Stretching Myself on the Rack

While my title might imply torturous methods, I’ve found a way to expand my work out regimen that’s helping me make progress and I’d like to share it with you.

I’ve been going to the gym 3-5 times a week for the last 6 months. When I started at the gym, I got an introductory session to acquaint myself with the equipment, including the weight lifting machines because I was determined to do weight lifting along with cardio.

Using weight lifting machines has been a great way for me to reshape my body. Slowly, over these past 6 months, some of my body fat has been transformed into muscle. (I know that’s not what actually happens, but you know what I mean.)

And weight machines are an excellent way to get started because the machines are easy to use, and have more controlled movements than free weights. I also liked how I could see my progress on the weight machines as I was able to increase the amount of weight over time.

I had a lengthy discussion with the primary trainer at the gym about how I seem to have hit a plateau on the weight machines. Even though I’m doing my regular workouts, I don’t see the kinds of results I got in the first six months. My body has adapted to my workout, and I haven’t changed things up enough.

The trainer suggested it was time for me to head over to the weight rack, and begin using free weights. He was nice enough to show me several exercises, and explained how I could do all of the exercises I was doing on the machine with free weights.

One thing that immediately surprised me was the extreme difference in the amount of weight I could lift. With the free weights, I felt like a wimp! The trainer said that’s normal. He said that I might be able to lift 30% of the amount of weight I was doing on the machine because free weights require more muscle groups to be engaged since there is no machine there to limit and control the movement of the weight.

But guess what? After only a few sessions with lighter weights at the free weight rack, I’m already seeing a difference in my workouts at the machines! (Yes, I’m still working out on all the machines I’d been using, plus adding new exercises with the free weights.)

I’m very excited about this new breakthrough I seem to be having with the free weights. I’ve got to be patient for the results, but I’d like to see where I am in another 3 weeks of doing free weights plus the weight machines, plus my cardio.

So, if you’re exclusively using weight machines to do your lifting, consider going to the rack!

Work Out Tip – The Easy 400 Calorie Workout

Ah, the new year. A time when everyone resolves to “get back to the gym” and to lose the weight they gained during the holidays.

Many people who get started at the gym push themselves too hard, and feel sore and tired and then give up before they see real results, which take time.

In today’s post, I have ONE simple suggestion to help you burn calories but not kill yourself at the gym.

Many people who do cardio to lose weight believe they have to kill themselves by running fast on the treadmill to rack up a lot of calories burned. And while running will burn a lot of calories, there are many reasons why you may not want to run. It puts a lot of stress on your joints, particularly your ankles and knees. Also, unless you are already in great shape, you are not going to be able to sustain a run at a fast pace for any length of time. For some people, this might be a discouragement from exercising at all.

So, instead of getting on the treadmill and running, use the incline setting on the treadmill to increase the amount of calories burned, while walking at a brisk pace. Many treadmills have settings that go from 1 to 15, and at the upper range it’s like walking up a steep hill. You’ll have to hang onto the treadmill handles, but you can still walk, not run and burn loads of calories.

In the title to my post, I’ve used 400 calories as a target goal for the workout. I regularly exceed 400 calorie workouts on the treadmill, and I don’t run.

The key to achieving the calorie goal is extending the amount of time you spend on the treadmill as well. So, to burn 400 calories, you should plan to spend one hour on the treadmill so you can walk at a brisk pace but not feel exhausted when you’re done.

Use the incline setting and make sure you don’t go below 6, and alternate between 6, 8 and 10 on the treadmill as you are walking. Alternate speeds between 3.5 through 4.0, and as the incline is higher (let’s say 10) use the lower speed to get through that lap.

If you are just getting back to the gym, give yourself a more modest goal… perhaps a 200 calorie workout to start. Then, when you’ve easily achieved that goal, after a week or so of 200 calorie workouts, increase to 300 and then 400 calories.

Since I’m a “seasoned pro” at the gym – at this point I go to the gym at least five times a week, for a minimum of an hour each session – I’m able to achieve high calorie burns. Today I spent one hour on the treadmill and burned 600 calories. After I was done, I felt so good I hopped on the stair master and did another 100 calories in 15 minutes. I’m not going at blazing fast speeds, but that’s fine, I’m willing to put in the time.

When you consider that one pound is about 35o0 calories, losing one pound through effort at the gym comes into a whole new perspective.

I hope this treadmill tip is helpful for anyone getting back into a new workout routine. You CAN do it. Remember, it takes time to build up your endurance, but with a bit of effort you can burn off hundreds of calories.