Weekdays? A blurry mix of (potentially) dropping off and picking kids up from school, work meetings, dinner preparations and terrible TV. Weekends? Keep kids entertained, catch up with friends, any kind of “me” time.
It can be hard to fit in exercise amongst all the other obligations we have going on in life. Whether exercising to promote a healthy lifestyle, get in shape for a summer holiday, or in preparation for a fitness event, figuring out the right way and the right time to exercise can be difficult. The rewards, however, are substantial: reduced health risks, increased cardiovascular ability, and (of course) a tight and toned body.
Finding the Time
Before we move onto the exercises themselves, we first need to talk about scheduling exercise. It can be difficult to find the time in amongst the myriad of other duties and activities in life. This should not be an excuse; if you want to do something, you will find the time. Early mornings are particularly good for exercise as the body is fresh rested and the exercise will get you in the zone for the day ahead.
There is also the rise of the 24-hour gym. Chris Thomson, Club Manager for Glasgow gym Anytime Fitness St Enoch, says “With the advent of the 24-hour gym, people now have complete control over when they can exercise. I see business people, mom’s and dad’s, come in at 6 in the morning. I also see hospitality workers coming in at 2, 3, even 4 AM after they finish shift to get a workout in.” With round the clock access, the excuse “The gyms opening times” just doesn’t make sense anymore.
Find Your Way of Exercising
For some people, lifting weight and using weight machines may be the way forward. For others, it might be more cardio-orientated activities, such as cycling or running. Others yet may prefer classes – think body attack or spin classes, or using outdoor based activities instead of gym based ones.
The main point to realize here is that each individual is different, and what a friend or colleague may like and see results from may not be the same for you. Don’t get disheartened if the first, or even the fourth, activity you try is not for you. You will find your niche in time.
Some suggested activities that are good for both toning and fat burning are:
Cycling – There’s nothing quite like cycling for a feel-good workout. Whether it’s a 30-minute spin class at the gym or a 25-mile cycle through nature, the sense of accomplishment from completing the cycle is only overshadowed by the amount of energy burnt off doing so.
Yoga – A classic toning activity, and for good reason. Yoga is good for both the body and soul, with research showing that holding poses for longer than 72 seconds can increase restoration of connective tissues, making it a perfect activity to do alongside other training. Combine this with the sense of peace yoga can give, and you have a winning way of getting healthy.
Swimming – Another classic toning activity, swimming is one of the few full-body workouts available. It’s also incredibly relaxing, assuming you know how to swim. Find a gym or local leisure center with a pool and you can get fit for relatively little cost.
Free weights – There’s nothing quite like lifting heavy things then putting them back down for weight loss. Free weights like dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells usually provide a wide range of possible exercises and are even a cheap potential at-home solution to exercising. With the right exercises, free weights can give clearly visible results in a relatively short period of time.
Choosing the Right Bodyweight and Free Weight Exercises
Now to crunch time. First off, let’s debunk the myth that there are “tummy fat targeting” exercises. That’s simply not how fat loss works. Fat is burnt from most areas of the body at an equal rate; doing sit ups does not burn stomach fat. To achieve a toned stomach/back/shoulders/anything, you have to do both the following: burn fat in general and target the desired muscle groups in specific.
With regards to the exercises themselves, different people have differing success with the same exercise. As mentioned before, find what works best for you and grow from there.
The Russian Twist – Fantastic for both core strength and building the obliques, an oft-forgotten muscle group, the Russian twist is a fantastic core exercise.
Crunches – Sit ups with a bit more punch, crunches are perfect for targeting the abdominal muscle groups.
The Plank – Mixing static exercises with dynamic exercises is a great route to results. The plank is possibly the defining static exercise. A decent full-body static exercise, it really focusses on core strength. Just remember to push your hips up!
Squats (weighted or otherwise) – Squats are the go-to exercise for developing the glutes (the bum). Squats target all three glute groups (maximus, medius, and minimus) for a full glute workout.
Lunges (jump or normal) – Not quite as glute-centric as the squat, the lunge also tones the thighs, adding definition to your legs.
Hip Thrusts – An exercise guaranteed to turn heads in a gym, the hip thrust is perfect for engaging the glutes before going onto more strenuous exercises.
The Lat Pulldown – Using lat pulldown machines, this workout focuses on the middle back, with secondary involvement from the delts and biceps.
The Bent Over Row – A great multi-group workout, the bent over row works the lats, rhomboids, rear delts, traps, and even the biceps. Essentially, it works every muscle group in your middle and upper back.
Bicep curl – The classic exercise when anyone thinks of a dumbbell, the bicep curl has numerous variations to hit slightly different areas of the muscle and to incorporate other muscle groups. Have a read of them all – it’s possible to lose a day to the reading without even lifting a weight.
Dips – Dips are a great bodyweight exercise focusing on the triceps. They can be done with gym equipment or just on whatever furniture you have at your disposal. Again, there are several different versions, so read up to see which one is for you.
Author Bio: Tom Wishart is a Glasgow-based freelance writer. Tom is educated in Chemical Engineering and experienced in what hell will most likely be like from 8 years in the hospitality and customer service industries. He covers many areas of writing – from emergent energy technologies to fitness regimes – and can be found, when not writing, looking for spots for free movement training around Glasgow. Follow him on Twitter.
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