How to Work Out


Working out is such an important part of your overall health. It’s good for both your body and mind! While starting an exercise routine might seem daunting, don’t worry. You can create a work out plan that fits your body and your lifestyle. Start by figuring out your goals and creating a schedule. You can then decide what types of cardio and strength training work for you. Make your workouts fun by adding a lot of variety. Once you start working out, you’ll likely have more energy and feel great. Just don’t forget to stay safe. Go at your own pace and work within your body’s limits.

Part 1
Creating a Fitness Plan

Creating a Fitness Plan on How to Work Out

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Having a goal can really help you feel motivated. Take a few minutes to think about why you’re working out and what you want to achieve. Write down your goal and post it somewhere you’ll see it regularly. Your bathroom mirror might be a good spot, for example.[1] For example, maybe you are working out to get to a healthy weight. You might write, “I will reduce my BMI by 5%.” If you want to become a runner you could write, “I will be able to run a 5k within 3 months.” Talk to your doctor about any restrictions. It’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor before starting a workout routine. They can give you good advice based on your personal history.[2]

Creating a Fitness Plan on How to Work Out

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Decide how many days a week you’ll be able to work out. Ideally, you should get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, 5 days a week. However, if you’re trying to achieve a certain goal, you might want to consider working out for about an hour several days a week. Create a realistic plan and stick to it.[3] Choose the time of day that’s right for you. If you’re not a morning person, don’t try to force yourself to hit a 6 a.m. workout class. Just workout later in the day if that feels good to you. Make your workouts a priority. Schedule them on your calendar, just like you would any other appointment. Commit to keeping this appointment with yourself!

Creating a Fitness Plan on How to Work Out

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You won’t make much progress towards your goal if you don't continue to test and push your boundaries. The trick is to do it safely and in a controlled manner. If you ran 2 miles yesterday and felt worn out later, don't try to run 5 miles today. Instead, find a level of exertion that leaves you feeling like you got in a good workout, and then try to slightly add on to the intensity of that level every couple of weeks. Pick a way to track your progress. There are a lot of apps that can help you keep track of how you’re doing. You can record each of your workouts on your phone with them. You can also use a traditional notebook if you want.[4] Fitness trackers, like smartwatches, are a great way to track how much exercise you’re getting each day.

Creating a Fitness Plan on How to Work Out

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The more parts of your body receive exercise, the more you'll notice exercises' positive effects on your weight, muscle tone, mood, stress levels, sleeping patterns, and overall sense of well-being. As always, any exercise is good exercise, but some is better than others. Lifting free weights, for example, works more muscle groups than using targeted weightlifting machines. Try to mix in some exercise for every part of your body, if you can.

Creating a Fitness Plan on How to Work Out

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Maintaining the energy you need to exercise starts with getting enough sleep, and eating a balanced diet. You don't have to overhaul every aspect of your life just to start exercising, but if you want to feel energized, you'll need to at least make sure you get some good sleep every night and enough nutrients to not run your body ragged. For example, your body processes lean proteins into energy better than fats, and it gets more benefits out of the vitamins in vegetables than in pills, since they're easier to break down and contain more complex compounds.

Part 2
Starting a Cardio Routine

Starting a Cardio Routine on How to Work Out

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Cardiovascular or “cardio” exercise is arguably the best single type of exercise in terms of how well it reduces your chances of dying young since it works your lungs and heart above all else. The most basic types of cardio exercise are walking, jogging, and running, but many other types of exercise have a cardio component as well, including swimming, martial arts, and biking. Try to work at vigorous cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes or more every day. If you can't manage 30 minutes, fifteen minutes is still better than nothing. Less than fifteen minutes has little effect on your health.</ref> A cardio exercise machine, such as a treadmill or exercise bike, may be used in lieu of actually jogging or biking if needed.

Starting a Cardio Routine on How to Work Out

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For example, if you hate running, don’t force yourself to do it. Try riding a bike instead. Other options include dancing, walking, rowing, and skating. Don’t feel like you have to stick to 1 form of cardio. Try a bunch of different options to find what works for you. Consider joining a gym so that you have access to a variety of cardio machines and group classes.

