When To Workout « PT Stef

When to Workout

And when to “work in”

By Stef Philippou - Dip. in PT, CHEK Pro

Exercise and fitness training has become more and more a part of people’s lives, evident by photos, events and stories highlighted online on social media platforms. Even more so in the last year due the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, with new innovative ways of getting away from digital screens and sitting down all day, to moving more and being active with family members at home, pets included!

What has been the most popular method of training in the last few years? 

Short, intense, high speed and high impact training, known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been a hit – excuse the pun! 

Tabata training (a form of HIIT training with 20 seconds intense active periods followed by a 10 second rest) and other interval style workouts such as virtual cycling sessions and online YouTube sessions with celebrity trainers and coaches, such as Joe Wicks’ P.E. classes. 

These are all great ways to exercise and help your body increase its metabolism and make you fitter and stronger. But is this workout technique really the best way for everyone to exercise, all the time? 

I don’t think it is.

Working out is just that, working at a hard enough intensity and effort level so you are expending and using energy up, and then adapting and getting fitter and stronger over time. 

This is important and needed in exercise and conditioning training plans, however it must be balanced with recovery and recuperation time. It is only when we relax and let our body, and mind, heal and fully repair that we get more toned, stronger muscles, ligaments and tendons, improved stability and functional flexibility, as well as a clear and focussed mind.

Rest days should be incorporated into everyone’s weekly training plan and taken as seriously as workout training days, aim to work hard and rest hard! That recovery day in between workout sessions allows for high performance and maximum effort, with less chance of overuse injuries. 

If you are working out on consecutive days then splitting the body, or muscle groups, up so you are working different parts on back-to-back days will allow for vital rest periods. Or you can alternate between different types of training (resistance, cardiovascular, core stability, flexibility) or training methods (strength, strength endurance, power, hypertrophy). Or for complete variety and change, break up workout training session days with days of “work in” activities.

What is working in? 

Paul Chek, a world-renowned holistic health practitioner and founder and creator of the CHEK Institute and PPS Success Mastery program, talks about working in as generating and bringing energy and life-force into your body and mind. The opposite of working out, where energy is used up and expended.

Examples of working in include: 

  • Breathing – conscious, diaphragmatic and deep 
  • Walking – relaxed and focussed
  • Tai Chi – internal Chinese martial art practice 
  • Qi Gong – martial art training focussing on body-posture and movement 
  • Zone exercises – body-weight movement exercises relating to zones or chakras of the body 
  • Yoga – Yin and Hatha 
  • Meditation – static or physically active 
  • Massage – relaxation with essential oils 
  • Foam rolling – self-myofascial release on certain tight muscles of the body 
  • Cold showers – aim for five to ten minutes everyday 
  • Stretching – whole-body static, dynamic, contract/relax methods 

Where possible the above activities are most effective if performed outside barefoot in nature with direct contact of your body on the ground (preferably on a natural surface such as grass, soil or stone) with exposure to the sun. This has an earthing and grounding effect on the body, helping it to calm down and relax the nervous system. 

When working in your heart rate and respiratory rate should not increase, you should not be sweating, you should be able to hold a full conversation, your mouth should not dry out, and you should be able to perform the activity on a full stomach. 

These signs mean you are not overburdening the body and are allowing it to fully relax and recuperate in a meaningful and energy enhancing way. The most important thing is that you come out of your work in practice with more focus, energy and clarity than when you went in. 

A simple daily self-analysis of how you are feeling and how much energy you have can determine whether you need to workout or work in. 

If you are new to exercise and fitness and lead an already busy life, then working in is primarily recommended. You will soon feel great and have enough energy for more intense and stressful workout sessions.

If you have been training regularly and are more experienced with exercise and movement then doing work in activities will help bring much needed balance into your life, especially if you are overtraining and unable to recover properly.

Being super busy and over-stressed means starting with any work in exercise of your choice. This will help to accumulate energy and flow back into your body and mind. 

Going straight into working out may produce weight loss, being able to run, row or cycle further, have stronger and more powerful muscles, however this will come at a cost - lack of energy and vitality! Which is exactly what is needed to help achieve goals and aims for the sustainable long-term future.

For the next few weeks I encourage you to introduce more working in restorative exercises into your weekly schedule. Feel and sense how it impacts your holistic health, fitness and performance - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. 

Find a method that you enjoy and can see yourself doing repeatedly over three weeks, without making it stressful and another difficult laborious task to complete on your to-do-list. 

There is already a lot going on in our lives so adding more to that busy, overachieving, must-do-attitude life can make it difficult to get the right balance of working out and working in. Choose what works for you and fits comfortably into your daily life without worrying or over thinking it and remember to have fun! 

If you are really up for bringing massive change into your life, then try a Gong. This is 100 consecutive days of a daily work in practice, such as Tai Chi or Qi Gong, for twenty to sixty minutes per session. If you miss a day, then you start over again at day one. 

For further reading, recommended resources and applications have a look at these valuable tools: 

* How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy - book by Paul Chek

* Insight Timer - app for meditation

* Tara Brach - meditation podcast

19th May 2021