I accepted a challenge to go to the gym every day for 30 days and it did unexpected things to my body and mind, motivation, social life, and more.
Take note that I don’t advise everyone to go to the gym every day, but I do think everyone can learn a thing or two about themselves from a seven-day gym streak.
I typically go to the gym five days a week, Monday through Friday. Taking on this challenge only added a couple of days a week, right? That didn’t seem so bad.
I had a lot to learn.
I’ve trained hard in the past. I worked for years to earn my black belt in taekwondo. So, I know what it takes to get serious about exercise and push my limits to get better. But this challenge was something I had never done before. Here’s how it went. Read more about how I created the healthy habit of going to the gym five times a week.
Here’s What My Experience Says
Since I typically go to the gym five times a week, I didn’t notice anything different until the weekend came. Going to the gym on that first Saturday felt utterly abnormal to me. I was so unmotivated and didn't want to go. It just felt wrong going on Saturday, but I went. On Sunday, I felt a little sore, but overall good. I made going to the gym Monday through Friday a habit. It’s easy when it’s a habit. Going on the weekend was much different.
Going to the gym is starting to feel like I’m just checking it off my to-do list. I just wasn’t into it. It didn’t take long for that burnout feeling to start settling in.
I took the day off that Saturday because I went to the beach and did a lot of walking. I knew I wouldn’t have the energy to hit the gym or would have done too much if I had gone to the gym before walking around the beach.
I was really sore by days 12 and 13. I didn’t go to the gym on day 16 because I hurt a muscle in my upper back the day before. I spent days 16 and 17 resting and healing. I returned to the gym on day 18 but took it easy for a couple of days. I avoided any strength training, stuck to light cardio, and paid attention to how my back felt.
I walked outdoors instead of going to the gym on day 22. This last week was the worst in terms of the challenge. I only went to the gym four times this week.
I was so sick of this challenge by the end. I felt completely burned out even though I didn’t go every single day. I injured myself right in the middle of the challenge and stopped enjoying going to the gym. And I’m the type of person who loves exercise. I love the way I feel during and after working out. My mental and physical health improve when I exercise regularly, but this was too much.
This challenge taught me that my happy medium is going to the gym five days a week. I do cardio for 30 minutes five days per week and add strength training three times a week. I feel the best when I stick to this workout routine.
Fortunately, my apartment complex has a small gym for the residents. It’s a five-minute walk or a one-minute drive. I love that it’s so close and convenient. My introverted self loves that it’s small and usually pretty empty.
It may come as no surprise, but I won’t be sticking to this challenge. Instead, I’ll revert back to working out five times a week, combining cardio and strength training.
What Experts Say About Working Out Every Day
I spoke to Jordan Kunde-Wright, a contributor to Living.Fit and founder and head coach of the Twin Cities Kettlebell Club.
Kunde-Wright explains that while there is no one-size-fits-all method to working out, most people need a minimum of three to four days of exercise per week to: “make progress in body composition changes.” But, this isn’t a blanket rule, as three to four days a week of scheduled workouts may be too much for new-to-exercise folks or those coming back to it after several years of being sedentary. If you fall into either of these two groups, Kunde-Wright suggests you start with two days of strength training a week, then progress from there.
So, what about going to the gym every day?
“It is possible to go to the gym seven days a week, but it’s usually not sustainable and may even slow your progress,” Kunde-Wright explains.
Adapting to your new workout routine takes time. “Rest and recovery from your workouts are how you come back stronger, so it’s important to take at least one or two days off per week to allow your body to recover,” he notes.
“Of course, you can split the workout up in different fashions to allow certain muscles to recover while others are working, but rest days are crucial for managing volume and intensity in a way that creates sustainable progress.”
“Overtraining can lead to hormonal disruption, fatigue, injury, and burnout, so it's important to vary your intensity over time, fuel with high-quality foods in the right amounts to support your goals, give yourself adequate rest, and listen to the biofeedback your body is providing,” says Kunde-Wright.
Don’t I know it! Remember that back muscle I injured? That was definitely from doing too much. Not to mention that I felt completely burnt out from going to the gym every day.
Working out too much can lead to overtraining syndrome, causing your athletic performance to decrease. It can take months to bounce back. Signs of overtraining syndrome are fatigue, mood changes, sleep problems, reduced performance, injuries, and illnesses. It’s common in athletes training for an upcoming competition or event.
The Right Amount of Exercise
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends cardio and strength training every week:
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise five times for 30 minutes each session
Or vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise three times for 20 minutes each session
Plus two sessions of strength training.
You can also split up the moderate- and vigorous-intensity workouts throughout the week.
This general recommendation for adults differs for the disabled, pregnant, postpartum, or those with a chronic condition. Everyone is unique, and one workout routine isn’t one-size-fits-all. Start slowly if you’re a beginner or have taken a lot of time off from exercising. And don’t forget about low-intensity workouts. There are some real benefits to low-intensity exercise.
For example, one type is called LISS or low-intensity steady state, where you would maintain a heart rate of 50–65% of your max heart rate. Walking is an excellent example of low-intensity exercise. Other low-intensity exercises include swimming, yoga, elliptical, dancing, and rowing. You don't have to (and shouldn’t) go hard all the time.
Your routine may include workouts two to six days a week, depending on your fitness level, goals, and overall health. Incorporating cardio, strength, balance, and stretching activities in your workouts is important. I now know that recovery is one of the most important parts of your exercise routine.
When you’re ready for a customized workout plan you can do at the gym, sign up for a free consultation with a certified personal trainer.