Deciding which workout to do can be tough. There are so many different kinds of workouts, and navigating through all of the information out there can be hard. I don’t claim to have all of the answers myself, but hopefully some of this general information helps you analyze your current workout plan or start up a new plan. Let’s start by looking at what your goals are:
Training for a Race?: If you are looking to train for a race, I highly recommend Nike’s
training plans. I did their Half Marathon plan and combined it with some of the Nike Training Club app’s endurance lifts. It helped me to run a faster half marathon than I ever thought possible! (averaging 8:50 miles) For my 8k Trail Run, I used REI’s Trail Run Plan. I liked that they used time instead of distance and incorporated heart rate into workouts as well. There are a ton of resources out there for races! Just make sure to continue strength training to keep your whole body strong (not just your main muscles used for running). This will help prevent injury.
Training for a Sport?: If you are training for a specific sport, I could go on and on. The main thing that I’ve found (through some official research during college and some unofficial) is that your workouts need to match the movements made during performance. If you are a volleyball player or are in a sport that requires more explosive movements, your lifts need to match this explosiveness. If you are familiar with olympic lifts (squats, deadlift, bench, etc), try doing these at a weight where you can explode through the movement. Additionally, explosive athletes should use sprint training rather than static cardio. Overall, the lifts and running you are doing should be mirroring and improving the movements you utilize during performance.
Exercising for Weight Loss?: I am going to be starting a series of weight-loss posts soon. However, I want to separate exercise and weight loss a bit because, although exercise is a part of losing weight, it is only about 10-20% of the weight-loss puzzle. The other 80-90% is nutrition (and other factors I’ll cover in the weight-loss posts). I lost 20 of my 30 pounds before I started training for races. I was still exercising for about a half hour five days a week (lifting and walking), but cutting calories was the most important component of my success.
Exercising to get more Toned?: What exercise is important for (in addition to hundreds of other benefits) is body composition. I lost weight at first without a very strict exercise regimen, but when I started amping up my workouts, this is when my fat to muscle ratio changed, making my body look more toned. I didn’t lose weight as fast, but the look of my body improved. If you haven’t seen this picture before, this is a comparison of one pound of fat to one pound of muscle. It is a great visual to keep in mind when losing fat. Increasing muscle helps you burn more fat at a resting state, and it also makes your body look better! (Keep in mind some exercises are better than others for specific fat loss. My muscle mass actually decreased during half marathon training! Weight lifting, shorter bouts of cardio, HIIT– high intensity internal training, walking, and diet are all things to consider if your specific goal is fat loss.)
No matter your goal, balance your routine: The CDC suggests that adults get a minimum of “150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week” or “75 minutes of vigorous activity per week”. They also recommend strength training all muscle groups at least two times per week. These recommendations are a great outline for those looking for a well-balanced workout. Right now, I am not training for any races or trying to lose weight. I am attempting to stay healthy, maintain my weight, and reap all of the other benefits of regular exercise. Following the CDC’s guidelines could include an innumerable combination of different workouts, but I have included mine below as a resource.
I will have a Components of Fitness post soon, and I have included four of the five in my workout below (flexibility, muscular strength, and cardio and muscular endurance). The CDC fails to mention flexibility, but it is easy to add to a routine, helps prevent injury, and keeps your body more limber. Keep all of these components in mind when forming a new workout. I have included examples of each of them under my workout. Notice some exercises (such as HIIT) fall into more than one category. I’ve also included a great guide for those who are new to lifting. These are links for: NTC app (Nike Training Club), the Five Parks Yoga I enjoy, and the 6 Pack Abs app (which is kind of chintzy, but I love the exercises).
Cardiovascular and Muscular Endurance Exercises: walking, running, swimming, biking, elliptical, recumbent bike, dance, stationary bike, arm bike, stair climber, HIIT, cross-country skiing, aerobics classes, and anything that keeps your heart rate elevated for a longer duration (recent studies have found that cardio intervals, higher intensity followed by moderate intensity, for a shorter period of time can have similar benefits to a lower-moderate intensity static pace for a longer period of time; each still are beneficial)
Flexibility: yoga, static stretching, pilates, dynamic exercises (static stretching, or holding a stretch for a longer amount of time, is recommended for cool-downs whereas dynamic exercises, stretching or mobilizing a muscle without holding it, are recommended for warm-ups)
Muscular Strength: lifting weights, body weight exercises, resistance band training, HIIT
Weight Lifting for Beginners: This Body Building website includes lifts for different muscle groups and technique guidance to make sure you are getting a well-balanced and safe workout. Make sure you include all muscle groups to prevent injury and get the best workout possible. Try starting with 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps.