercise is ‘junk food exercise’ – exercise that gives limited benefit because it is done with poor alignment. Make sure your exercise is nutritious, not junky!

P.S. I know I am the easy answer to increasing your exercise frequency if you are already working out with me. If you want to add in more sessions, I’m afraid I probably won’t be able to accommodate you. But Tracey might be able to. And after Easter I am adding an extra mat class on Tuesday mornings at 9 as my other two classes are oversubscribed. So I may be able to squeeze you into one of those. But don’t just rely on me – think outside the box!