In this episode of The Feel Good Effect, we’re continuing our three-part mini-series on movement, exercise, and working out.

In The Movement Capsule we’re covering the what, why, how and when.

Last week, we talked all about the what & walked through how to know what type of exercise is right for you.

But once you know what to do, how do you figure out when and how often to do it? How long do you exercise and for how many days a week?

The answers to those questions are what we’re talking about today.

I’ll walk you through all the mindset shifts you need, how to explore what times of day work best for your real schedule and share my own workout routine as an example.

Here’s a glance at this episode

  • [03:25] What movement looks like during a big transition or life change.
  • [04:20] Explore where movement might fit best in your day.
  • [6:03] Understand how much time you really need for your workout. Detaching from the idea of a workout needing to be a full hour.
  • [06:43] Learn what exercise snacking is and how small chunks of movement can help you push past all-or-nothing thinking.
  • [9:16] I’ll walk you through an example of how I shifted the “when” of my movement in this season of my life.
  • [12:08] How to decide how long to workout
  • [12:40] How to decide how often to workout.
  • [13:41] I’ll walk you through how how long and how often I workout as an example of how to make your own personalized decisions.
  • [16:56] Where to start with self-compassion and how to decide on the kindest choice for your body right now.
  • [20:51] How to build consistency with a new workout habit.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

The Feel Good Effect, by Robyn Conley Downs

The Balanced Life: Sisterhood

Transition Week

Why You Need to Be Exercise Snacking

More Episodes on Movement

How to Choose the Right Exercise for You

The Secret to Consistency & Joy in Your Workout Routine with Robin Long

3 Minutes of Exercise Can Redirect Your Brain Toward Happiness: Here’s What to Do

pink background with coral text that reads the movement capsule when and how often to workout

read the transcript

Robyn Conley Downs: (00:01)

You’re listening to the feel-good effect. This is the movement capsule. And today we are talking about when and how often to work out. Let’s make it happen

Robyn Conley Downs: (00:12)

Radically simple and ridiculously doable. The feel-good effect will help you redefine wellness on your terms. Hi, I’m your host, Robyn Conley Downs. And I believe that wellness isn’t about achieving another set of impossible standards, but instead finding what works for you, drawing from cutting-edge science on mindfulness habit and behavior change. This podcast offers a collection of small mindset shifts that allow for more calm, clarity, and joy in everyday life and allows you to embrace the idea that gentle is the new perfect. I invite you to listen in, as we cut through the clutter and find the small shifts that create huge changes in your life. Less striving, more ease. It’s time to feel good.

Robyn Conley Downs: (01:01)

Well, hey feel good fam. I am so glad you’re here. This is the movement capsule. We’re doing a three-part mini-series on movement, exercise, and working out how, whatever you want to call it last week, we talked all about the what. So what type of exercise is right for you? How to know what to do, how to make that decision, how to connect it to how you feel and how you want to feel, and how to kind of navigate through the categories of cardio strength and mobility and flexibility. And the next question on everyone’s mind, and I know this from coaching thousands of people over the years is once you know what to do, you will need to figure out when and how often to do it. So for how long and how many days a week. So that’s what we’re talking about today. And next week, we’ll close out the capsule with tracking and measuring success.

Robyn Conley Downs: (01:52)

So excited for that one as well. So this one is when and how often, and again, I’m going to give my workout routine of the moment of the season as an example. And last week I said it, and I’ll say it again, that this is not for you to compare yourself, to, or to try to replicate. It’s really, to help you see behind the scenes of how I make these decisions so that you can make them for yourself. So let’s talk about when, and then we’ll talk about how often, so the, when is time of day, what time of day are you going to work out? And also within that is how long, because if you’re thinking about when you’re going to do it, you also need to think about how long you need to set aside in order to do any kind of movement, workout or exercise.

Robyn Conley Downs: (02:39)

So for this, I always start with transition week and I will send you back to the transition week episode. If you haven’t listened to that one, we will link it in the show notes. So transition week is anytime you have a big life change, whether that is starting a new job or a kid going back to school or a kid leaving the home or an illness or an injury or a loss, or let’s end on a positive, like something really great happening a promotion when something big happens, I always encourage you to take at least one transition week. Sometimes it might be a month, or it might be three months, depending on how big the transition or move is. I said move because I’m still thinking of my friend, Taesha, who had like this big cross-country move from California to Vermont, and now they just bought a house.

