As a health and exercise professional, you most likely work with your clients one to three times per week. This creates the opportunity for your clients to take ownership of their fitness goals by completing supplementary workouts. Encouraging them to integrate additional workouts that complement what you are already doing in your sessions can be a great way to keep your clients motivated, challenge them to try new workouts, and allow them to gain confidence in their ability to exercise on their own. Here are a few ideas to help plan the perfect fitness week for a balanced, comprehensive routine:
- Aerobic Training: The minimum recommendation for aerobic exercise is 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018). While additional exercise time and intensity can have added benefits, it is important to encourage your clients to at least meet the minimum recommendations. If your training sessions focus on other fitness components or do not meet these guidelines, here are a few ways you can help your clients incorporate aerobic training into their week:
- Introduce them to aerobic-focused group fitness classes: Most fitness facilities offer a variety of aerobic-class options featuring a range of intensities and formats. These classes are great opportunities for your clients to try something new, meet other people and add variety to their exercise programs.
- Create a specialized aerobic training program for your clients: If your clients prefer to work out on their own rather than attend a class, create a 30-60 minute training program featuring their favorite aerobic activities (e.g., elliptical training, running on a treadmill and cycling) that they can follow to stay motivated and on track. Moderate-intensity programs should achieve a heart rate range of 40-60% of heart-rate reserve (HRR) and vigorous-intensity programs should maintain a HRR between 60-90% (see shaded box below) [American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), 2018].
- Encourage them to go outdoors: From a walk around the neighborhood to sprints up a hill, taking an aerobic workout outside of the gym can offer a different environment and scenery, provide fresh air and create a more challenging training terrain.
- Strength Training: Strength training for each major muscle group should be done twice per week. Be creative with your strength programs to maintain your clients’ interest. Challenge them with:
- A specialized strength program: Create a strength program that your clients can complete on their own. Recommended volumes for strength training include 2-4 sets with 8-12 repetitions and 2-3 minutes of rest between sets (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018).
- Strength-focused group fitness classes: For those who prefer a class or do not feel comfortable performing strength exercises on their own, introduce them to group fitness classes that focus on muscular strength and endurance.
- Flexibility Training: Flexibility training should be performed for a minimum of 2-3 days per week with an optimal frequency of 5-7 days per week (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018). While health and exercise professionals often incorporate some static stretching at the end of their workouts and classes, extra time should be dedicated to this component of fitness throughout the week. Encourage your clients to spend additional time after your training sessions to stretch and participate in activities that incorporate stretching such as yoga. You can also help them develop a stretching routine that they can complete on their own time.
- Balance Training: While often neglected, balance training is an important component of a comprehensive fitness program, especially for older adults. Balance training can be incorporated during your training sessions (e.g., standing on one foot while performing an arm exercise), trained separately, or added into daily activities such as standing on one foot while waiting in the grocery line or performing a tandem walk while walking to the mailbox.
- Rest and Recovery: Rest and recovery are important components of your clients’ weekly fitness plans, as a rest day can reduce injuries, prevent overtraining and allow muscles to recover. Rest days need not be completely sedentary days, however; encourage your clients to incorporate light activities such as a leisurely walk or stretching into their rest days.
The key to helping your clients achieve a balanced, comprehensive weekly fitness routine is to add activities that complement the exercises or fitness components that you focus on in your training sessions. For example, if your client’s goals are related to strength training during the sessions, help him or her find ways to incorporate aerobic, flexibility and balance training throughout the week. Whatever your focus is during your clients’ training sessions, take the time to develop routines that your clients must complete on their own time. These additional workouts can be used as an accountability component and a means to empower your clients to achieve their health and fitness goals. Ultimately, the perfect fitness week can be created through a weekly fitness plan that not only helps your clients meet the exercise recommendations, but also adds some variety, fun and challenge to their fitness routine to keep them motived along the way.
American College of Sports Medicine (2018). ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. (10th ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.