Humankind Workout Guide
By Tracee Byrd
First and foremost, bravo to each of you for making the choice to invest in becoming a better human. Our lives change when our choices change, and that often takes courage. It takes us admitting that we are at least, in part, responsible for where we currently sit, which means we are also responsible for making the move to sit elsewhere. Many people never own that, but you have—and that means you have the power to create the next part of your story. You are all brave for taking this step, and now you have a community to wrap you up with encouragement and support for the next twelve weeks and beyond.
Our lives, stories, and starting points in this program are all different. For the next twelve weeks, our paths will be the same, but the transformations will be unique to you. Try to remember: the goal here isn’t to be perfect but to trend toward improvement. You’ll mess up here and there, and that’s perfectly okay.
I’m ready if you are,
Be Grateful for Your Body
You’ll have to change your relationship with your body if you want to transform it. We should work out because we love our bodies, not because we hate them. Our bodies have carried us through all sorts of things just to get to this point—both things that life has thrown at it, and things that we have thrown at it. And it’s still here, doing it’s best to keep us alive, fighting off potential hazards, protecting us, healing our scrapes and bruises and sore muscles, forming new brain connections to make our lives more efficient, filtering out toxins, etc. Take a second to thank your body. Your body is your teammate in this process, not your enemy. And it will be communicating to you—I want you to learn to listen to it. It will tell you when it needs nutrients, when it needs rest, when something hurts, when something feels good. Stay in tune and stay grateful for all the work your body does.
Understand That It Takes Time
REAL change takes time. Fast changes don’t stick and we can easily slide back into the familiarity of our habits. Use this acronym to remind yourself that there are multiple stages in this process and the stage you’re on may change from day to day or week to week.
Some of you may have experienced the Rise and Evolve stages many times. You may have started and stopped, started and stopped. Each time we do that we create this history of proof stored deep in our bodies and brains that we can’t sustain success, and then one slip up sends us into that history and shuts us down. If you want REAL change, you HAVE to be kind to yourself. Know you are up against this history, expect it, and beat it. No matter how many times you have to RISE again.
Remember, the goal isn’t to be perfect, it’s to establish an overall positive trend toward success at your goal. It all gets easier once you establish some momentum, so stick with it.
Set the Right Kind of Goals
If you are new to fitness, or have been away from it for awhile, it’s not advised to set goals based on outcomes (i.e. how much weight to lose) as you can’t know yet how your body will respond. It’s better to set behavioral goals (i.e. workout 3x this week). The behaviors will lead to results and as you learn your body’s pace and capabilities you can then set realistic outcomes for yourself. Nothing shuts down motivation faster than not getting results you expect, but sometimes it takes a while to learn our bodies, and sometimes, there are things happening beyond our control affecting that outcome. Setting goals you have control over will help you build confidence and feel successful, and that will keep pushing you further. Do the steps, and let the outcome be what it is, at first.
Long-term discipline is a hard thing for all humans, but it’s what sets apart those that make things happen from those that talk about making things happen. It’s easy to ride the initial motivation wave, but what will keep you going when that fades a bit? This group will be a source of support and accountability for you, but I encourage you to involve at least one or two other humans around you in your new commitment. Tell them ahead of time what you may need from them down the road and make sure they agree to it. Bonus: follow humans you find motivational on social and be a sponge. And, please, please, reach out to the group if you need anything. We’re all here for ya!
To get the most out of Humankind workouts, you’ll need access to a full gym and at the very least, a good pair of workout shoes. Improper footwear can lead to all sorts of issues in the body when you start to run and jump and lift heavy objects repetitively. If you only invest in one piece of equipment for this journey, it should be good shoes!
So here’s what you need to do to prepare:
Express Gratitude for your Body
Find Reliable Accountability
Surround Yourself with Inspiration
Get Access to a Gym
Get Proper Workout Footwear
Expect Ups and Downs
Be Kind to Yourself
Believe You Will Succeed
Remember Your “Why”
I’m a teacher by trade so I’ve compiled a lot of information here to explain why I’ve designed the workouts the way I have and what’s happening in your body. I think it’s helpful to understand why you are doing what you are doing as it helps increase your commitment. It also helps you connect to the movement or activity on a deeper level. There’s a very real mind-body connection. Thinking about what’s happening in your body as you train shifts the focus from external to internal, keeps your intention at the forefront, and helps you build a better connection with your body. My goal for you, by the end of this Generation, is that you’re able to take your health into your own hands, and feel empowered, confident, and capable enough in the gym to create a workout routine of your own. The workouts for the next 12 weeks have been created for you, but they’re all based on the following.
