So many friends and acquaintances has asked me to help them design a successful exercise program over the years that I documented what I had learned and decided to put it on the web to make it more accessible to others.
Consistency and frequency: workout with weights 3 to 5 times a week, never work a muscle more often than every other day (many get better results with 2 or 3 days in between) - but rarely less than twice a week. It's ok to skip once in a while, or to workout on a Wed rather than Tuesday, etc., but consistency is important. Do you often skip brushing your teeth? Of course not, and your muscles need the same devotion. A great schedule is Tuesday - Thursday - Sunday - those are the least crowded alternate days at most gyms. Another popular workout is 4 days a week. Physical Activity Diary (pdf)
Technique: Focus on forms of exercise that directly affect the muscles. Compound exercises (those which work groups of muscles) are a great start and the mainstay. Learn what to do and how to do it correctly.
Intensity: The balance has to be right. Too
heavy and you will injury yourself; everyone knows that; but too light and
you'll never make any progress, too!
These pages will help you understand
how to know if you are training at the right level.
Measuring Physical Activity Intensity
Calories burned by activity
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition
Perceived Exertion (Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale)
Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate
(National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC, HHS)
Diet: Avoid eating a lot of empty calories, sugars, junk foods, lots of fat, salt, etc. Don't go to extremes: There's little doubt that a vegetarian diet will help you lose weight and is generally considered to be healthier, but you can also remain an omnivore, enjoy buffalo wings from time to time; just not in huge quantity nor frequently. Start by dropping the empty calories like sodas, candies, sweets and cakes.
Lifestyle: Don't be a couch potato, enjoy active not passive events. Things like gardening, rollerblading, hiking, traveling, biking. Movies and concerts are great, but try not to sit and watch tv; and even when you are on the phone, walk around picking things up, straightening up, etc. In general; sit than lie down, stand rather than sit, walk rather than stand, and be involved in an activity than walk.
Can you change? Can you become fitter, leaner, firmer, have more energy, strength and endurance; look and feel better? Absolutely! Is it hard? NO! Not really; but it DOES take those 4 steps above!
Want to learn how to do it and what it takes? Click here.