How to Effectively Workout and See Results

Learn how to effectively workout so that you can start to see physical results.Ever walk into the gym and feel overwhelmed by all the equipment that you have no idea how to use? You don’t want to look like an idiot trying to figure them out, so you just never use them and stick to the cardio machines. After all, getting your heart rate up to 180 for 30 minutes three times out of the week will get you to that toned bod you’ve been wanting, right? WRONG! The old me would have probably done the same thing, but just doing cardio will not get you to build muscle and tone up like weight conditioning.

Be brave! Forget what other people think! You aren’t doing your workout for other people; you’re doing your workout for you!

Here are some quick ways you can get over that fear:

•Most of the machines have picture instructions that show how to use the machine and what muscle group it works. Read those!

•If your gym has personal trainers, ask one of them.

•Bring a friend! It helps me when I go to the gym with my sister because she can help me figure out a machine or tell me if I need to fix my form.

•INTERNET! Google, YouTube, Instagram…there are tons of pictures, descriptions, and videos showing how to use machines and do specific workouts.

Maybe you really are one of those people who believe that cardio will get you where you want to be physically. I understand where you are coming from because I used to have that same mentality. I thought that if I was doing something of high intensity like running, it was burning calories, and shedding fat. Cardio is great, but as a primary source of exercise, it is not likely you will see major physical results. If you’ve ever tracked how many calories are burned on a cardio machine, then you know it takes a lot of time and high speed to burn just a small amount of calories. Yes, while running or using the stair master, you are engaging your muscles and there are health benefits to to cardio exercises. However, cardio alone will not give you an overall toned body if that is what you desire. Trust me when I say that I am NOT bashing cardio. In fact, I still incorporate cardio into my workouts, but the key word there is incorporate!

Now that you are over the fear of trying out the machines and hopefully your resistance to try them out, let’s talk about using them!


Walk in with a Plan

Sometimes I would write my planned workouts on little slips of paper and carry them around in my arm band.
Sometimes I would write my planned workouts on little slips of paper and carry them around in my arm band.

It’s important to walk in with an idea of what you are specifically going to do at the gym. Otherwise, you’ll probably waste time at the gym or be less driven since you don’t have a plan. I find that my workouts are more effective when I have in mind what machines I am going to use. You can do this by writing it on a post it note like I have done.  I sometimes even think of my workout circuit on the drive to the gym.

Mix it Up

If you are getting bored of the exact same workout sequence everyday, then so is your body. When your body is bored, it is going to plateau and you won’t see results. You can keep your mind and body interested in your workouts by changing up your routines. I like to mix my workouts up by focusing on specific target areas (legs, arms, back, chest, core, etc.). Within those specific areas I can also change up the workouts. Instead of focusing just on legs, you can pick a few exercises that focus on a particular muscle group like calves, hamstrings, quads, or glutes.

You truly are trying to confuse your muscles and break them down. That may sound really cruel, but that will actually help build them up. You have to give that specific area time to heal, then break them down again, so the process is cyclical.

Sets and Reps

When I’m at the gym, I sometimes notice people doing just one set of 10 reps on a machine for legs, then moving on to another machine for arms to do a set of 10 reps there as well. Now I know some people are into circuit workouts and perhaps want to work their whole body. Generally focusing on a target area each day is more effective toward seeing results. Also, there are a lot of opinions about how often you should workout in a week. I think a lot of that depends on your health, schedule, level of intensity, and probably the biggest factor is motivation. When I am not working, I am able to do my workouts in the morning which is what I prefer. I’m less tired, more motivated, less crowded at the gym, and I don’t feel rushed by time. A lot of fitness people tend to workout 5 days a week. My ideal workout schedule is at least 6 days a week. I have done 2-a-day workouts, gone 3 weeks straight working out (wasn’t training as heavy as I am currently), to almost 2 months of no workout (bronchitis got in the way). Working out is somewhat of an addiction and stress relief for me, so I feel bad when I miss too many days.

My workout circuits are typically 5 exercises with 4 sets each. One set of each is not going to bring much progress, people! So there’s no time to be lazy.

The reps will vary based on how heavy I am lifting and the level of difficulty of that exercise. I typically do 10-16 reps.

Challenge Yourself

If you go to the gym, but never feel any soreness then you probably aren’t working hard enough. This means you have a few options. You can go up on weight (you could even try max out), increase reps, or try that workout in a more challenging way. For example instead of doing plain lunges down the aisle, carry a weight in each hand to add some difficulty.

This is not me saying to push yourself to the point of injury. Listen to your body, NOT your mind though! Your mind will try to convince you that you are at your limit, when you physically are not at your limit yet. Push yourself to a safe, yet challenging level. If the next day you struggle to walk up and down the stairs or sitting down on a chair takes you a few seconds, then you know you got a good work out! The soreness might last a few days. Even though I workout on a regular basis, my legs can still take a good three days to get over the soreness after leg day. To help alleviate soreness and loosen tension in your legs, use a foam roller. You can order on Amazon by clicking on the link or your gym might have some in the stretching area.

Track Your Progress

Since I do so many different workouts, I realized it was getting hard for me to keep up with what weight I would use for specific exercises. So I ended up using a lot of time trying to figure out what weight wasn’t too light or too heavy. In order to resolve that issue I have become… a gym notebook carrier. Dun.Dun.Dun… 

This is one of the circuits I did for hamstrings, gluten, calves, and cardio. In pink you can see I put the weight and reps for each exercise.
This is the workout circuit I did today for back and cardio.

In my notebook I write down the workout, sometimes some reminders about form, the amount of weight I used and the reps I did. Then when I come back to that workout again later on, I can go back in my notebook to see what I was lifting. If I think I’m ready to push myself, I can go up in weight or reps instead. This will also help you reach any personal records (maxing out)if you are interested in that sort of accomplishment.


Find a Workout Friend

This person could be a significant other, sibling, best friend, parent, or just someone you bonded with at your gym. You don’t always have to go to the gym with this person, but I honestly find that my better workouts are when I go with my sister. There are times when I am by myself that I wish she was there to tell me if I need to fix my form on anything. Just today I was doing back by myself and that’s an area I struggle with the most. It’s hard to tell if you have correct form and are doing the exercise correctly since your back is obviously behind you. So, having my sister there would have been helpful when I was worried about my form.

It’s also a good idea to have someone around if you plan on trying to max out or lift heavy. You definitely don’t want to get hurt!

It might be scary, frustrating, confusing, painful, or tiring to workout, but I highly doubt you will leave saying, “I wish I didn’t exercise today.” You might feel sore, sweaty, and exhausted afterwards, but then you’ll discover endorphins will start to kick in. I usually feel energized, more positive, productive (especially if I start my day off with a work out), and confident.

“Know that showing up is half the battle.”

(That’s a quote on the front of the doors on the way into my local gym, Gold’s Gym. Actually as of today, I have officially been a member of Gold’s for one year! Totally didn’t plan that out!) 😀

You can do it! You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish when you actually give it a try. Plus, once you see the results, that will be enough motivation to keep you going!




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