Starting a Cardio Routine on How to Work Out

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Talk to your doctor about how to find your target heart rate. Typically, when you’re working out, you’ll want to hit about 50-70% of your maximum heart rate. This number is different for everyone.[5] Many cardio machines have sensors that will track your heart rate. You can also download an app on your phone or wear a fitness tracker.

Starting a Cardio Routine on How to Work Out

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If you don’t have time for cardio each day, don’t worry about it. You can fit in lots of mini-workouts without even realizing it. For example, gardening is actually considered cardio. Make a conscious effort to add more cardio to your day.[6] Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Go for a walk at lunch instead of sitting at your desk. Park far away at a store rather than choosing a spot near the door.

Part 3
Doing Strength Training

Doing Strength Training on How to Work Out

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Strength training (also called resistance training) works the muscles in your body, such as those in your arms, legs, chest, and abdomen. Proper strength training is done by finding your maximum lift for a given exercise, then repeating a lift at about 80% of that weight to help build strength. Because you're asking a lot of your muscles whenever you lift weights, most experts agree that it's best to alternate your workouts, not working the same muscle group 2 days in a row. You can choose to do all your lifting or strength training on a given day, and skip it entirely the next, or you can focus on one area of your body one day and the other the next. Aim to strength train 3 to 4 days a week.

Doing Strength Training on How to Work Out

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Your core is your torso, particularly your lower back and stomach. This is the foundation of strength elsewhere in your body, so it should be a top priority in any fitness regimen that includes strength training. Standing lifts, such as clean lifts and overhead presses, will work your core, as will sit-up exercises and many others. Your core is more than just your abs. Combine sit-ups, push-ups, planks, and other simple exercises into a comprehensive core routine to work your entire torso for the best results.

Doing Strength Training on How to Work Out

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Lifting weights is one of the most efficient ways to create more muscle. You can join a gym and use their weights and equipment. You can also buy some weights to have at home. Make sure to start low and work your way up to heavier weights.[7] It’s a good idea to talk to a fitness expert to help create a weight lifting routine. Proper form is really important!

Doing Strength Training on How to Work Out

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Next to your core, your legs are the pillars of your strength. Strong legs give you more stability and safety when doing other kinds of lifts, too. Learn to do a back squat. This basic bar exercise is a great way to work many muscles in your body at once. It particularly works your hips and legs, but is also good for your core strength. Start in a weight frame with the rack set at about chest level, and a bar with weights resting in the rack and across your shoulders, behind your head. Look straight ahead and grip the bar firmly, with your hands farther apart than your shoulders. Take one step back to remove the weight bar from the rack. With your feet flat and shoulder-width apart, take a deep breath and hold it as you rest the weight on your shoulders and bend your knees, lowering the bar smoothly. Squat so that your knees and toes roughly line up, with the weight coming down onto your heels. Maintain a straight back and bend at the hips instead. Pause briefly at the bottom of the squat. Push off through your heels and drive the weight back upward, exhaling as you do so. Return the bar to the rack.

Doing Strength Training on How to Work Out

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Though strong arms don't support strength elsewhere in the body, they're still useful and important to develop. There are a variety of basic moves you can do to work your arms. Learn to do a bench press. This is a classic upper torso and arm exercise that's great for building upper-body strength. You'll start by reclining back on a weight bench, with the weight bar in a rack above your head. Lift the bar off the rack and center it over your upper chest, arms outstretched. Take a deep breath, hold it, and smoothly lower the bar to your chest. Pause just long enough to change direction, then exhale and smoothly lift the bar away from your chest until your elbows almost lock. Pause for a second, then carefully return the bar to the rack.

Doing Strength Training on How to Work Out

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You don’t have to lift weights to strength train. You can buy resistance bands online or at a box store. This small piece of equipment can give you a tough workout![8] Try placing the band around your legs just above the knee. Shuffle from side to side while in a low squat position to work your thighs and glutes. Take 3 steps to the left and then 3 steps to the right for 1 rep. Do a set of 20 reps. Place the band around your ankles and do jumping jacks. You’ll get some cardio and tone your thighs at the same time. Jump out and in for 1 rep. Do 20 reps.

Doing Strength Training on How to Work Out

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You can get in a great strength training session with no equipment at all. Body weight exercises use your own weight as the resistance. Try doing:[9] Push-ups Planks Wall sits Sit-ups

Part 4
Trying a Variety of Workouts

Trying a Variety of Workouts on How to Work Out

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Take a class if you can. Though yoga can be practiced in private, no amount of reading online or watching videos can take the place of a good instructor. They will teach you all the nuances of proper form, and give you important feedback on what your mistakes are so that you can fix them early on. Use equipment. Yoga doesn't require anywhere near the level of equipment that weight training does, but there are still some useful items you'll want to have:[10] A yoga mat is a thin, soft mat that unrolls so that you can hold poses on it without sullying yourself on the floor (and vice versa). Most classes require that you use a yoga mat. Yoga clothes can be anything that's comfortable, lightweight, and either flexible or loose enough to allow you to reach positions without being restricted by your clothing. Many people wear special yoga pants and a tank top, but you could also wear such things as bike shorts or well-fit jogging pants. The yoga block is a small rectangular block designed to provide extra support for those still learning positions that are difficult for them. Most people find a yoga block useful for at least some of their positions. Yoga blocks may become unnecessary for advanced practitioners, but they're generally a wise investment.

Trying a Variety of Workouts on How to Work Out

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Choose a sport that you like. Not all team sports are equal in terms of health benefits. At the top of the heap are sports like soccer, basketball, and hockey, that require most players to stay in motion constantly. Less common sports such as crew (rowing on a team), racquetball, and doubles tennis are also excellent in this regard. Below that are sports like baseball, curling, and cricket. Though these sports are very physical and still provide great exercise, they provide it in smaller segments, with downtime in between. Given that all sports are good for you, it's probably best to choose the one you personally enjoy over one that seems to be healthier.

Trying a Variety of Workouts on How to Work Out

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If you're in school, this is easy: even outside of varsity sports, there are often intramural leagues, casual games during lunch, or after-school programs available. As a working adult, the task of finding a team can be a bit more daunting. Check local fitness centers, such as your neighborhood YMCA, and ask about what leagues they offer or know about. You'll usually have to sign up in advance to join an adult sports league before the season begins. Have more sports or other exercises in mind for when the season ends. [11]

Trying a Variety of Workouts on How to Work Out

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Learn about the different styles and choose 1 that appeals to you. There are practically as many types of martial art as there are other sports combined. All of them provide a good workout, so learn a bit more about the ones that sound interesting to you by doing research and visiting classes. Most instructors don't mind letting you sit in on a class; some even offer a free class to new students. In east Asia, martial arts can be roughly divided between “internal” and “external,” or “soft” and “hard” martial arts. Internal arts, such as ba gua, favor circular motions and techniques that redirect force; external arts like karate favor angular motion and the direct application of force. Europe is the birthplace of modern wrestling, kickboxing, and fencing, but also of a number of other, lesser-known martial arts, such as pankration (a Greek art) and bataireacht (Irish stick fighting). Brazil is known for a groundwork-heavy variation of traditional Japanese jujitsu, called Brazilian jiu-jitsu, that has become very popular in recent years due to its effectiveness in cage fighting and general self-defense. Brazil is also the home of capoeira, a flashy mix of dance and martial arts that relies on acrobatic body movements.[12]

Trying a Variety of Workouts on How to Work Out

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Group classes can be a lot of fun! Working out with others can boost the energy in the room and make you feel like you’re doing something fun. Another bonus is that taking a group class can help hold you accountable. You’re more likely to show up if your work out buddies are expecting you![13] Try joining a gym that offers a variety of group classes. You can try several to find one you like. You can also join a fitness studio that specializes in a certain workout, like barre or boot camps.

Trying a Variety of Workouts on How to Work Out

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If you’re just getting started working out, it might be helpful to work with an expert. They can help you create a routine that will let you meet your goals. They can also teach you how to use any gym equipment that seems intimidating. Most gyms offer personal training services, so check out those opportunities.[14] You can also hire a trainer that will work out with you in your home, at a park, or wherever you want!