Gym Routine Recommendations
January 17, 2004 6:48 PM   Subscribe

I just moved into an apartment complex with a gym and have started working out, but I'm having a problem developing a routine. The place is basically treadmills, spinning machines, and a well-equipped weight room. Any suggestions?

Oh, I'm also taking a fencing class two days a week. From what I can tell, that's going to be a bit of exercise, too.
posted by billybunny to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total)
The answer is easy: Body For Life.

I am not one of those Body For Life cultists who eats 6 meals a day, snorts down 8 protein shakes and yells out--as the Body For Life book suggests--"I'm building my body for life!" each time I lift a weight.

I am, however, a formerly ignant gym-goer who was able to develop a really good routine using the Body For Life method. What is that method? I'll tell it to you here and save you some money:

You go to the gym six days a week. Three of those days are cardio, three are weights. You should alternate these days back and forth. Let's address cardio first:

Do the treadmill for 20 minutes (that's it! just 20 minutes!) either first thing in the morning on an empty stomach or 3 hours after eating your last meal. Don't eat for an hour afterwards and you will burn a lot of calories. While on the treadmill, start off at a moderate speed (a 5 on a scale from 1 to difficult) and after 2 minutes increase the difficulty by 1, doing so each additional minute until 6 minutes in you are at a 9/10 difficulty. Then go back down to five. I know that doesn't seem to make sense, but it does. And it's a great, very doable workout. [If I didn't explain it well, let me know, and I'll try again.]

Here's where the book comes in handy. I can't really show you the techniques he suggests for free weights, but if you have the Nautilus machines you can just work the muscle groups that I'm about to mention.

Basically, you alternate your weight days by Upper Body and Lower Body. The first week your week will look like this:


Then the next week you'll switch it:


When working your upper body, you will work these muscle groups:
- chest
- back
- shoulders
- biceps
- triceps

When working your lower body, you will work these muscle groups:
- quads
- hamstrings
- calves
- abs

I suggest perusing the book in the book store for the specific methods, but that's basically it. Hope this helped! I was very much a non-gym-goer and now, after several months of working out, I look like Arnold Schwartzenagger's twin brother. And by that I mean: Danny DeVito.
posted by adrober at 7:07 PM on January 17, 2004

20 minutes on the treadmill? At least 30 to 45 if you feel like having some weight loss. But the interval training (that's what he's talking about with the variable speeds) is good. Depends on what shape you are in to begin with. And it does help with the boredom factor if you don't have a tv or something handy to watch while you are working out.

(if I can do 45m on a treadmill anybody can.) has a good section on fitness, including a very helpful forum. You might want to go over there and have a look.
posted by konolia at 10:02 PM on January 17, 2004

Agreed. If you spend less than 30 minutes on a treadmill, you won't make much progress because you'll be quitting just as your body is going over the hump from warm-up to fat-burning mode.

Men's Health has a pretty good exercise program called the "Home-or-Gym Workout Series", which is split into 10 phases that go from beginner to advanced.

Men's Health also published an article about one total-body movement called "The Bear" that's great for getting a jump-start by adding big muscle fast. Here's the link. I use it as the first exercise in my routine 3 days a week.
posted by tomorama at 10:09 PM on January 17, 2004

For the past 9 months, I've been doing 5 meals a day, typically an hour of cardio when I do cardio, and weights 3 times a week, rotating arms/chest - back/shoulders - legs. I've shed about 95 pounds so far.

Are you looking for particular weight exercises? Is the weight room free-weights or machine based equipment? If machine, what brand?

I would recommend starting with 20 minutes of cardio first couple of weeks if you are out of shape, moving to 30, then 45, and then 60 minutes. This will allow you to ramp up, instead of trying to kill yourself all at once.
posted by benjh at 6:21 AM on January 18, 2004

I think you've opened a Pandora's box here.

The bottom line is that it's not how long you spend doing cardio, it's the intensity-- you could theoretically burn 600 calories in 30 minutes or take 60 minutes to burn the same amount. Either way, you've expended the same amount of energy. The verdict is decidedly OUT on which is best-- you're much better off finding a pace and duration that works well for you, and more importantly, that you're likely to be able to repeat at least a few times a week.

Weights are a different story and people will all tell you something different about their own approach. You'd do well to book a session with a trainer at a local gym and get her/him to show you how to do some exercises with good form.
posted by yellowcandy at 6:31 AM on January 18, 2004

The weights are free weights. I hadn't really even thought very much about them, to be honest. When I do decide to step off the treadmill and head over to the scary weight benches (a week or two from now), I'll have my roommate help me out. He's getting back into shape as well, and used to do all kinds of weight training.

