If you want to prevent boredom and burnout during your workouts and not hit a plateau, consider varying the types of exercise routines you perform each week. By doing a variety of common workout types, you can target different areas of your body, focus on weight loss, perform resistance routines or create multi-purpose training sessions. Consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.
There’s quite a bit of disagreement as to what “fat-burning” exactly means. Some believe it involves lower-intensity exercise that burns a higher percentage of calories from fat, while others believe it involves higher-intensity aerobic exercise. If you want to do a workout that’s lower intensity and appropriate for beginners, start by warming up with several minutes of moderately intense movements. After jogging in place, skipping or swinging your arms, begin exercising at a speed similar to an intense walk that gets you breathing harder, but not to the point of exhaustion. Walk on a treadmill at 2.5 to 3.5 mph, pedal on an exercise bike with a steady-state and a moderate resistance setting, or use an elliptical or stair stepper at a speed that lets you talk or sing. If you know your maximum heart rate, exercise at 50 percent to 65 percent of it to stay in the fat-burning zone.
Cardio is another word that has different meanings, with some believing any aerobic workout, including fat-burning exercise, is cardio work. Others believe cardio exercise takes place between 70 percent to 80 percent of maximum heart rate, or the high end of your target heart rate range. To perform this latter type of cardio workout, warm up gradually until you are breathing hard and starting to sweat. Aim for a jogging pace on a treadmill or pedal vigorously on a bike. You might not be able to sing while you exercise, but you should still be able to talk. If possible, add several sprints during your workouts, working at a very high intensity for 60 seconds, followed by a slower, two-minute recovery.
Unlike the monotonous, steady-state routine of many aerobic workouts, you change your exercise every 60 seconds or so during circuit training. By using timed sets of exercise or performing a specific number of repetitions of an exercise, you’ll work, take a quick break, start another exercise, follow it with another short break, and continue repeating this pattern for the duration of your workout. For example, you might perform burpees for 60 seconds, and then take a 15- or 30-second second break before starting 60 seconds of jumping rope. After a short break, you might do a minute of pushups. If you are using weights or resistance bands, you might perform 15 or 20 repetitions of biceps curls, take a break, and then do 15 to 20 reps of squats.
Athletes often use interval, or sprint, training to improve their cardio function for sports. Unlike aerobic workouts, this type of training is often anaerobic, performed at more than 80 percent of your maximum heart rate for very short durations. You might run a 60-second dash and then walk slowly for two to three minutes to recover. If you have an exercise bike, you can vary the resistance setting on your bike and pedal very fast or very hard -- depending on the gear setting -- for up to two minutes, followed by a longer, slower recovery.
If your goal is muscle building, try a 3X5 routine, for which you do five repetitions of an exercise per set and finish a total of three sets, one right after the another. Use at least 60 percent of the maximum weight you can lift, if you want to create a higher-rep workout, and an amount of weight or resistance that will cause you fail after five reps if you want to use this lower number of reps per set.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.