Beginner vs. Intermediate
You’ll notice two groups of workouts listed in your portal, beginner + intermediate. If you’ve never done many of these movements or you’ve been away from weightlifting for years, start with the beginner workouts. If at any point they aren’t challenging you, then switch over to the intermediate. The beginner workouts will start with mostly bodyweight movements. We will be doing full body workouts only a couple days a week at first, with time between to recover from any soreness. The intermediate workouts will be more frequent, designed for humans who are already working out and may not need the recovery days. Both groups will be eventually working out 5-6 days a week, one or two body parts a day. The workouts will become more challenging throughout the twelve weeks. If the pace you’re advancing at isn’t matching the rest of the group, that’s okay. Repeat a week if necessary, then jump into the next one when you’re ready.
Why Weights vs. Cardio?
It’s true that cardio can burn a lot of calories, and combining that with eating less WILL make you lose weight (to a point), but you’ll also be losing some of your muscle mass. Muscle mass is tied to increased metabolism, so when you lose lean mass, you slow your metabolism, ultimately starting a cycle of having to do more and more cardio and eat less and less to keep getting results, all the while losing strength. Then if you stop that routine and go back to eating more, you will gain weight back even faster because your metabolism has slowed from losing the lean mass. We want to BUILD lean mass, thus increasing the amount of calories you burn just sitting around in your day. Having more muscle actually lets you eat more food! By doing a mix of lifting and cardio, we can maximize the calorie burn while maintaining or even building strength.
Every workout will follow this order, with cardio and resistance being interchangeable.
If your goal is more building muscle, lift first while you have all your strength.
- Warm-up – Foam Roll/ Dynamic (moving) stretches
- Cool Down
- Static Stretching
Don’t skip the warm-up! Getting your joints to go through their range of motion prior to loading them with weight will help you get more range in your lift and prevent injury. It also prepares your heart for the demand you’re about to place on it.
Every good exercise program should touch on the following areas:
- Cardiorespiratory Fitness
- Muscular Strength and Muscular Endurance
1. Cardiorespiratory Fitness
Cardio exercises will train the health and endurance of your heart. Your heart is a muscle, and when it contracts, it sends blood through your vessels to your lungs to get oxygen and then to your body where it delivers that oxygen to muscles that need it. Training your heart muscle makes your body more efficient at this process. The stronger the heart, the more blood it can pump with each beat, so a strong heart doesn’t have to beat as often. Ever feel your heart pounding and feel winded after climbing a few flights of stairs even if your legs aren’t really tired? That’s your heart and lungs being challenged. Training your cardiorespiratory endurance will prevent you from fatiguing as quickly and help you slow your heartbeat and breath at the top of those stairs.
Examples of cardio would be walking, running, hiking, biking, swimming, elliptical, stairstepper, etc. We’ll sometimes do cardio on separate days, and sometimes mix it in with the weightlifting. Sometimes we’ll just do long steady portions of cardio, and other times do intervals back and forth of hard and easy cardio. All of these styles have different benefits, so we’ll touch on several.
A good way to measure if you’re improving in this area is to track your Resting Heart Rate. While you’re sitting around at rest, feel your pulse at your neck or wrist, and count how many beats you feel in a minute. Throughout the twelve weeks, do this again and the number should be getting lower. Remember a healthy heart doesn’t have to beat as often because it is more efficient with each beat.
**Hint: If you’re someone trying to gain weight/size, you don’t want to burn off all your calories.You can’t build size if you are in a caloric deficit. Your cardio needs to be lower intensity. High intensity cardio burns a lot of calories, but a good percentage of those are carbs. We want to keep the calories you’re eating, while burning more fat during your cardio sessions. This is done through low intensity/long duration cardio, like walking on an incline for 30 minutes.
2. Muscular Strength and Endurance
Muscular strength refers to how much force you can generate with your muscles, and muscular endurance would be how long you can sustain a repeated muscular effort. Both of these can be trained through resistance training, but they are at opposite ends of a continuum. We want to select our goal first, then find what repetition range that correlates with and then what weight in turn correlates with that rep range.
Someone with a goal to purely train for strength might lift really heavy and then only be able to lift the weight a few times, while someone who was training for endurance may lift the weight many times, so they’d have to lift a lighter weight in order to do that. General fitness falls somewhere in the middle. I’m going to prescribe a certain number of repetitions for everyone, but feel free to shift this number a little more toward your goal.