Now I just need to get myself onto a regular schedule. That'll be fun.
posted by billybunny at 7:07 AM on January 18, 2004

i'm not bothered about burning calories, and i've never used a treadmill, but if it's anything like (road) running then you don't want to start out trying to do it for 45 minutes if you're in poor (sedentary) shape. you'll injure yourself. start by doing as much as you can and increase by no more than 10% a week. it seems like a small increase at first, but keep at it and it soon builds up (you'll be at whatever reasonable target you want within a year). this assumes you're running at a level where you're breathing heavier than normal, but not gasping for breath (you shouldn't have difficulty speaking).

but i thought the question was more about weights and muscles and stuff.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:31 AM on January 18, 2004

I think you've opened a Pandora's box here.


There are a few tried and true ideas in the 'work out' scene, but for the most part, everyone seems to have a different idea for getting results.

Try a few ideas here, from books, and see what works best for you. Believe me, there is no workout that works for everyone.

Good luck.
posted by justgary at 10:46 AM on January 18, 2004

The fencing class sounds like a great idea, by the way.
posted by gimonca at 11:03 AM on January 18, 2004

andrew cooke, I was totally out of shape when I started working out, and by week 2 was doing 45 minutes. But I was walking, not running. For me twenty minutes would have been a total waste of time.
posted by konolia at 3:31 PM on January 18, 2004

I've been lifting free weights for about 8 years now - i'll tell you... once you've developed a routine ... you will really begin to like the workout - and the results. can't recommend free wieghts enough. good for your bones, helps elevate your metabolism, really helps change your appearance even if your bodyfat % is up there.

good luck.
posted by specialk420 at 3:53 PM on January 18, 2004

My goal, in terms of treadmill use, was just to raise my heart rate several times a week. Any more than 20 minutes would make that very unlikely. So it worked for me.
posted by adrober at 5:06 PM on January 18, 2004

I use the programs mentioned here (RxEx). There's a ton of plans to suit your needs, a ton of advice for everyone who wants to lose weight to professional body builders.

There's also cool gifs showing each exercise. I personally do just upper-body, with one day one day off. The key is to push yourself and do 4 sets of 10. Bench presses and butterflies should be a staple.

I'm not huge, just in shape, which is probably because I don't watch what I eat, and thus don't gain weight. The problem I see is with when most people gain a lot of muscle weight, then stop working out for any length of time, it turns into fat. So just keep that in mind.
posted by geoff. at 5:07 PM on January 18, 2004

billybunny - the answer to your question depends on two factors.

a) What do you want to achieve with your exercise? (Lose weight? Gain weight? Improve functional strength? Eliminate back pain? Improve energy? etc...) If you exercise out of a vague notion that you ought to be doing some sort of exercise, rather than with a specific goal, you're not so likely to accomplish much.

b) What type of movement/exercise do you enjoy doing? If I give you the world's "best" exercise routine, but you absolutely hate doing it, you won't stick to it consistently enough to gain the benefits.

Let us know what your personal goals and tastes are, and we can offer some advice that's tailored for you.
posted by tdismukes at 6:11 AM on January 19, 2004

I'm mostly doing it for weight loss. I've spent the past year and a half in places with no kitchens (or, in one instance, a kitchen I wouldn't want to use before flooding it with bleach), which resulted in a lot of fast food and eating out, which resulted in some weight gain.

Now that I'm able to better control my diet, I figured it's time to start repairing the damage I did to myself.

I don't particularly like or dislike any movements or exercises, they're all pretty similar. I've mostly been running since I started this last week, and I don't hate that, though it'll be nice when I've finally built up a little bit of stamina.
posted by billybunny at 8:59 AM on January 19, 2004

OK - weight loss. For the treadmill, even simple walking can make a significant difference, especially if you keep up a good pace and go for at least 20-30 minutes at a time. Running is also good, but carries the increased risk of injury.

When you get to the free weights, make sure you learn good form. With bad form, which is unfortunately common, you not only risk injury but will get much slower results. Anyway, for purposes of weight loss, the main benefit of weight training is that it builds muscle mass, which requires energy to maintain, and thereby gets you burning more calories throughout the course of the day. With that in mind, focus on your large muscle groups. It doesn't take nearly as many calories to maintain well-muscled biceps as it does to maintain well-muscled thighs and lats.

Once you've got the basics down, experiment with different routines. It'll keep you from getting stale and you'll probably find some routines that you enjoy more than others.

Good luck!
posted by tdismukes at 11:11 AM on January 19, 2004

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