I had a gym membership once when I was a senior in high school. It was within walking distance from where I lived, was 24 hours, and was only about $20/month. I think I went three times in the whole year of my membership. Mind you, when I was a senior in high school, I wasn’t involved in any school sports or active clubs. I was a theater, speech-and-debate, and band (<ahem> drum major) nerd. I also probably weighed about 220 lbs.; I don’t know for sure, because I refused to ever weigh myself and turned my head when I was at the doctor’s office so I couldn’t see the number. If anybody needed to be more active and go to the gym, it was me.
Up until a few years ago, gyms were always a foreign land for me. I didn’t feel comfortable being around all the fit people and didn’t really know the different types of exercises I should be doing there. Probably my biggest reason of avoiding the gym was that I was afraid of people judging me. I feared that others would either think or say “Geez, why is she here? Obviously the gym isn’t working for her because she is still fat.” No joke, this was a big reason why I didn’t want to go-I was afraid others would stare at me.
When I was 31 and came back from Korea, I started to get more serious about making changes to my lifestyle. I joined a gym and was going about 3 times per week, but my workouts weren’t very focused and I wasn’t very serious about my nutrition. Case in point, I often would have two cookies after coming back from the gym because I thought I had “earned” it. Needless to say, I didn’t really lose any weight. My workout routine was to go on the recumbent bikes for 20 minutes, then work on the weight machines. I really had no idea what I was doing. Now that I’ve become a gym rat, I see that a ton of folks at the gym fall into that same pattern as I did.
About two and a half years ago, I started going to the gym more regularly and having more of a battle plan of what I was going to do while there. I took a couple of free personal training sessions to learn about new exercises, explored some of the group fitness classes, did some research, watched some youtube videos, and had long conversations with my husband about different exercise routines.
After much trial and error, I’ve found a regime that works well for me. However, I do change it up often so that body doesn’t get too used to it.
My current weekly workout routine goal:
Workout 4-5 times per week. 2 rest days interspersed.
1 day/week = 30 mins. upper body strength training & 20 mins. cardio
1 day/week = 30 mins. lower body strength training & 20 mins. cardio
1 day/week = 55 min. Bodypump group fitness class
2 days/week = 30 mins. combined upper/lower body strength training & 20 mins. cardio
You’ll notice that I don’t do much cardio. I do about 20 minutes per day or 25 minutes if I’m feeling like I didn’t push myself hard enough. However, when I do cardio, I make sure to really go balls to the wall. I’ve started incorporating Tabata on the treadmill (Treadmill Tabata tutorial) and it is super intense. I still can’t do a full 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for the entire 4 minutes, but I’m getting there. Usually, I’ll get to the gym, stretch, and then do a 4-minute treadmill Tabata with a 30-second warm-up and 30-second cool down. After this, I’ll start my first strength training circuit. Then I’ll go back for my 10 minutes of interval cardio. Lately, I’ve been using the treadmill incline feature. I’ll warm up for a couple minutes at a 3.7, then I’ll increase the incline by 1.0 every 30 seconds until I’m at the max incline of 15.0. It gets pretty intense as you ramp up. After that, I’ll do a different strength training circuit. To finish off, I’ll do some high intensity cardio, like the elliptical or row machine, really pushing myself for the last 5 minutes. At the end I relax and stretch.
The trick to seeing results is to constantly find ways to change up your workout routine. So often, I see folks at the gym, the majority are women, who work on the cardio equipment for 45-60 minutes at a steady pace and that’s it. I think women in particular are nervous about going into the weight sections of the gym, fearing they may not know enough, that they’ll “bulk up” if they do strength training, or that meathead guys will bother them. Ladies, let’s take back the gym! Our bodies get used to the same steady cardio and it eventually does nothing for you. In order to boost your metabolism and see real results, YOU MUST DO STRENGTH TRAINING. The gym doesn’t need to be a scary place. It should be a place where you can focus on you and block out all the negativity and burdens of the day and just do something good for you-nobody else. I get in my own world at the gym, blaring my music on my crappy lil’ iPod shuffle. Quick tip: don’t bring your phone or a book to the gym when you workout. It is a distraction. If you’re texting or watching a TV show on Netflix while working out, your mind is not focused on your muscles and the activity you’re doing. Make the most of your time at the gym and really focus on yourself.
I’ll soon post some of the strength training routines I do along with some videos. Happy working out, ya’ll!