As promised, here is the post on my daily workout routine. Though I love to mix it up and incorporate different modes of exercise into my week, a typical afternoon at my gym often follows the structure I've prescribed below. I encourage you to try it and let me know what you think!
You will need a pair of 4-7 lbs dumbbells and an exercise mat to complete the Tighten and Tone portion of the routine.
This is where I like to have fun diversifying my workouts. It is important to get at least 40 minutes of cardio exercise 5 days a week, which never seemed to be a problem in high school when field hockey and lacrosse built fitness right into my day. It was during college that I realized I'd need to fill that void with something, and lest it be filled with cookie dough straight from the package (which it was the first few months of my freshman year), I started to run. Though I have always been fairly fast, it was the endurance part of running that was new to me. At first I would run a mile and call myself a hero, these days I am up to about 4 miles while keeping it to a 9 or 10 minute pace.
Tip: If you have bad knees or are looking for a cardio exercise with less impact, jump on the elliptical for about as much time as you would normally run. The key is not to just get on at the lowest setting for incline and resistance and go, because that will get you no where. When I'm not running outside I like to spend about an hour on the elliptical doing an interval climb, typically staying between a resistance range of 8-20. I am also fond of trying different exercise classes offered at my gym - a favorite right now is Cardio Box - it really fires you up!
Tighten and Tone
1. Lunges and Squats
Once I've finished my cardio I launch into a series of lunges and squats. My thighs are a particularly frustrating area of my body since they seem to be the place I get the most jell-oied, so I try to make a point of targeting my legs when I work out.
Lunge Set 1 - Stand with feet hip distance apart, a dumbbell in each hand. Bring your hands together at chest level, knuckles facing inward so that the dumbbells are vertical. Step forward into a lunge with your right foot, forming a 90 degree angle at the knee. You are now in the lunge position. Keeping your arms in the start position, rotate your upper body first to the left, then back to center, then to the right. Step back to start position and repeat with the left foot forward. You have now completed one rep. Do 1 set of 12 reps before moving on to Lunge Sets 2 and 3.
Lunge Sets 2 and 3 - The only thing changing in Sets 2 and 3 are the arm motions. With a weight in each hand by your side, step right or left foot forward first (whichever you prefer) and as you step, raise your arms to your chest as in the photo below.
As you bend your knees into the lunge, raise both arms straight above your head into an overhead press, turning your palms forward.
Return your arms to starting position as you step out of the lunge and back to standing position. Switch sides and repeat to complete one rep. Do two sets of 12 reps each.
Squats - I like to intersperse each set of lunges with a set of squats (i.e., Set 1 lunges, Set 1 squats, Set 2 lunges, Set 2 squats, etc). But if you prefer to do all your lunges first and then move into your squats, go for it.
Start the squat with your feet a bit wider than hip distance apart. Clasp both hands together around your weights, and with a straight back and shoulders, squat down until your knees are at right-angles to the ground.
As you stand, use your stomach and glute muscles to lift your left leg directly out to the side, tightening your glutes as you press your leg outwards. Be careful to control the motion and not just swing your leg out with momentum from the squat.
Return to starting position. Repeat the exercise, alternative leg lifts as you go. Do 3 sets of 12.
2. Arm Exercises
Once you have finished the lunges and squats you can move on to arms. Generally I do 3 different arms exercises of 12 reps each.
Exercise 1 - The Fly
Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Slowly lift your right leg straight back as you bend at the waist, bringing arms out to your sides and keeping the weights touching at center.
When you feel you have struck a good balance (Tip: Focus on a point on the ground a few feet in front of you), slowly pull your arms apart with your elbows pointed to the sky. Return to start and switch legs, extending left leg back this time. Do 1 set of 12.
Exercise 2 - The Trapeze
The Trapeze is very similar to the Fly, but rather than bending forward and lifting your arms straight up you are standing straight and lifting your arms away from your body.
Start with feet hip-distance apart, dumbbells in each hand. Raise your right leg off the ground in front of you to hip height, letting your knee form a 90 degree angle with the ground. As you raise your leg, lift your arms out from your sides. Return your arms to your sides as you lower your leg to the ground. Switch legs. Do 1 set of 12.
