How to create the perfect weekly workout formula, according to Charlee Atkins


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Photo: Getty Images/Matt Monath

With so many different types of workouts to choose from, it can be tricky to fit them all in. You might be all about spin today, but you’ve gotta get your yoga and strength-training fix, too. Luckily, according to trainer Charlee Atkins, CSCS, doing it all doesn’t have to be complicated. There’s a weekly formula you can use that ensures you’re not only able to schedule in each of your favorite activities but do so in a way that does your body good.

Atkins, founder of Le Sweat and a former master SoulCycle, used to do heavy cardio 6 to 7 days a week. Now that she takes a more varied approach to her weekly workouts and it’s totally changed the game. “This is the structure that I not only find works best for my body, but I’ve also seen the most results in my clients training this way,” she tells me.

When putting together a balanced weekly workout schedule, Atkins recommends mixing a few different components: strength training, cardio, yoga, and rest. With this specific range of styles, you’re challenging your body, practicing proper recovery, and—most importantly—making sure you’re not overdoing it with certain movements that could hurt your body and your progress. So who’s ready to sweat?

Charlee Atkins’ perfect week of workouts

Day 1: Strength

“Strength and resistance training (these words are interchangeable) require the most amount of energy and focus from the body when done correctly. This is why you need to load training weeks with the more challenging exercises at the beginning of the week when you’re the most rested and have the most amount of energy to be used.”

Day 2: Strength

“If you consider yourself a ‘worker outer’ and you’re actively participating in group fitness classes or gym sessions on the regular without picking up a weight… it’s time to pick up weights.”

Day 3: Cardio

“Cardio doesn’t have to push you to your end, and it doesn’t have to last an hour. With cardio training, you want to keep your heart elevated enough to put a strain on the heart and lungs. Time-wise, 30-minutes is all you need, and you can maintain a steady-state heart rate (aka a long, steady run), or you can go interval-based (a ‘push’ followed by a ‘recovery’). Since cardio doesn’t require much recruitment of muscles—and thus is not very taxing on the system—your cardio days are somewhat of a ‘recovery day’ for your muscles. They’ll help shake out and loosen up some of the training from the two days before while, at the same time, allow the body to prepare for your next strength day.”

Day 4: Strength

“Well-balanced strength training sessions will always include balanced exercises so you won’t have to run into ‘being too sore’ to double down on strength training sessions. In fact, in a well-balanced training session and routine, you should never leave a workout and be sore for days on end. Proper progression—aka which weights you’re using—will gradually allow the body to get stronger and stronger without over-stressing.”

Day 5: Cardio

“On the final cardio day, you can move and shake your body to get your heart rate up from the long week of training.”

Day 6: Yoga

“I place yoga at the end of my week because it’s a great way to stretch it out and end the week with some zen. Mobility training is essential—especially when you’re working out 6 to 7 days of the week. Even though my final day focus is on yoga, all my workouts routines include mobility exercises. Range of motion is life!”

Day 7: Rest

Enjoy every second of your rest day. By giving your body a break today, you’ll be able to kick butt in the gym tomorrow during your strength training session.

What if you need to cut something out?

Some weeks get super busy. It happens. If you can’t stick to this particular schedule and need to cut out some of the days, Atkins has a suggestion: “If I were to eliminate any days, I would first cut one of the cardio days. Next, it would be one of the three strength days. But no matter what, I still stack my week in the same fashion: strength, strength, cardio, yoga,” she says.

You can do this 4-minute full body workout poolside (or anywhere):

If you want to feel stronger during workouts, use this trainer’s knockout tips. Then find out how to know if your workout ‘hurts so good’ or just plain hurts.

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