How often should you go to the gym? This is a question that many of us ask ourselves. If you work out too much, you might feel fatigued, and sore outside of the gym, and not see progress. On the other hand, if you don't work out enough, you might not see the results you're looking for. Being a CrossFit, Strength, and Conditioning gym in Boston with 500+ members, we've seen every level of gym-goer walk through our doors. In this article, we're going to walk you through some guidelines we've developed through 12 years of experience to decide how often you should go to the gym.
If you're a beginner with no previous exercise background, start by introducing workouts into your routine at a steady pace. For complete beginners, start with one or two workouts per week. Focus on the quality of your workout, warming up, cooling down, and pacing yourself. Try and stay as active as you can on the days you aren't in the gym by walking and/or stretching. Active recovery like this will help you recover faster and feel back to normal sooner.
Prior Exercise Experience
If have some prior exercise experience (you have a background in sports or had a gym routine before) try to aim for 3 workouts per week and ramp up the intensity over the first several weeks. You may be tempted to push deep the first couple of classes but we would advise against it. Individuals who have some prior exercise experience but haven't been recently active tend to get the sorest because they aren't as limited by technique and can express a lot of power. Focus on getting in quality movements, improving technique, and coming consistently over making yourself extremely sore. We see our members get better results this way anyway.
If you've been going to the gym for several months consistently, we suggest working out 5-6 times per week. Your coach may suggest extra sessions working on specific strength, conditioning, mobility or rehab/prehab work based on your goals. For most folks with normal life stressors and time constraints, 5-6 days/week for a 1-1.5 hours a day is going to yield the best results. Remember, improvement is all about balancing stress & stimulus with recovery. If your life stress increases or you aren't able to recover properly, you may have to dial back your sessions. Find yourself with less stress and more time to sleep and recover? You may be able to increase the number of sessions per week. Let improvement be your north star. If you are improving your fitness, then you are probably at the right amount of training.
Overtraining can be difficult to recognize when it's happening. Signs of overtraining can include persistent fatigue, decreased performance, increased injuries, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and mood swings. Overtraining occurs when the body is pushed beyond its limits without adequate time for recovery, which can lead to physical and mental burnout. It's important to listen to your body and take rest days when needed. Proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep are also key components of preventing overtraining. If you suspect that you may be overtraining, it's best to take a break from intense workouts and consult with a healthcare professional. Just because you see professional athletes going to the gym multiple times per day, it doesn't mean it's the right amount for you. They have often taken years to build up their capacity and focus a majority of their time outside of the gym on recovery.
When thinking about how often to go to the gym (whether that's a CrossFit gym like ours or others), remember that it depends on your fitness level and your goals. If you're a complete beginner, less is more beneficial for your gains. If you're an elite athlete, fitting in as many workouts and adaptations as you can while optimizing recovery is important. Listen to your body, and don't forget to take ample rest days to help achieve your overall goals.
If you'd like to try a class at one of our three locations in Boston, click "free trial" in the top right of the screen here to get signed up for your first class.