Getting fitter, stronger and leaner isn't just about slogging away on a treadmill for hours on end. You need a carefully constructed, balanced and intensive workout regimen encompassing a variety of different training methods. When starting out at the gym, you'll get great results from short, frequent workouts combining both weight training and cardio.
Weight training may appear quite advanced and more suitable to male gym members, but it can benefit you, too. Weight training not only builds lean muscle, helping you get more defined and toned, but also it burns calories and boosts your metabolism. Strength coach Nia Shanks recommends learning a few basic exercises to get you going -- squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, pullups and pulldowns, chest presses and rows should be all you need to get started.
You'll be familiar with cardiovascular exercises -- it's any type of activity that raises your breathing rate and gets your pulse up, such as jogging, swimming or using the gym cardio machines. Steady state cardio involves working at a low to moderate intensity for 30 minutes or more, while high intensity interval training combines shorts bursts of maximum intensity work with slightly longer periods of lighter work. A typical beginner's interval routine would be one minute of high intensity effort, followed by two to three minutes of easier work. You can perform intervals on the treadmill, elliptical, bike, rower, stepper or stairmaster.
The Weekly Plan
Perform two to three weights sessions per week. Target your whole body in each session, as total body workouts burn more calories than splitting your workouts into separate body parts. Add in three cardio sessions, too -- one or two steady state and one or two interval workouts. You can do these after your weight training, or on separate days, depending on your schedule.
Ask for assistance from a qualified trainer if there are any exercises you're unsure of. Start with three sets of eight to 12 repetitions on all your strength exercises, using a weight that is challenging but allows you to complete all the reps. Aim to use a little more weight or perform extra reps each workout. Start gradually with the cardio and build this up each week by adding an extra three to five minutes to each steady state session or an extra maximum intensity burst in your interval training.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.