As a coach to many professional and amateur fitness, figure and female physique champions, I have gained an appreciation for the unique challenges for women trying to get in shape. Whether due to intrinsic factors such as the complex female endocrine system or extrinsic factors such as working and parenting, the obstacles to getting in shape are numerous.
Here are just a few of my top tips for getting started with your workout routine. Check out the GNC Medical Advisory Board web page for the rest of my TOP 5 list and for more great articles from the MAB Doctors on recommended health screenings at every age, heart health and even top tips for healthy aging – all for women as we celebrate Women’s Health Month here at GNC.
- Set realistic goals and write them down. The difference between a dream and a goal is a timeline. It is very easy to say, “I want to be in shape for the summer.” However, “the summer” is very vague. Rather, it is better to say, “My goal is to lose a pound per week for the next month.” This is something measurable, and when you attain it, you will feel a sense of accomplishment that will motivate you even further. If you don’t know what is realistic (i.e., losing 1 lb vs. 10 lbs per week), consult a nutritionist or trainer. Be patient; Adela Garcia didn’t become Ms. Fitness Olympia overnight, or in one month, for that matter.
- Make a schedule. It is very easy to say, “I just don’t have the time to work out.” This type of statement is not due to a lack of time, but a lack of prioritizing. Your health is important to every aspect of your life and should always be a priority. This includes proper nutrition, sleep and exercise. Workouts can be done at almost any time of day, anywhere or for any length of time. Whether doing some push ups and sit-ups by your desk at work, running up and down the stairs in your building or going to the park with your kids, exercise can be incorporated into all aspects of your day. One of my favorite tips for women is to do your workouts in the morning before the rest of the family gets up. It is often easier to ensure a good workout by disciplining yourself to be the early bird. Workouts don’t have to be hours long, just getting moving is a great start!
- Choose your exercises based on your goals. First of all, if you are not exercising now, pick something, anything, that you can imagine yourself doing. If your goal is to put on muscle and get stronger, you will have to incorporate resistance training. If you want to run farther and faster, you will have to dedicate a larger portion of your time to endurance training. One thing that many women I talk to neglect is the importance of weight training in improving your physique. Muscle is the machinery that burns fat. The more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn. Combining resistance training such as weights with cardio training can be complementary in fat loss goals. A little extra muscle will help tighten up such saggy skin areas as the triceps. You will also feel stronger and empowered. Many women are afraid of weights because they think they will get “bulky.” Lifting heavy weights in itself does not make you “bulky.” Eating excessive amounts of food makes you “bulky.” Train with weights and see how your muscles respond. You may be pleasantly surprised when you see a little bicep pop off your arm.
Once you get started, stick to it. Within a week, you will see measurable results. Use something that is quantifiable to see your success: body fat percentage, weight, strength in an exercise, endurance, etc. Keep a log and be scientific about your approach.