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Old 11-16-2010, 09:57 AM
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Default Fitness For Women

Fitness for Women

Gyms can often be daunting places for individuals who are new to a gym, females in particular. Weight areas, people looking at you, oh yes, and men everywhere! The aforementioned are examples of reasons why some women find it difficult to go to the gym, and essentially see it as a hindrance to their progress.

You have to think past that, yes, it can be difficult, but try to narrow your thoughts. Have tunnel vision; you go to the gym to achieve the change in body composition you desire. People will look at you; you are in the public eye. Additionally, yes, some men may possibly see you as a reason to add an extra 30 seconds onto their rest periods, but who cares? Try to reduce these self-conscious feelings, and turn more heads as you progress over the weeks and months.

I haven't a clue what I do?

You have made a great decision, by reading this article! This article will hopefully stand you in good stead as to what you can implement into a routine in order to exercise at the gym. More importantly, feel good and positive about yourself whilst you do so.

It is important to start off steady. Don't go from doing very little, to suddenly doing 7 days per week at the gym. You'll possibly get bored with such frequent visits, start thinking that it is taking over your life, start to hate it rather than enjoy it, and you will then be back at square 1. Thus, doing very little and opening the cupboard door and looking for that dreaded 'Special K' box.

Well what frequency would you recommend to begin with?

Start off with 3-4 days per week. This way, it isn't too little, but it isn't too much. You are not looking at your diary, dreading the thought of having to go to the gym again. Hopefully, those little natural pleasure chemicals that the body produces called endorphins will be high, so you are looking forward to going to the gym the next time.

Well, what about duration?

Again, start off with a moderate time to begin with. 45-60 minutes is a decent enough time to look at spending in the gym when starting out. Aim for the lower end of that scale, 45 minutes when you first commence your fitness plan, and more or less, split the time between cardio and weights.

But there is 103 weight training machines and 16 different cardiovascular machines at the gym, how long do I spend on each one?

You don't have to use every bit of equipment that is in your gym. Have a look around the gym on your induction and highlight the ones which you think you will enjoy; or potentially more importantly; what your body and joints can handle. Some machines will be easier on joints than others when performing cardiovascular exercise. For example, running on the treadmill will place greater demands on the ankle, knee and hip joints, in comparison to performing a similar action on the Cross Trainer.

In regards to using weight training machines, don't just think "well, that one looks good", or "I can hide behind the side of this machine and no-one will see me". Get a trainer member of staff to help you with a routine. You could work your legs on one day, chest on another, arms on another, shoulders and abs on another day, for example. It all provides a more 'structured' program for you to follow, and eliminates randomness.

What shall I start with?

Begin with weight training exercises. You can do them in a circuit style or you can have structured rest periods in between your sets. If you perform them in a circuit style, you will be looking to go from one machine to the next, and perform anywhere from 7-10 different exercise, and then rest.

Well what weight do I select on the machine?

Don't do something which is too easy, conversely, don't use a weight on the selector which is too difficult. Progression is the key; you don't want to be stuck on 'Number 6' weight on the machine for 3 months. Find a weight which is challenging, and as you progress you can increase the amount of weight you lift.

How many sets and reps do I need to perform?

If you are going to perform your weight training machines in a circuit, then 7-10 different machines, for 1 set of 12-15 repetitions each circuit, 2 circuits. That should take you roughly 15-20 minutes to perform. If you prefer to have a rest in between each machine, then use less machines (4 or 5 machines), perform more sets (2 or 3) on each machine, and again aim for 12-15 repetitions. Rest 45-60 seconds between each set, and then perform your next set.

Then what do I do when I have finished with the weight machines?

You can then have a couple of minutes to recover, and then walk over to the Cardiovascular exercise equipment. Cardiovascular exercise can be defined as "any exercise that raises your heart rate to a level where you can still talk, but you start to sweat a little".

Choose your equipment that you enjoy. Spend 20-25 minutes on the equipment and exercise somewhere between 60-75% of your Maximum Heart Rate. Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is often calculated by subtracting your age from 220. Those silver looking strips, which helpfully enough are on many machines, are heart rate sensors, from which you can attain your heart rate in Beats Per Minute.

Once you have performed your cardiovascular exercise, you can then end with a cool down (3-5 minutes on the equipment) at a slower pace to bring your heart rate down to a more 'sedentary' level. Finish off with some stretching, go for a shower, sauna, swim, etc… to relax, and go home. Job done!

I'd like to try using the free weights but wont I get big?

It really isn't that simple. You simply cannot pick up a weight and then get big, it simply doesn't work like that. Yes, think of the manager off the Nationwide advert "Doesn't work like that", it doesn't! There are many processes involved in building muscle, and it is a lot more difficult for women to build muscle in comparison to men. Testosterone is a hormone within the body that builds muscle. Females often have a very low testosterone level, therefore, it is very difficult for a female to add lean muscle mass. Additionally, to build muscle you have to ingest more calories than you burn per day, so if you are trying to lose weight and consume less calories than you burn during a day that will be an additional reason why lean muscle mass gains will be limited.

Use the free weight section of the gym, you have paid your gym subscription/fee, therefore you have as much right to be in the weights area as anyone else. Free weights allow you to bring more muscles into work as part of the muscle helps to stabilise the weight which is often minimised when using weight training machines.

What can I do to 'tone' my midsection?

Toning has to be the one word in the industry that I simply cannot stand. You cannot tone a muscle, or area, the muscle either gets bigger and looks more pronounced, or you lose fat from that area which allows for more definition to be seen. If you wish for your midsection to become flatter then you need to continue to perform abdominal exercises but perform more exercise in order to lose fat from that area.

But I do 1000 sit-ups before I go to bed every night, that'll tone it up wont it?
No, as above, the sit-ups will target the abdominal section, but it won't make you lose fat from that area. You cannot spot reduce, i.e. from performing sit-ups it wont magically make you lose fat from your midsection. Also, performing 1000 sit-ups is too much and is un-necessary, instead, aim for 997 or 998. Seriously though, there is no real need to perform stupidly high numbers of sit-ups - treat them like any other muscle.

When you become fitter and progress over the weeks and months then you can start to increase the time at the gym, i.e. from 45 minutes to 50 minutes, and also increase the intensity of your exercise. If you have been performing cardiovascular exercise for 25 minutes at 60% of your MHR, then increase that to 65% for the same period of time.
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