Not everyone is looking for bulging biceps, to run a marathon or to lose five stone (though if you are, this advice could help you too). Many of us just want a weekly routine that will keep us feeling fit, strong and toned. So I’m going to share a great
workout plan that will enable you to do this. First, some general advice.
Vary your routine
Sticking with the same workout day in, day out is not just boring, it can also lead to elevated cortisol and adrenaline levels. This is a sign that you're under too much stress, and can lead to a weakened immune system.
Try to vary your workout throughout the week by focusing on cardio one day, resistance another and flexibility the next.
How often should you exercise?
On all other days you should do a minimum of 30–40 minutes of moderate cardio exercise, such as a brisk walk, gentle cycle or BODYBALANCE™ class.
For two to three days a week you should perform resistance exercises. Try to aim for eight to ten large muscle group movements such as squats, leg press, chest press and seated row performed for 8–12 repetitions.
Three to four times a week, or after you exercise, you should look to stretch your major muscles. Hold stretches at the point of mild discomfort for 20–30 seconds, for three repetitions.
It’s good to note that some exercise classes you can do in the gym incorporate a mixture of these different exercise groups. For instance, yoga can include a combination of moderate cardio and flexibility.
Now we know the basic rules, it’s time to form a plan. A good weekly plan might look like this:
Monday – Outside (vigorous)
- 10 minutes warm up jog
- 20 minutes running outside (or on a treadmill)
- 10 minutes jog to cool down
Tuesday – In the gym (moderate)
Wednesday – In the gym (vigorous)
- 1 hour Bodypump™ class
- Or a 45 – 60 minute full body resistance training circuit
Thursday – In the gym (vigorous)
Friday – Outside (moderate)
- 10 minutes warm up jog
- 30 minutes gentle cycle
Saturday – In the gym (vigorous)
- 30 minute Mobilise workout
- 20 minutes resistance
Sunday – Outside (moderate)
- 30 minutes brisk walk
Working out your effort level
If you want to check the intensity level of your cardio workouts, a heart rate monitor can be a very useful tool.
Vigorous exercise is 80–85% of your maximum heart rate, while moderate exercise is 50–70%.
To work out an estimate of your maximum heart rate, you simply take your age off 220. So if you're 30, your maximum heart rate would be 190 bpm.
Then to work out 80% of this, you multiply it by 0.80, which would be 152bpm, and to work out 85% you multiply by 0.85, which would be 161.5. So a 30-year-old should aim to get their heart rate between 152 and 161.50bpm for vigorous exercise.
Equally important as the exercise itself is giving yourself a break from vigorous exercise every week to allow your body to recover. Long, unbroken periods of high-intensity exercise can temporarily suppress your immune system leaving you open to illness.
Furthermore, the microscopic tears to muscle tissue that are caused by lifting weights require time (and good nutrition) to repair. Our muscle tissue is damaged when we lift weights and our body then repairs this damage which ultimately results in muscle growth; exactly what you want to achieve when looking to attain a lean, toned appearance.
As tempting as it may be if you’re training for a marathon or a triathlon, for example, to train hard every day, you could be doing more harm than good, so always build in lower-intensity recovery sessions in between your higher-intensity sessions.
Sleep is a big part of recovery too. Try to aim for seven to eight hours a night and turn off your phones, TV, laptops and tablets an hour before you go to bed for a more restful night’s sleep as the blue light emitted by such devices has been shown to reduce sleep quality.
When to avoid exercise
Occasionally you might need a break from exercise altogether. You should avoid high-intensity exercise when you are ill. If you have a cold or the flu moderate-intensity exercise can be continued if symptoms are mild, but you should stop exercising and rest if you have a fever, muscle aches, fatigue or other acute symptoms. Taking a few days to recover will have you back in the gym in no time, whereas trying to train through illness is likely only to make you feel worse.
Last updated Thursday 16 February 2023
First published on Tuesday 20 October 2015