Most of us already understand the benefits of exercise, but we have a hard time finding a routine to stick to in the long run. So, where to start when we want to build a sustainable program and feel overwhelmed with the information we find out there?
The first thing we should determine is the ‘Why’
As with everything we do in life, there needs to be a deeper meaning to what we do. That’s what’s going to keep us grounded and consistent while enjoying the journey.
For me, exercising is that social moment that makes me feel connected to people of different backgrounds under a similar goal. It’s what resets my mind on a tough day, boosts my energy when I feel down, or transforms a good day into the perfect one. And it also helps me maintain a healthy weight and muscle mass. This last one is important because it manages blood sugar, builds stamina, supports joints, keeps bone density, and makes me feel more self-confident, especially as we age.
We all want to look fabulous in that swimsuit or be prepared for that future event as well, and they are valid goals, but they should be just the consequence of a larger picture. Manage those expectations as it’s easy to fall into what the media dictates as beauty and health. Everybody has their body, and they are all beautiful in their own way, so build up from there and embrace your uniqueness. A healthy, functional body is the luckiest one.
What is your fitness goal?
Now that we have the vision, we should determine your fitness goal, as it will dictate your workout routine. The most common ones are:
- Weight loss.
- Build muscle.
- Prepare for a race or athletic event.
- Gain a healthy lifestyle…
A mix of exercises for your specific goal
The key is to mix things up. Cardio (or aerobic) training, strength training, and flexibility/balance exercises. These three elements will maximize the health benefits and will keep things interesting.
Some other types of exercise include HIIT, boot camps, and calisthenics.
- Aerobic. Continuous movement. Examples include running, swimming, and dancing. Working at 70% to 80% of your max heart rate
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT). Repetitions of short bursts of high-intensity activity followed by low-intensity exercises or rest periods. You are working at up to 80–90% of your maximum heart rate.
- Strength. This exercise helps increase muscle power and strength. It could be any resistance training, plyometrics, weightlifting, or sprinting.
- Boot camps. These are high-intensity circuits that combine aerobic and resistance exercises all time-based.
- Balance or stability. Strengthen muscles and improve body coordination. Examples include pilates, tai chi poses, and core-strengthening exercises.
- Flexibility. It helps with muscle recovery, maintains a range of motion, and prevents injuries. Examples include yoga or individual muscle-stretch movements.
- Calisthenics. These moves are usually performed without equipment using large muscle groups and performed at a medium aerobic pace. Examples include situps, pushups, lunges, and pullups.
Mix them in different proportions
– Want to lose weight? Combine cardio and strength exercises such as cycle, HIIT, and boot camps which are great to burn calories. Then add a yoga or Pilates program to your weekly routine, and look out for good nutrition.
– If you want to gain muscle mass, consider starting with a trainer to give you the foundation for a good technique and execution. Then you can alternate muscle groups on different days and add moderate cardio and flexibility.
– Want to train for a marathon? Then aerobic for endurance and speed training combined with moderate resistance.
But think outside the gym too. There are plenty of activities that you can connect to, such as rollerblading, hiking, jogging, biking, martial arts, rock climbing, dancing, frisbee, beach volley, etc. Especially if your goal is to stay social, connect with people and keep a healthy lifestyle.
And remember that every training should start with a Warm-up and a Cooldown to prevent injuries and soreness.
Just remember that something is better than nothing, but 150 minutes of moderate activity per week seems to be the average standard. Build towards that number. Break it down however you may fit. Perhaps start with two 30 min workouts per week, or maybe more frequent and shorter sessions work better for your schedule.
The most important thing is that it’s sustainable. Set up yourself for success by taking small steps. Focus on technique, range of motion, and execution. The risk of injury is much higher with incorrect form, and it takes less effort to learn the right way than to correct it.
What worked for me was to sign up for group exercise classes. They are usually categorized by type, so choosing two or three programs per week did the trick.
An example for your first months
– Monday: take a spin class
– Thursday: sign up for a resistance program
– Saturday: do some core exercises for 15 min followed by stretches.
If you aren’t a gym person, you can try this:
– Monday: 20-minute moderate pace jog.
– Thursday: Walk briskly for 10 minutes. Then,
Circuit A: 3 sets alternating 10 lunges for each leg, 10 pushups, 10 situps
Circuit B: 3 sets alternating 10 chair-dips, 10 jumping jacks, 10 air squats
– Saturday: Do core exercises for 15 min followed by some stretches.
In your second month, and if everything is working out, you can add an extra day of a 30-minute bike ride or moderate-pace jog; Run or take a long walk for 40 minutes; take an additional class, such as yoga or HIIT.
In your third month, you can increase the intensity by adding weight to your selection, pace, or timing (in a more vigorous way).
Lastly, Have a backup plan when you can’t train as you planned, like using resistance bands or doing some Calisthenics workout at home.
If you mastered your program, remember that rest is where the magic happens, allowing muscles to rebuild and grow. And when you have more muscle, you’ll burn more calories at rest.
- Keep things simple
- Start small
- Mix exercise types
- Focus on a correct form and execution
- Test it and adjust your program until you find the weekly schedule that works for you