Robyn Conley Downs: (03:25)

So the transition week is really more of a transition couple of months. And that is so okay. It’s so normal. And it’s so necessary to not try to push yourself into a routine when things are still shifting under your feet. So let’s say it’s a week in that transition week. I want you to listen to your life, pay attention to when might be a good time to insert your movement of choice. And we have some options early morning before things get going mid-morning after people have gone off and kind of get settled, whether you’re at work or whether you work from home, lunch break afternoon, any evening. That’s how I break it up. Always when I teach my 4R routines, which is looking at four parts of your day as a potential to insert anything, whether it’s self-care in this case, self-care through movement.

Robyn Conley Downs: (04:20)

So in your transition week, I want you to listen to your life. I want you to pay attention when what time of day would make the most sense in terms of, do you have the time and do you have the energy and how much will you have to shift around to make that happen? So a lot of people assume that they need to do it first thing in the morning, and they need to get up early. Now, for me, that was never made when we had little Elle, baby Elle, three-year-old Elle getting up early was not the option for me. And so I don’t think that has to be for you, but it’s paying attention. Like, do I have a pocket of 10 to 30 minutes during the day? Would that be getting up early? Would that be – for me right now – it’s after everybody goes off to work at school, is it on a lunch break and actually taking a lunch break?

Robyn Conley Downs: (05:03)

Those of you who work for yourself or work from home and work right through lunch every day. Um, I’m gonna really push you to take a freaking lunch break. Okay. Sorry. I never swear on the podcast, but that’s like the part where I will very much feel like swearing because, you know, if you, you deserve to take a break and you deserve to eat lunch and you deserve to move your body in some way, and then maybe it’s afternoon. Maybe if you do pick, they pick up things and you pick up kids and they’re kind of doing homework or watching shows. That could be a good time. That’s a lot of time not wasted, but it’s not the most productive time for a lot of people. And it’s something that maybe you could slide in a 30 minute or a 10 minute chunk of movement.

Robyn Conley Downs: (05:44)

And then maybe it’s after dinner. Some people love that option. Maybe it’s when you put the kids down or things settle down for the night. So the idea of tr transition week is listening to your life and really looking like when, when is the natural rhythm happening, where I could insert this, and then within that, how much time do I really need? And I really encourage you to detach from the idea that you need an hour. I just really believe after working with so many people that it a 60-minute workout is fully unfeasible for people who work full-time and or who, um, care for our family. And, and definitely, if you do both now if you’re retired, that’s a whole nother conversation. Like if your time is very much your own, then you might want to explore like, Hey, I actually do have 60 minutes, but I want to divide that up between two different kinds of movement and do 30 minutes at a time, I will definitely point you back to our exercise snack episode that, uh, I teach here, which is an exercise snack could be, uh, three times up a flight of stairs in your house.

Robyn Conley Downs: (06:47)

It could be 10 minutes to take a walk. So please don’t get hung up on the idea that it has to be 30 minutes, or it has to be 45 minutes. Any amount of time is better than no time, truly. And I hope that after years of me saying this, that you can hear it. We cannot be stuck by all or nothing thinking we can, not move our bodies because we think it has to be a certain random amount of minutes. And therefore we do not. Right. So whether it’s five minutes, whether it’s two minutes, whether it’s 30 minutes, I want you to notice where is the time I could do it? What time of day and how, how long do I realistically have? And I often work with clients, um, and we have feel-good effect coaches who do the same thing and work with clients who are like, well, I’m going to work out every single day.

Robyn Conley Downs: (07:35)

And I’m like, cool, great. Like when, when are you going to do that? And they’re like, oh, I’m going to work out after dinner. And then I asked them like, what’s your energy like at that timid day? Well, I’m so exhausted. All I can do is hit the couch. Well, please don’t put your movement time at that time of night. You’re, you’re just setting yourself up to not succeed. So let’s find a time where you have 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and then a time that like most realistically could happen. That could be at nap time. So it might not be exact time. It could be keyed or, um, hooked onto something else that’s happening in your day. So that’s the, when for me, I don’t have a baby anymore and I don’t have a toddler anymore. And I work for myself and those are absolutely like privileges that I have.

