Social media loves a good fitness trend, whether it’s the 12-3-30 workout or the 75 Hard Challenge. While some trends don’t provide the best advice, we’re here for the cross-training champions and runners with actionable insights.
Enter: The 3-2-8 Workout Program, which can help you take your workouts off the road by incorporating strength work and low-impact core training into your schedule. World of runners studied this great new workout to bring you the basics, as well as how to make it work for you.
The basics of the 3-2-8 training program
Natalie Rose, a UK-based certified personal trainer and barre and Pilates instructor, created the 3-2-8 program. She explains the basics to her on her website, Bodybybarre, where she also has a 12-week 3-2-8 challenge, as well as on TikTok and Instagram. Her many devotees proclaim her success on social media.
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Specifically, 3-2-8 stands for:
- 3 strength training sessions per week
- 2 Pilates or barre workouts per week
- 8,000 steps a day
While you can follow Rose’s schedule on her site, you don’t even have to. Pick your favorite strength workout, sign up for a Pilates or barre class (or use your favorite apps, like Peloton), and make the program work for you.
We spoke to three experts—an exercise physiologist, a barre and runner instructor, a Pilates instructor, and a running coach—to walk you through the pros and cons of the 3-2-8 workout program. While they had mixed reviews, they also had some sound recommendations for runners.
The advantages of 3-2-8
Exercise programs have two purposes, Ed Coyle, Ph.D. says exercise physiologist and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin World of runners. The first is to reduce the negative effects of inactivity and the second is to stimulate the positive effects of cardio and muscle strength.
The 3-2-8 program, Coyle explains, will help reduce the negative effects of inactivity diabetes and dementiaencouraging people to take 8,000 steps a day.
In an email, World of runners asked Rose why she chose 8,000 steps as a goal. 8,000 steps a day supports endurance, cardiovascular fitness and is less overwhelming than the usual 10,000 steps, she wrote.
While the average number of steps taken by most people varies by age and gender, in 2016 103,383 employees participated in a physical activity challenge led by the Board of the Chief Executive Officer of the Bipartisan Policy Centers for Health and Innovation. They averaged just 6,866 steps each day, though the researchers noted that this number reflected a challenge and, most likely, is actually more steps than the average most adults get during their day. .
Coyle says her research has found that taking 5,500 steps each day isn’t enough to ward off the effects of inactivity, while 8,500 appears to be enough. (So you might want to go slightly higher than that goal of 8,000!)
You might think that racing compensates for inactivity, but it doesn’t, says Coyle. Even if runners sweat in the morning, if they sit or stand for the rest of the day and take very few steps, they are still at risk for diseases such as heart disease.
The negative effects of inactivity begin to show within hours and can even ignore a run. Inactivity is not the same as lack of exercise, he explains. When you’re inactive for too long, the bad things that happen can negate the benefits of exercise.
In addition to getting the benefits of counting a number of steps each day, the 3-2-8 program also encourages a decent amount of strength training. And strength training benefits everyone, including runners.
Aside from his recommendation regarding aerobic activity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it also recommends that Americans get in on two muscle-strengthening workouts a week. This is in line with 3-2-8, which encourages even more.
Similarly, 3-2-8 includes Pilates and barre workouts. While these regimens are not the same thing (more on that later), there are proven benefits to both types of exercise.
While there aren’t many barre-specific studies, high-volume reps performed to fatigue in these classes can stimulate muscle growth and lead to positive health outcomes, according to research. Likewise, Pilates’ focus on core strength is beneficial for runners. A strong core has been demonstrated reduce the possibility of injury, increase speed and support more efficient running. Additionally, these two types of training offer a low-impact form of exercise, which is important for runners’ cross-training routines.
In fact, Coyle has used and recommends Pilates. Pilates teaches you to engage your core so you move better. This is an important part of fitness, she says.
The disadvantages of 3-2-8
The first and biggest downfall of the 3-2-8 is that people say it will reduce symptoms of PCOS and inflammation. Exercise is absolutely good for your health, but other than taking those 8,500 steps, no exercise program has been shown to be better than another in terms of reducing disease.
While research recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week for those with PCOS, the 3-2-8 program isn’t a prescription. Whenever you want to reduce the symptoms of a condition, it’s best to work directly with your doctor to figure out the best treatment for you.
Also, while strength training is a part of 3-2-8, and Rose offers a few workouts on her site, it’s up to you to choose the workouts, as well as the moves, weights, reps, and progression of the program. The Roses 12-Week Challenge includes these details, but as with most online programs, the recommendations aren’t tailored to your abilities. It’s not clear what you’re doing during your three weights sessions, and you only benefit from strength training if there’s a specificity to your workout, Coyle says.
Also, although many people lump barre and Pilates into one category of mind-body exercises, the two workouts are different. Pilates moves engage your core muscles while lengthening your limbs. Running compresses you and Pilates stretches you, Vicky Blatecertified Pilates instructor, USA Track and Field Level 2 Coach, and owner of On the Run Fitness & Pilates in Mount Dora, Florida, says World of runners.
Meanwhile, barre movements focus on smaller ranges of motion and have less focus on core training (although it’s typically incorporated into classes). You have to pay attention to every move and really notice every muscle, says Megan Leith, a runner and founder of Barretend in Buffalo, New York.
Finally, while 3-2-8 encourages more movement in its daily step goal, it doesn’t actually include cardio exercise in its metrics, which is a bane, Coyle says. The Centers for Disease Control says adults should get 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Doing this exercise can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, some cancers, and improve mental health. But this is where the running comes into play!
Adaptation of the 3-2-8 for runners
If you run a few days a week, 3-2-8 can help you stay on schedule with your cross-training and get more moving throughout the day. To fit the recommended workouts into your schedule, Blate and Coyle say strength train on run days whether you’re doing speed or tempo runs. Your off days should be really restful, they add, which means you don’t want to lift weights on your days off.
Since 3-2-8 includes three days of strength and two days of Pilates or barre, and fitting five cross-training workouts into a running program can prove challenging, all the experts suggest swapping a strength-training workout for Pilates and barre, taking those cross-training workouts to a threesome.
You can add those strength-training sessions (which can be anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes each) into your runs. Do hard strength training twice a week on the same day as your heavy runs, and Pilates and barre on active recovery days (while still making sure you get at least one solid full rest day a week).
Most importantly, to hit 3-2-8’s 8,000-step goal, Coyle says to break up the inactive parts of your day and evening with movement. This means getting out of your chair more often throughout the day, between meetings, after a meal whenever you can get away with a small activity.
Donna Raskin has had a long career as a health and fitness writer and editor of books and magazine articles. She rides her bike to a nearby county park, lifts weights, takes Zumba and loves to walk/run with her dog, Dolly.
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