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So, you’ve decided that you might want to indulge yourself in a little bit of exercise and are not entirely sure where to begin. This article will focus most on toning and cardio as opposed to weight building; if you’re interested in building some serious muscle I suggest that your first port of call is a fitness instructor at the gym. The most important thing, if you’re a novice working out on your own, is to start slowly. Do not push yourself too hard and either burn out because it seems difficult, or actually do some serious damage by injuring yourself. The second thing is to find out what you actually like and what you want to improve in that order. When I first started, I wanted to improve my fitness and yet when I saw some of the cardio gods at the gym running for about 90 minutes on the treadmill, I couldn’t think of anything worse! There are different ways to achieve the same goals.
The next thing you probably should do if you’re serious about exercise is work out some kind of fitness plan. These differ for everybody, so I’m going to outline the kind of plan I follow. Clearly some people want to go at much more vigorously than I do, others will want to take it easier. As a general rule I alternate leg and arm days, with at least one rest day in between. Once I know what I’m going to be focusing on when I get to the gym, I start off by getting warmed up by spending at least thirty minutes on cardio machines. I like to get my heart rate up and myself warm before I even think about toning or lifting. Usually I split this thirty minutes between two or three pieces of cardio equipment – I have a tendency to get bored if I stay too long on one machine!
After finishing cardio, if it’s arm day I move between the Chest Press, the Shoulder Press, and biceps/triceps curls. With these resistance machines it’s crucial that you’re getting the weight right. For toning you should be doing three sets of 15 reps. The weight should be set at a level where it’s manageable, but by the time you get to 12, 13, 14 etc. it should be getting more difficult and you’ve got to really work to finish the set. If it’s too easy and you’re simply breezing through your sets then you probably need to put your weight up. Again, do this slowly and in small increments so as not to hurt yourself.
After using the resistance machines I move onto the free weights (you can alternate instead if that’s more your thing) and do different exercises while holding the weights. There are lots of different possibilities here, so your best bet is to ask a fitness instructor about what would work best for you and your goals when it comes to exercise.
Leg day is much the same when it comes to cardio, although I do have a tendency to err more towards the Vario Wave, the bike and the cross-trainer. On arm day I might choose the rowing machine instead (although this works all parts of your body). In terms of resistance machines leg day involves the adductor, the abductor, the glutes, and curls for the quads. For floor work it’s lunges and squats with small weights, as well as calf raises and plenty of stretching. Interspersed with these on both days I use the ab wheel, as well as doing twists with the medicine ball and sit-ups to work on my abs. Your abs should be engaged whilst using the resistance machines anyway but these are exercises that will focus the effort even more on that area.
Right, now that you’ve done all that, take a rest! Rest days are as important as exercise days, they help prevent injury and also give your sore muscles time to recuperate. To be honest, if you feel like you can hit the gym full force the day after you’ve done a leg day… you’re not doing it right.