Robyn Conley Downs: (08:22)

And some of you are in completely different stages of life. So that’s where you’re going to take what you need and leave what you don’t. But after I listened to my life, after the last transition of Elle going back to in-person school, what works for me is waiting, getting her out the door. And so truly what I was trying to do was work out before she left. So I was getting up early and I was working out and that worked lovely, beautifully all of last year when she was doing school online, and it worked all summer and it was wonderful. I got up early. I had time for myself. I so needed that time for myself because everyone was at home all day, every day. And as things switched, where she leaves, she needs more support to get out the door. And me trying to do the workout before she left was adding way more stress to our day than was necessary and I didn’t need to do it.

Robyn Conley Downs: (09:16)

So I noticed that and made the shift. And so now for me, when is, as soon as she walks out the door, I grab the leash and I take the dog for a walk. And I do that for two reasons. I found that doing any kind of other I’m more strenuous workout. First thing in the morning is too harsh on my body. And I don’t know if that’s from the endometriosis. I don’t know if it’s from age, adrenal fatigue, all the other list of issues that I, I have long had. But for me, when I think about when first thing in the morning is really, really tough for me. And I’ve had friends who said, oh, no, you just need to do it for a long time. And you’ll get body will get used to it for me. No, that did not work. And I need something a little slower, first thing in the day.

Robyn Conley Downs: (10:03)

So when is such a great question to ask, because maybe you want to do a higher intensity workout, but doing it, first thing just does not feel good in your body. Could you shift it to later? So I do my walk first. It helps wake me up. It gets my heart rate up. I get to connect and get some light on my skin if there’s any light to be had in the Pacific Northwest, in the upcoming dark days of winter. And then as soon as I get back from the walk, I either jump on the cycling bike or I do my plays or bar, and I don’t leave but time in between those two, because I have learned that for me, if I sit down and just start getting to work, I never do it. I’m like, oh, I’ll do it at lunch. Or like, I’ll do it when no one gets home.

Robyn Conley Downs: (10:42)

And I don’t. So I pair those things together. I go on the walk, it helps me wake up. It helps me ease into things. It helps get my body like kind of loose. And then I immediately do the other movement for the day. If I don’t pair those things, it doesn’t happen, frankly. Um, I don’t let the weather be a dictator of whether I’m going to go on a walk. And so obviously if you live, somewhere extremely dangerously cold, then this would not be safe. But for the rest of us, I think it’s really important to think about that for me. I don’t look outside and think, should I go on a walk? I just, I do not let that be a determinant unless it’s so icy that I would slip and fall and hurt myself. It’s not, it’s just an automatic habit at this point that she leaves.

Robyn Conley Downs: (11:25)

And I know as soon as she’s out the door, that is when I do the walk. And then as soon as I get from the walk, I don’t look at my computer. I don’t start getting into email. I don’t look at my phone. I literally get him off his leash and I go keep my socks on and get on the bike or take my socks off, roll out my mat. And then I’m done for the day as my friend, Robin Long would say, I know some of you are in the sisterhood with me, and I love the feeling of being done for the day. So that’s when I do it. And I just want to reiterate that this has changed so many times. I’m like thinking back to Elle’s nine years of life and even before that, that’s like another lifetime, but how often I’ve changed the when.

Robyn Conley Downs: (12:08)

So I was thinking about pre-pandemic. I used to do my walks at noon to get myself a break, to break up the day because I’d been sitting so much, so really like pay attention to your real schedule right now, not what you wish it would be and not what it was before, but what is actually right now. And when in your day is that most likely to happen with your schedule and your energy level. And then the answer to that question of how long should you work out? It’s like, what is reasonable? And you can stick to, so if it’s five minutes, then celebrate the five minutes. Okay. Now let’s talk about how often and how often is the exact same answer that I just gave, which is I would much rather you moving consistently two times a week than none. And I just know so many of you are struggling with getting into any kind of routine that I would say once a week to start.

