MY Perfect Day at the Gym
I love the gym and prefer it to home workouts. I love that there are no distractions when I go to my “happy place”. The gym doesn’t have children asking me what I’m thinking about while I am in the middle of a set, followed by an explanation of what they are thinking of… princesses or Ninja Turtles of course (thankfully my gym has wonderful childcare). The gym doesn’t have a laundry dryer buzzer going off in the background reminding me that my clothes are slowly wrinkling more and more with every passing minute. And while I do enjoy a good at home work out from time to time, there is just something about going to the gym that gets me into a zone where I work the hardest.
I am usually crunched for time when I workout, due to a time limit on the childcare there, or having a bajillion other things to do that day. But getting there is my first priority. A lot of people have told me they don’t know what to do at the gym or have asked me what I like to do. So while my workouts look a little different each day or week (depending on what I am trying to accomplish), here is my idea of my perfect day at the gym.
I like to start with a proper warm up. I don’t believe there is any need to warm up for 30 minutes… or even 15. A perfect warm up for me is some dynamic stretching and maybe 5 minutes on the treadmill. There are 2 main types of stretching. The one most people are familiar with and have been doing since the beginning of time is static stretching where you hold the pose for a good 20-60 seconds. I DON’T start with static and you can read more about why on my post here. Dynamic stretches closely mimic movements made during a workout so they prepare the athlete for the activity he or she is about to partake in.
Next I like to lift. I usually like to lift weights before cardio. I feel like if I lift first I give most of my energy to lifting. Since gaining muscle is my main goal right now it makes sense for me to put the majority of my energy towards this. If you do cardio first, you will have fatigued your muscles and wont be able to lift as much. But if you lift first you can still have a great cardio session. Whatever you choose to do first can be based on your goals or whatever you prefer. When I was training for a 5K and speed was my first priority I sometimes ran before lifting. But since strength is my first priority right now I put that first.
However, my husband almost always does his cardio first and he has ginormous muscles… just sayin’ what I prefer to do.
Then I do about a half hour of cardio. After I have done my lifting, I do cardio of some sort. I love to run so that’s usually my first choice. But I often do elliptical on the day after legs to give my poor knees a break. And on days I lift legs I don’t do any cardio at all. I have a love hate relationship with lifting legs. It’s my most difficult day but I love the feeling f accomplishment after ‘m done. I like to give all my mental and physical energy towards lifting that day.
Some days I do sprints, sometimes I just run a flat rate for 30 minutes, sometimes I do hill runs. I like to vary my routine so I don’t get bored.
Also, there are days I do a lot of “active rests” during my lifting routine to keep my heart rate up. That way my cardio is incorporated into my lifting so I may skip the elliptical, treadmill, or outdoor run all together. Another reason I may want to skip cardio is if I want all my calories to go to muscle building. There was a time I would have thought “What?! No cardio? Are you insane? I’ll get fat! I can’t just lift, I will look like a man.” Now I know better. Muscle gives me a womanly shape and helps boost my metabolism. I love muscle!
Lastly, I stretch (again… but different). Here is where static stretching comes in. This is where I do the relaxed stretching that puts my body into recovery mode. I used to not think I had time to stretch. However, since incorporating static stretching into the end of my workouts, I can’t imagine going back to a workout without it. I recover much faster and feel much better in general.
Here is what a typical week looks like for me:
Monday: dynamic stretch warm up, lift chest abs, run 30 min, static stretch
Tuesday: dynamic stretch warm up, lift legs, static stretch
Wednesday: dynamic stretch warm u, lift back, elliptical 30 min, static stretch
Thursday: dynamic stretch warm up, lift biceps, triceps, abs, elliptical or stair stepper 30 min, static stretch
Friday: dynamic stretch warm up, lift shoulders (my favorite day), run 30 min, static stretch
Saturday: dynamic stretch warm up, lift legs**, static stretch
**I often hit legs twice a week since it’s my weakest muscle group. If I want to lift only 5 days a week I skip my second leg day.
There are weeks I only make it to the gym 4 days a week and then I just combine a couple muscle groups to make it work.
Here is a little side note about lifting. I used to think I lifted weights… okay, I did lift weights and would have told you “Yeah, I lift. I work out with my husband.” However, I was so afraid to lift heavy weights and “bulk up”. So, I stuck with lighter weights and did tons of reps (reps are the amount of times you lift the weight in a row). However, I have learned through research and experience that women typically don’t bulk up like that without added supplimentary testosterone or growth hormones of somekind.
Now, I lift heavy and I am not as big or as strong or as bulky as a man. If anything, the muscle mass women put on gives us a more womanly shapely look.
I usually do 3-4 sets (a set is a group of repetitions-or reps), and lower reps. I lift until I fatigue completely (I lift until I can’t do one more rep with good form-you never want to compromise good form in order to lift more).
So for bicep curls I may do 4 sets of 8. I will pick a weight that I can lift 8 times keeping my form but where I can not lift it a 9th time. I will then rest and do it again for a total of 4 times. If I can do more than 8 reps with correct form I will lift a heavier weight. If I can’t do 8 I will drop down to a lighter weight.
I have seen the best results of my life while lifting this way. In high school and college I would often do 3 sets of 15 and lift enough to make me feel tired but never fatigued. While I was in good shape then, I am in better shape now, and have seen much better results, than when I played college soccer.
Here is a photo of me freshman year in college. I have to say I am in better shape today than I was then.
Yeah, I didn’t dust this frame before taking a picture of it… it’s been in my basemen for years.
Well, there you have it! Like I said before, I don’t always have time to do a completely perfect workout but when I do, this is my plan! Things change depending on my goals but at the moment my ideal typical workout day/week looks like this!
I’m just sharing what has worked for me. This is by no means the perfect workout for everybody. And my side note wasn’t to say that one can’t get a good workout lifting light weights. I just wanted to let women know they shouldn’t be afraid to lift hard. Some of my friends find yoga to be the best stress reliever for them, some enjoy training for half marathons (like I once did). Some are happy if they are able to fit in 20 minutes on the elliptical while their kiddos nap. Just find what works for you. This is one routine that has given me great results. I know my workouts will (and should) change. I’m just sharing what a perfect day looks like for me…for now.
I would love to hear your comments below. What do you do to keep fit? Do you struggle with fitting workouts into your day? I know I do some days. What do you do to stay motivated?