I’ve mentioned before that part of what can be intimidating about going to the gym is not knowing what you’re doing. When I started working on being healthier, I started out slow. I had no idea what to do really, I just knew I needed to get up and get moving. As I have gotten further along in my fitness journey, I’ve explored different options to find a combination of activities that I enjoy doing, and that have helped to make me stronger and more energetic. Here’s a look at my current workout routine:
At the moment my cardio routine is very simple because I’m training to walk a 10K next month. I looked up a few different training schedules and found one (link here) that I felt was a good baseline for me, and modified it to fit my fitness level. For me that meant starting my training at Week 4 (I had already been walking 30 minutes 3-4 days a week at this point) and then stretching out each section into multiple weeks instead of one week to give myself time to work up to each new phase. Right now I’m at the week 7 and 8 section, so some of my shorter walks now include high intensity intervals, and I walk at a moderate pace for 2 hours one day a week. Occasionally I experience pain in my right knee (a parting gift from a car accident a few years ago), so in that case I’ll do 30 minutes on a bike or elliptical, still adding intervals.
This is the area that I was the most lost in when I started going to the gym. Up until November/December I was exclusively doing cardio, and it was mostly going for walks outdoors. When I hit the 6 month mark of my fitness/weight loss journey, I decided to treat myself to a trainer specifically for strength training. I’d done a lot of internet research prior to this but honestly, I just found all of the options and advice completely overwhelming. I wanted to meet with someone who could give me a routine that I could follow, and that would also suit my specific goals and needs. I’ve been seeing a trainer once a month since December, he gives me a routine of about 8 exercises, and I do those 4 days a week for a month. Some people might prefer to work with a trainer weekly or bi-weekly, but I find this is a perfect timeline for me because it gives me time to work on improving on each exercise before I move on to something new. As far as specific exercises, those are as follows:
3 sets 12-20 reps-I started out doing 15 reps and worked my way up to 20. This video is a pretty good example of what I do, the only difference being I don’t lean that far back.
Super Set: Single Leg Press (machine) and Calf Raises (machine)
A super set is basically combining two exercises without resting in between them. I do both of these exercises on the leg press machine, so it made more sense to alternate them in a super set. I do 2 sets of 15 reps (each leg) on the single leg press ( 0:16 on this video) and 3 sets of 20 reps calf raises on the same machine (video here). As far as the amount of weight, that is really going to very depending on your fitness level. On the single leg press I do 130 pounds (I do 240 on the full leg press) and on the calf raises I do 200 pounds.
Pull Down Machine
3 sets of 15 reps-The machine I use is slightly different than the one in this video but you’ll get the general idea. Right now I’m at 75 pounds on this particular machine and I alternate using a wide grip one set and a narrow grip the next.
Super Set: Dumbbell Incline Bench Press and Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift
These are both 3 sets of 15 reps each and I use 20 pound dumbbells for both. I started out with a lower weight on the incline bench press (video) (I think it was 10 pound dumbbells) because my chest and shoulders were a little weaker, and as I felt like the exercise was getting easy, I increased the weight. Here’s a good example of the dumbbell stiff leg deadlift, I have a love/hate relationship with these. I hate them when I’m doing them, but I do like how I feel afterwards!
Band Trunk Twist
Last circuit, my trainer had me do the trunk twist machine and I was convinced it was the work of the devil lol. Something about the position it forced my body into made it really difficult for me to do properly. This version of the trunk twist engages the same muscles, but feels more natural to me. I do 3 sets of 15 reps on each side for this exercise.
Optional Machine/Free Weight
This time around my trainer left me a spot to fill with an exercise of my choosing so it varies depending on the day. I pretty consistently like to do the Barbell Bench Press. This video is long, but it covers some really good information about form for this particular exercise. I started off with the bar only (45 pounds) and then slowly worked my way up in weight (currently at 60 pounds), doing 3 sets of 10 reps. I also will occasionally do the back extension machine (100 pounds 2 sets of 20 reps-I started at 60 or 70 I think in December), or hip exercises.
My typical routine is to go to the gym Monday-Friday, and then do my long distance walk on Saturday (ideally outside, but occasionally I have to do it at the gym). Sunday is my off day so I just kick back and relax. I also like group fitness classes so currently I double up on Mondays and do regular cardio in the morning and go to a PoundFit class in the evening (mix of strength and cardio). If I have free time in my schedule I might also double up on a Wednesday and do Zumba in the evening, but that is not very often.
I also make sure to take the time to stretch after EVERY workout; this has not only improved my general flexibility, but it’s also helped decrease post-workout soreness.
Working out is not the only factor in my weight loss journey (we’ll talk about dietary changes next week), but it’s definitely been instrumental in making me feel stronger and healthier!
What’s your workout routine? Do you prefer strength or cardio?