Robyn Conley Downs: (13:01)

And I know that doesn’t feel glamorous. I get that. Like, what we want to do is say we’re going to work out for 30 days straight. Or I had a friend recently that was, I think I’ve told him versions of this story. Cause it happens so often. She’s like, I’m going to commit to move every single day, this year for a year. It was her birthday. And I was like, that’s an interesting idea. Can you think of any reason why that might be tough? And she ended up getting really sick, how to have a surgery and then didn’t move again for months afterwards. And I would’ve much rather her set a different kind of goal for how often that was more in line with like what might happen for taking into account those difficult times. And so for me, it is right now, a daily thing I’ve been doing.

Robyn Conley Downs: (13:46)

I’ve been like moving my body, exercising, working out pretty much my whole adult life. So that’s, uh, not a challenge for me at this point. And so it’s a Monday through Friday, a certain kind of focus and that’s a every day. And then on the weekend, I try to get some form of movement both days, but that’s much less structured in that so much, as I mentioned last week, more about time in nature, time to reconnect myself, time to be with my family and time to spend time with my partner, Andrew, or play with my daughter, Elle. So the big thing is asking the question, how do I feel and how I, how do I want to feel so, other than looking at your day and your week, and like what’s realistic. I also want you to connect, moving your body or exercise or workout or whatever you want to call it to how you feel.

Robyn Conley Downs: (14:34)

And so that is how I landed on a five day a week for me, five days consistently during the workdays, because I feel so much better when I do it, I am more productive. I am more focused. I am in a better mood. I am in a, I am a better parent. I am a partner, so it’s not about, oh, I need to do this because of calories or I have to do this because my jeans are fitting X, Y or Z way. It’s fully connected to how I feel and fully connected to. I run my own business. I am my biggest asset when I feel bad in my business suffers when I feel good, my business is better. And so I will absolutely do the things that I have control over, which are not many. And so for me, movement, how often it’s every day for you, that connection might not be there.

Robyn Conley Downs: (15:20)

It might be that, you know, two days a week is greater. Like I said, you haven’t been doing it so one day a week is such a win start with what you can do and you can build it from there. And I want to wrap up here by talking about what to do if you’ve had an injury or an illness or surgery or loss, what to do when you have been out of a routine and you’re trying to get back into it. And I think this fits in with the one in the house and it’s something people don’t talk enough about. So I got this question when I asked for questions, I’m on Instagram and I love to address this before we wrap up. So the number one thing I want you to focus on first is if you’ve had an injury, you’ve had a surgery, you’ve had an illness, you’ve had a loss is probably not what you’re expecting.

Robyn Conley Downs: (16:05)

100%. I want you to focus on practicing and learning. Self-compassion um, I have a ton of resources for you. I really, again, my book is where you should start. It is under $15 and it will help you. It will, for some people, change how they think, which changes their actions, which changes their life. And so you can’t talk about movement and coming back to exercise without talking about self-compassion. And I know this for myself, and I know this for my clients that often always the biggest barrier to consistent movement. Isn’t the what or that when or the how it’s, how you’re thinking about it. And that those mindset barriers of perfectionism of all or nothing thinking and of comparison are what really actually are going to hold you back. So I want you to learn how to be kinder to yourself when you’re coming back.

Robyn Conley Downs: (16:56)

And that question of what is the kindest choice right now is really an important one to ask, because when you first start asking it, you might not know how to answer it because you don’t know, you’ve never practice it. And then I want you to think, learn flexible thinking instead of all, or nothing thinking so that you can think about, well, I can’t work out every single day or I can’t do an hour. So what is a middle ground looked like for me? Is it one day a week? Is it 10 minutes for, for one day, a week to start? Um, what does that middle ground look like for you? And then it’s gratitude. So finding ways to connect with gratitude in your own body for what it can do versus what it can’t. And, you know, I should make this, this own episode, but I know how it feels to be disappointed in your body to be angry at your body, to hate your body.

Robyn Conley Downs: (17:45)

I have talked before about having, you know, a struggle with infertility having multiple miscarriages and how that affected my ability to exercise and how I felt about my body and how angry I was at my body and how much I hated it and what a barrier that was from finding consistency and joy in movement. I also have this ridiculous, debilitating disease called endometriosis. That makes me feel like horrible crap all of the time. So it’s not money. And again, sorry if that’s not your favorite word, but like there’s no other way to describe it. And, um, I feel bad more days than I feel good. So just at a baseline level. And so I don’t feel like moving my body a lot of the time, so I can very much have empathy for you there. I’ve had several, I’ve had surgery in the last two years.

