Making the decision to get fit is one thing, but choosing which fitness programme to follow is another. There is a huge choice of workouts and fitness plans out there, but if you’re clear in terms of your fitness goals and know exactly what you want to achieve, it does make it easier to figure out what’s best for you.
Buying some gym gear and setting up your membership is a great start, but when you head into the gym and have no idea what to do, how often to do it, or how to use the equipment, this can be a big factor against your workout. But establishing a workout plan and doing some work outside of the gym, will solve all these problems and help you get fit...
Have a plan
It’s so important to be clear on what you want. Are you trying to lose weight? Are you just looking to just get fit and increase your sense of wellbeing? Do you want to run a half marathon? Are you keen on building muscle tone or is it a beach body you’re after? The answers to questions like these will have a huge impact on what kind of fitness plan you should choose.
For instance if running is the aim, then a running club or a training plan for a certain race distance is definitely the place to start for you. If it’s muscle tone you’re after, then a gym and a personal trainer might be your best bet. Theres no point hitting the squat racks and murdering those bicep curls if you want to train for a marathon! So decide your eventual aim, research how to accomplish that goal, and set smaller targets to achieve in the run up to this main aim. Whatever you elect to do, make sure you have a check up if you haven’t done any exercise for a while, or you have any long-term health issues.
As a beginner, the amount of training and the intensity of your training completely depends on you, everyone is different and responds to fitness differently. Your schedule and fitness levels will alter your workout plan, but trying to hit the gym around 4 or 5 times a week, with plenty of rest days is key. Ease yourself into it and don't push yourself too hard to begin with. Keep the exercise from between 30-60 minutes at a relatively manageable level is best to start off, and when you feel like you’re in need of challenge increase your duration and intensity gradually.
If you want to lose some weight then you’re probably looking for something that has a high calorie and fat burning potential and that means looking at aerobic training. For instance, running can burn off around 500 calories an hour, while high intensity cycling for 60 minutes can zap upwards of 800 calories. Aerobics classes or an hour on the elliptical trainer can account for 600 calories and dance classes aren’t too far behind with around 500 calories an hour. So if you don't know how to cardio train efficiently, join a class and get that fat burning, you will probably have a lot of fun and make a few friends.
Aerobic exercise will enhance your cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, burn fat and just make you feel good.
Interval or circuit training is a terrific way of getting a full body workout with a variety of different exercises completed on a loop for set intervals. And for the more time-pressured, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) might be the thing for you. A mere 20 minutes of activity can burn around 300 calories and provide a full body workout, although do bear in mind that you will need to have a good fitness level before you can start HIIT as it is not the easiest form of exercise.
Aerobic exercise will enhance your cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, burn fat and just make you feel good. Even if muscle training and body shaping is the aim of your exercise embankment, fitting in a short cardio session at the end of your workout is key to keep the body healthy and in tip top shape.
Resistance or strength training is another effective way of building muscle tone and burning fat. The use of weights, weight machines, body weight, resistance balls or resistance bands in the gym or at home, really puts the muscles to work and can target specific parts of the body. A 60 minute workout with kettlebells, dumbbells, resistance bands and hand weights could burn around 500 calories and crucially elevate metabolic levels so that you continue to burn calories after your workout has finished.
The more muscle you develop, the more energy your body is able to burn and therefore more fat! Some people worry that building muscle tone means turning into a body builder. It doesn’t. A toned muscle is simply defined and very different from the over-developed muscles of bodybuilders, so don’t panic. If you want to lose weight or strip fat, a combination of cardio and weight training is the best way to get results quickly, plus will give you an amazing, toned body in the process!
If you want to strengthen and build your muscles whilst improving your all-round fitness, then crossfit training might be the best plan for you. It offers a full body workout which includes aerobic exercise, strength training, gymnastics and core training. The workouts are circuit based and varied, incorporating squats, pull ups, lifts, weights, sprints and sit ups to name but a few.
Some people worry that building muscle tone means turning into a body builder. It doesn’t.
Crucially it’s designed to offer a comprehensive fitness challenge and make you an all rounder. Perfect if you haven't got one particular goal from starting exercise, if you want to lose weight and increase muscle, flexibility, stamina and fitness, then crossfit is perfect for you!
Remember that pilates and yoga are also forms of weight resistance training, but instead of conventional weights, they use body weight to strengthen muscles and joints. Bodyweight exercises are considered the best form of strength training for beginners and intermediates as using machines and dumbbells can cause you to compromise your technique or only strengthen the one muscle. But bodyweight training is great to build up those muscles, strength, balance and flexibility quickly! This might be more appealing to those among you who shy away from a gym environment.
All of these training regimes will burn fat, lower blood pressure, build muscle, strengthen joints and bone density and enhance flexibility and mobility. So heading down to the gym or buying a set of exercise equipment for the living room, is a perfect way to really change and shape your body and fitness.
Remember that a strong core is at the heart of so much that is exercise based. People think they can do some sit-ups and get abs to die for, but there is a lot more importance to abdominal work than just abs. The core is used in nearly every exercise, effectively the anchor for your upper and lower body, holding you still and maintaining balance.
The core is used in nearly every exercise, effectively the anchor for your upper and lower body, holding you still and maintaining balance.
Think of when you run, your stomach is pulled in slightly, this is to keep your back and upper body from moving backwards and forwards uncontrollably. Doing bicep curls; those people swinging around as they pull the bar up are not engaging their core, this can lead to injuries in the back, shoulders and elbows. The core is a vital part for every type of exercise and it is important to establish a strong core before picking up some heavy weights or beginning a 10k.
A strong core will enhance your back and pelvic muscles and keep your hips flexible too. Specific classes and workouts are available, but you might want to think about incorporating specific exercises like the abdominal plank, the bridge, knee and leg raises and the abdominal crunch into your regular sessions. Core training can be incorporated to many exercises through free weights and abdominal exercises, but going to specific classes like pilates or zumba, surprisingly, will all engage your core and keep you strong and secure.
Choose a fitness plan you enjoy
Whatever you choose to do, it’s so important that you enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy your chosen activity the chances are you will swiftly become demotivated and lose interest. Those people who are successful at keeping fit tend to be those who love their workouts and crucially the results they bring. If you hate running on a treadmill, then find a nice outdoor route to follow, the thought of heading to the weight machines bores you, then join a boxercise or dance class to work the body whilst having fun!
Another factor to consider is whether you want to enjoy a group dynamic while you get fit, or whether you prefer to do it on your own. Some people need the motivation and support of others, while some prefer their own fitness company. Having someone shout and encourage you to push harder may be scary and intimidating, or you may thrive and love a bit of riling up, its all about trying something new and deciding if you like it. Dont knock it till you try it! It is entirely up to you, but make sure you choose the things that are most likely to make you happy while you work out.