Something important to note, if I ask you to do 3 sets of 10, you might be tempted to just knock out 1 set of 30 at once thinking it’s the same thing. But it wouldn’t be. If you could lift the weight 30 times, then it wasn’t very heavy and you didn’t get much strength benefit out of that exercise, only endurance. A set of 10 could have been done with much heavier weight.
For the beginners, I’m going to start you toward the endurance end. Lifting too heavy before your body is prepared for that stress can cause injury. Also, the first few weeks of weightlifting, if you’ve never done it before, are more neuromuscular. Meaning, the body is figuring out how to send signals from the brain to fire the right muscles for that movement. Once those connections are formed, you’ll notice an increase in the amount of weight you can lift.
Progression/ Regression of Muscular Exercises
When you first walk into a gym, it may seem like there are hundreds of machines and exercises to learn, but the reality is that there are really only 10-15 basic movements that everyone is just doing some variation of. The body’s joints can only do so much. Think about the elbow—It only moves one way. It bends. An exercise that flexes the elbow would be a bicep curl. But you can do a bicep curl with a bar, separate dumbbells, with your palm facing up, facing down, facing in. You can do a curl with cables, with a machine, while standing, while seated, while balancing on one leg, etc. It’s all the same movement, but using different apparatus or doing it from different body positions gives different benefits. For example, think about doing a bicep curl with a dumbbell. When you get to the top of the movement, it’s just resting there. You could stand there all day. But, if you were doing that movement with a cable, the top of the movement would be really hard because the cable would be pulling back against you all throughout the movement. That’s why it’s good to mix it up. Now think about a seated overhead shoulder press. Let’s say we did this movement with a machine. Machines are really safe. You can’t drop them on yourself. They lock you into the correct form and they activate the primary muscle targeted to make that movement happen. Now imagine doing the same movement with dumbbells. Now you would potentially be wobbling all over when you press overhead because those weights are free to move any direction. You have to engage all sorts of extra stabilizer muscles outside of the main muscle to keep the dumbbell from falling to the side or to the front. In the long run, this is better for the overall development of the joint, but it would be hard and unsafe to start with that if you weren’t practiced in the correct form. So, this chart shows the general direction we will be progressing for safety and development of your overall strength. Bodyweight exercises fall somewhere around the Cables – Free weights area because they do engage lots of muscles, but they aren’t weighted so they are still okay to begin with. And if at any point you want to make something harder, move down this chart with that same exercise. Find a way to decrease stability (i.e. do it on one side, or standing vs. seated). But always keep it safe! And if you need to make something easier, move up this chart. Do it with a machine, or lying down or seated. And of course, ask me for modifications along the way if needed!
Flexibility is one of the most overlooked parts of a fitness program. Many people skip it altogether, but I urge you not to, as it will almost immediately cause improvements. Everything is attached in our body. Pain in one area can lead to another area compensating and so forth and it can work its way to a whole separate part of your body. For example, when we experience lower back pain, it’s often due to tight leg muscles. I’m going to focus my flexibility prescription on the pelvic area as so many muscles attach there. If you get particularly tight in any of those muscles, you can actually rotate your entire pelvis and affect the spine. I’ll include some important stretches in your portal to add into your daily routine.
Typically, we want to allow 24 hours between lifting the same muscle group. If you’re still sore after that, then allow more time. This is why when we start working out 5-6 days a week we only do one or two body parts a day, so that it’s several days later before we rotate back to those body parts again. While they are recovering, we can work something else. A rest day can be a complete day off, or it can be an active recovery day, which would include a little movement to help any stiffness in the joints, and some stretching, foam rolling yoga, etc. I’m also an advocate of massage therapy and/or chiropractic. There is such a thing as overtraining! I know you’re all excited to get started, but don’t overdo it. There is a method to the pace of advancing, and you don’t want to burn out early or cause injury.
I just threw a lot of information at you, but don’t worry, you’ll have access to me throughout if you have questions. You’ll understand this all more and more as we put in into practice, and by the end you’ll be able to use these guidelines to create an effective program that works for you.
Words can’t describe how honored I am to be alongside you through this journey. Let’s do this thing.
Shoot me a message on Facebook anytime: here is the link to my profile.
M.S. in Kinesiology
B.S. in Exercise Science
Professor of Exercise Science
Former 3 sport Division I college athlete
10yrs college/club volleyball coaching experience
> 7yrs as a personal trainer
> 6,000 one on one sessions trained
SWIHA Life Coach trained