Robyn Conley Downs: (18:38)

I broke my ankle and we had a couple of losses in the family. So I just want you to know that you’re not alone. And then I fully see you. And I think that there are not enough people talking to you and I’m here to do that. And I know that the first thing you want to do is where I started this capsule, which is what should I do? What kind of exercise should I do and how often, and when I started there because that’s what everyone wants to know and what they think is the most important, but spoiler alert, it is not, I hundred percent cannot tell you more to learn how to be kind to yourself, how to have flexible thinking and how to have gratitude. And again, the book does that. It’s an easy, quick read, and it will definitely change the way you’re thinking about this, because if you can’t like, hold enough space to be kind for yourself, when you first start moving again, it’s not going to be a good thing.

Robyn Conley Downs: (19:26)

It’s going to be so unpleasant that you don’t want to do things. And the thing about the human brain is if something is not fun, enjoyable, if it’s a punishment, you won’t do it. If you can find any joy there, you will keep doing it. So when you can learn to be kind to yourself, ask that question, what’s the kind of stories. And, and I’ll let you know too, that the kindness choice is not always sitting out, sitting it out. The kindness choice is not always taking the day off. And for some people it’s, they’ve always pushed themselves so hard. They have to learn that the kindest choice is to take the rest day or is it to take a restorative class. And then I have on the other end of the spectrum, people who the, they always take the kindness choice, thinking like, oh, well, I’ll just rest today.

Robyn Conley Downs: (20:06)

And I’ll just relax. And I need to take the restorative class in that sometimes the kindest choice there is actually to push a little bit outside of your comfort zone. Um, so after mindset and within that mindset, I’d say start small, short, and easy. So I think a lot of times when we’ve been out of something, we feel like we need to make up for it. So we go too hard, too fast, or we feel like we have to punish ourselves. So we’d go too hard to pass. So I would encourage you to find something that you enjoy doing. So, um, do you enjoy being doing something that’s more socially oriented? That’s more by yourself? Um, I would start there versus thinking about, you know, how do I get in shape at the fastest I can? And then I would do start with a few days a week and a very short, very short amount of time.

Robyn Conley Downs: (20:51)

So I’d like you to build the muscle of consistency rather than, um, your physical muscles first. And if you can do, you know, three days a week for 10 minutes, then, then you can build from there. Obviously, if you have an injury or you’re, post-surgery, you clearly need to consult with a doctor, you need to maybe consult with a physical therapist or other kinds of physical healers. So don’t do. I’m not going to advise you on that whatsoever, but once you’ve been cleared and as you’re working on the mindset pieces, what is the most enjoyable so that I can keep doing it? And how can I work on this incrementally? So, gosh, I have to say, I was just thinking about when I, I took some time off of doing the, um, spin bike. And my first inclination when I came back was to do a 45 minute class.

Robyn Conley Downs: (21:40)

And it was ridiculous because I was, I felt terrible afterward and I was so exhausted and just felt bad because I couldn’t keep up. And I don’t know what I was thinking. Like, I should have fully done a 10-minute class and it wouldn’t have been overly difficult and I would have been fine. So I hope that helps. I think if there’s some nuance of this that I’m missing, I’m happy to continue to talk about it, but he moving his healing and movement is healing. So what are thinking about movement in the body and healing in the body has really evolved. I know that in the past, even for back injuries, that used to recommend that you lay flat on your back and now the recommendation is like, get up and move as quickly as possible. So please work on finding from a, from an informational, not a medical standpoint, finding that, um, mindset shift toward self-compassion toward gratitude, towards flexible thinking, and then the shortest amount of time for the minimum number of days. So you can get consistent and then build from there. Right? I’d much rather have you be, um, short and sweet and successful, then go all in and then go all out. All right, I’ll be back next week. We’re going to finish up this capsule, talking about tracking and measuring success until then. Thank you so much for listening in part of this feel-good movement until next time here’s to feeling good.

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