Exercise 3 - Arm Raises
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lift the weights above and behind your head until your elbows are bent and held closely to your head.
Raise your arms straight up overhead as you lift one leg off of the ground and cross it in front of your standing leg. Return arms and leg to starting position and switch legs to complete 1 rep. Do 1 set of 12 reps.
3. Ab Work
Ab work is typically the most strenuous (and most rewarding!) part of my routine. I aim to do about 200 ab exercises a day, though I'll do 300 if I'm feeling ambitious (and I'll do none if I'm feeling lazy).
Exercise 1 - Crunches
The traditional crunch. Lay on your back with your hands laced loosely behind your head. Rest your feet on their heels (not having your toes on the ground forces you to use your stomach muscles more) and raise your upper body straight up, feeling your core tighten as you lift. Do 2 sets of 10.
Exercise 2 - Side Crunches
Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Place your left hand behind your head for support, and place your right hand at a 45 degree angle from your body. Lift the upper body and turn towards your right knee-cap, imagining that your left shoulder forms a straight line to your knee. Do 1 set of 10 and then switch sides.
Exercise 3 - Side Twist Crunches
Start with your feet planted on the ground. Let your knees fall right as you bring your left arm up under your head for support. Lay your right hand across your torso so you can feel the muscles in your stomach tighten as you crunch. Lift straight up into a crunch. Do 1 rep of 20 and switch sides.
Exercise 4 - Toe Reach
Laying on your back, bring your feet together and lift your legs at a 90 degree angle from your body. Flex your feet so the soles of your shoes are parallel with the sky (or ceiling). This is the starting position.
Tightening your stomach muscles, lift your arms straight out in front of you and reach for your shoelaces. Return to starting position to complete 1 rep. Do 20 reps total.
Exercise 5 - Butt Lifts
Attractive name, oui? But this is about as self explanatory as it gets. Lie on your back and plant your feet on the ground, lifting your toes slightly. Bring your arms to your sides and try to touch the backs of your heels to ensure that your legs are the proper distance from your butt.
Keeping your back as straight as possible and engaging your core, lift your butt off the ground and contract your muscles. Hold at the top of the lift for 2 seconds before slowly lowering to about two inches above the ground. Do 20 lifts total.
Exercise 6 - Side Reach
Assume the same position as in Exercise 5 - on your back with your feet on the ground, arms at your sides. Lift the upper body off the ground and engage your core as you reach your left arm to try and touch your right heel (you won't actually touch your heel - and if you can, good for you!). Keeping your core engaged, now reach your right arm out to touch your left heel to complete 1 rep. Do 20 reps.
Exercise 7 - Bicycle
Last core exercise on your back! Lift your legs up and bend your knees to a 90 degree angle. Place both hands lightly behind your head and stare at the ceiling to keep your chin level. Engaging your core, extend the left leg straight out in front of you as you twist your left elbow towards your right knee. Do not relax your core as your switch, bringing the left leg back to the bent position as your extend your right leg and twist your right arm towards the left knee to complete 1 rep. Do 20 reps.
Exercise 8 - Plank
Get into table-top position: forearms on the ground with elbows bent at a 90 degree angle to the shoulders, toes touching the floor with feet a bit wider than hip distance apart. Square your shoulders and look down towards the ground to prevent straining your neck. Engage the abs and tighten your glutes to form as straight a line as possible from your head to your feet. Hold this position for 20 seconds.
Tip: If you'd like a challenge, make this exercise harder by lifting your right leg and tucking it under your body, bending your knee to try and touch your left elbow. Return the right leg to starting position and repeat on the left leg. Complete 20 reps.
Exercise 9 - Push Ups
Finally - to finish the last 20 reps and reach your 200 mark, assume the push up position. If I'm feeling like I need a challenge I will do these on my toes rather than my knees, but if you are doing them on your knees then make sure not to cross your ankles. Engage your core and slowly bend arms until your face is about an inch away from the ground, then extend your arms back to starting position. Do 20 and you're done!
There you have it - my typical workout routine. The whole thing takes me about an hour and a half - 45 minutes to an hour of Cardio + 30 to 45 minutes of Tone and Tighten. No matter how long you work out, always make sure to have ample water with you to stay hydrated!