As a fitness instructor who, in the latter half of my twenties, fell in love with the feeling of being toned and healthy, making sure to move my body regularly has become a super important part of my daily and weekly routines. I’ll be the first to admit that finding my workout motivation wasn’t the most fun thing in the world — fighting through Bikram yoga classes as a newbie and attempting to run without a training plan while seriously out of shape got me really down. I was also pretty miserable during a period when I exercised too much after finally finding my fighting form. Constantly working to strike the right balance for my bod, I recently cut back from six workouts a week to three. Here’s how it went.

Week 1: I’m Less Hungry

Young woman cutting vegetables at kitchen island

I’ve been super busy juggling project work, freelance writing and teaching class these days, so cutting out a few workouts is great in terms of finding extra time. Despite the awesomeness of having extra hours, I do feel a little afraid of losing some of my hard-earned strength and the good energy flow & mental clarity that comes with exercising every day. I’ll admit that I’m also a bit nervous about continuing to fit into my clothes — I don’t exercise to lose weight, but I’m fully aware that the extra movement helps balance some of my fave indulgences, like a seasonal treat from SusieCakes or a wine night with the girls. My week typically combines 4-5 barre classes with an active weekend activity (a hike, bike ride or stand-up paddleboard session). I live in San Francisco, so I also sneak in lots of steps and long walks with hills. I usually trek about two and a half miles each day, which adds up to 15 miles per week.

The first thing I notice during my week of cutting back on workouts is that I’m way less hungry. This might be predictable, given that I’m not burning tons of cals — but it still catches me by surprise. It could be coincidence or timing, but I seem to have less of a sweet tooth too. While catching up on some reading, I learn that exercise can actually increase junk food and dessert cravings as your body tries to replace the calories it’s lost. Well gee, I guess that’s why post-class cake stops are so hard to resist!

Week 2: I’m Working Harder

Ballet dancers stretching legs at studio

Sticking to two barre classes per week, my regular walking around the city and my fun weekend activity, I’ve noticed another new benefit: I’m working much harder in class than I have in a reallllly long time.

When I stop to think about it, this actually makes total sense to me. Because I teach class and was taking so many, from time to time I DO feel burnt out on the class structure, choreography patterns and studio rooms. Though I’m still teaching my usual amount, my second week of fewer classes has helped me fall back in love with the experience of being a student. It feels fresh and fun again!

Even more, because I know I’ll only be in class a couple of times, I’m working much harder. This means taking all of the challenge options I possibly can and pushing my boundaries more than before. When I was taking classes five or six times a week, it was hard to see my progress or push self-set limits because I was constantly sore. Now, I feel stronger.

Week 3: I’m Finding Focus and Balance

Jogger woman enjoying the morning sun

It’s the third week of my experiment, and I’m still feeling really good. My energy levels are stable, I’m sleeping better (less soreness!), and I’m totally enjoying my remaining weekly workouts. Since I work from home, I’ve also found that my productivity has improved when I don’t have to stop at a particular time to hit up a class.

While I’m finding focus, I also need to remember how important it is to step away from my screen. Though the option to hunker down to power through a long creative spurt or work into late-night hours is definitely a welcome change, my workouts did force me out of the house. Without them, I’m missing that break and social time — something that’s really important for anyone who works alone.

Week 4: I’m Tuning In and Making Tweaks

Sporty woman doing plank exercise at park

Though I was worried about losing my strength or shape with half the workouts, my clothes fit fine. Actually, they’re a little bit loose. I think this probably comes from some muscle loss (especially in the rear… lifted seats from barre classes are a legit thing!) and eating less. Without super-hunger and major cravings, I’m pretty content with simple foods that fill me up and help me power through my project work.

A month-long test can definitely differ from long-term results, but I feel totally confident about sticking with my new schedule and *not* freaking out if I can’t squeeze in a workout as often as I’d like, especially during busy times or when I’m traveling. I also feel super open to making changes as my schedule and life evolve — trying different exercises, switching up the number of dedicated classes I take during the week, tweaking my diet or sleep schedule — to stick with the path to find balance and success.

What workout schedule makes you feel the best? Tell us about it @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)