One question that I have received consistently over the 10+ years that I’ve been blogging and posting on social media is how balance running, strength training and yoga in a weekly workout schedule. Just yesterday, I received this question on Instagram…
“How would you recommend balancing a schedule of yoga, running and strength? How many days/duration would you recommend? I currently run about 4 miles when I can and have just started doing yoga. Usually strength training 3 days a week. Not enough days in the week so trying to figure out a good combo. I enjoy the running and yoga the most. Thanks!” – Trish
I actually wrote a post about this topic back in 2014 but it’s time to revisit it and update my thoughts and suggestions.
For this post, I have compiled my top five tips for creating a balanced workout schedule that includes running, strength training and yoga. If there’s interest, I’ll write a second post that includes specific schedule templates/examples.
1. Identify your “workout mindset/personality.”
An important first step is identifying your workout mindset or personality. This will help you with the tips to follow. I generally find that there are two types of athletes.
Mindset #1 – “I do this one thing and it’s all I want to do!”
This applies to those who identify most with one form of movement – “I’m a runner, yogi, Cross Fitter, spin lover, HIIT queen, swimmer, weight lifter, etc.” This athlete LOVES their chosen type of movement but knows that they *need* to incorporate other forms of movement to be more well-rounded. They need guidance on how to do this while still devoting the majority of their attention to their passion.
This was me in my early days of being active and working out. I loved running and running was all I wanted to do. I felt like I had to force myself to incorporate strength training and yoga into my routine because it was something that I *should* do and once I started to experience running injuries, I came to appreciate the value of a more balanced approach to fitness.
Mindset #2 – “I love so many forms of exercise…how do I fit it all in!?”
I jokingly call this exercise ADD. This is the type of person who loves multiple forms of movement but realizes that they can’t do it all, all the time due to overtraining, time restrictions, the expense or a host of other reasons.
This is where I am now. I find that I really have to be focused and strategic to find a balance that works for my body and my schedule limitations. I love a mix of running, walking, yoga and strength training. My body feels best when I’m doing a little of all of them and not too much of one thing.
This is where I am now. Sometimes I joke that I have exercise ADD. I love it all. I wish I had time for swimming (I actually LOVE to swim but never make it to the pool), running, CrossFit, circuit training, HIIT, kickboxing, yoga, etc. but it’s not feasible from a time or financial standpoint. You’ve gotta get focused and you’ve gotta find the balance that works for YOU! I’m going to share what works for me but I would never prescribe it for everyone. We’re all so different in what feels good to our bodies.
2. Quality of workouts over quantity.
I cannot stress this enough. Focusing on the quality of your workouts over the quantity is key for avoiding injury and burnout. I say this as someone who has been there with quantity. I used to regularly do two-a-day workouts and not think twice about it. Honestly, this mostly worked during a time in my life when I was younger, focused on my fitness career and childless but it wasn’t sustainable long-term.
I can really tell a difference in my energy level and how my body feels during various workouts now that I have reduced the overall quantity. I feel like I get so much more out of each workout because most of the time, I’m really excited about doing it and don’t feel so much like it’s a box that I have to check. Of course, I still have my off days where my motivation is low or my body feels heavy/lethargic but that happens much less frequently than it did when I was doing all the things, all the time.
Here are some examples of this…
- I would rather do 2-3 five-mile runs that feel amazing than run three to five miles 5-6 days a week and slog through most of those runs.
- Just because I’m a yoga teacher doesn’t mean that I have to practice yoga every single day. My body actually feels so much better when I reduce the frequency and intensity of my yoga practice. When I do practice, I still love a power flow but I have slowed it down and incorporated a lot more strength work. I never stretch to my end ranges these days.
- For my schedule and goals, I prefer 2-3 total body strength workouts each week versus trying to train different muscle groups every day or doing HIIT workouts 5x/week.
3. A little is better than none at all.
This one is aligned with tip number two but is more for those who feel “what’s the point of ______ (fill in the blank) if I can only do it once a week? Is it really going to make a difference.”
My answer is a resounding YES!!!!!! If you only knew how many times I’ve said, “doing yoga once a week is better than not practicing at all.” I say the same thing about strength training ALL.THE.TIME. too. Drop the belief that you have to do something multiple times a week for it to be effective or worth it. Again, focus on quality over quantity.
You can also apply this tip to the amount of time that you spend doing something. Here are some examples…
- Adding a 10-minute upper body workout to the end of a run is better than not strength training at all.
- 15 minutes of yoga or stretching is better than none at all if you can’t make it to a full class.
- Taking the dogs or your kids for a walk can still count as movement even if a run isn’t going to work in your schedule on a given day.
4. Identify if you do better with a structured plan or a more relaxed/intuitive approach.
Some people need a structured workout plan or schedule and that is great! Others do well with a more relaxed or intuitive approach. I think it’s important to know which of these types you are so that you can formulate your overall strategy for finding balance with your workouts.
If you do better with a structured plan, the first step is to figure out whether you fall into workout mindset #1 or #2 and start building your plan from there, taking into account your body, goals and schedule. I think that structured plans work especially well for those with mindset #1 because you are intentionally figuring out how to incorporate other types of movement into your workout schedule and you have a guide to follow to make sure you do it.
A relaxed/intuitive approach is more fluid and might change weekly or even daily depending on how your body feels and what demands you have on your time and energy. This is the approach I take. Every week I know that I want my workouts to be a mix of running, yoga and strength training. I look at my schedule for the week and see how this might best fall into place and then I ask myself every day what I feel like doing. I follow a few guidelines like trying not to run or do full-body strength training on consecutive days. I also accept that there are some weeks where I might feel more like long walks versus running and that sometimes I just need a break from a certain type of movement. I don’t beat myself up if I haven’t picked up a weight in two weeks or haven’t run or done yoga much lately.
If you want to read a little more on how mindfulness has helped me as a runner, read this post!
5. Be willing to examine and make changes as needed.
As humans, we tend to be overly hard on ourselves. Ultimately, working out should be something that you do because it helps you to feel better and supports your overall health and lifestyle goals. Be willing to examine what you are doing and make changes as needed.
I know that change can be scary and that it’s easy to feel like you’re not a real ____ (fill in the blank) if you’re not doing it X times a week but how you feel physically and energetically is so incredibly important and impacts how you show up in your daily life with your family, friends and work. If you are feeling bored, overtrained, energetically drained, injured, unchallenged, stressed, etc by your workouts, it might be time to make some changes.
Let’s continue the conversation!
This post is getting lengthy but I’d love to continue this conversation. How can I best support you when it comes to this topic and what resources would be useful? Would it be helpful if I wrote another post that has templates of plans you can follow to balance workouts? For example, “Here’s a plan for a runner who wants to do more yoga. Here’s a plan for someone who wants to do it all but not overdo it.”
Let me know! 🙂
Which type of workout mindset/personality do you have?
How do you do with finding balance between multiple forms of movement?
Are you interested in workout plan templates? Or more in-depth information on moving intuitively? Or anything else?
All photos Deeana Kourtney Photography.