For those of you that don’t know me personally, an important fact to know about me is that I was a competitive dancer for the better part of 17 years (and for a 25 year old, that’s most of my life). It was important to my then because it was how I spent most of my evenings after school. It’s important to me now because I still dearly love watching dance, and because when I was suddenly quit I knew almost nothing about working out.
Obviously dancing for approximately 5 hours everyday was exercise. But when I stopped, I still thought that I could keep all my bad habits and eat the same garbage I was eating (more on diet later this week). I knew very little about being healthy and how to workout outside of a dance studio. I’m not going to lie to you, I’m still kind of figuring it out, but I’m also going to pat myself on the back for a second because I think I found a good balance in my workout routine that is working for me, without spending 5 hours a day sweating my butt off like I was before.
However, I know that EVERYBODY is different and isn’t that awesome? It keeps life interesting. Some people don’t need to workout, others might need to workout longer than I do. That’s why these tips are going to err on the side of “tailor this to fit your needs”. Just find what works for you! But I’m going to break down the different types of training, what works for me, and how I motivate myself to keep going. So let’s dive in!
We will start with a super popular one these days. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been around for awhile, but is becoming HUGELY popular because of a certain little trainer named Kayla Itsines. If you haven’t heard of Kayla, or her BBG workouts, guarantee you will start seeing her pop up all over the place now that you know to look for her name. The BBG craze has blown up all over instagram and facebook, sparking hashtags and support groups and even a few famous fitness stars have come from her group of follows. And I have totally jumped on the bandwagon. She breaks the workouts up into 12 week sections. I’ve done the first 12 weeks before, took a stupidly long break, and am working my way back through them again.
Basically what HIIT means is that you go through a series of workout moves, with a set number of reps, as many times as you can during a set time limit. Not only are the moves challenging, but switching between moves at a fast pace allows you to target most of your body in a short workout. BBG is no joke and can be super challenging, but it also has garnered some awesome results with women of all ages.
What’s interesting to me is that a lot of HIIT workouts only require your own body weight. Since you aren’t lifting huge weights, most people tend to develop more lean, thin muscles rather than bulking up. I think that’s why the trend has become popular with women who tend to want a fit but thin look.
But HIIT isn’t for everyone. If you aren’t interested in muscle definition, this might not be the workout for you. It’s also not for the faint of heart. Mike and I do Kayla’s workouts together and we both struggle. But it does help to struggle with a friend.
Recommended Workout: BBG by Kayla Itsines
Alternative: 52 Card Sweat
Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) cardio usually shows up along side HIIT training to balance the targeted training with some slower and steadier cardio. This can come in all shapes and sizes depending on what you like to do. Swimming, biking, jogging, anything that keeps your heart rate at a steady pace will count as LISS. I’ve heard it called the ‘lazy girl’ cardio, because it’s a gentler and slower approach. However, it can be great for losing weight. Mike and I usually cycle for 30 minutes on our LISS days, which are every other day, falling between our HIIT training days. This is not like Spin class where you are pushing yourself super hard and doing intervals of climbing. This is just finding a difficult pace that you can maintain for a longer period of time.
It’s funny that before I started HIIT training, biking used to kill me and my legs would be jello leaving the gym. Now, my LISS days feel almost like a day off compared to my HIIT days. It’s fascinating how you body gets used to things.
Recommended Workout: Cycling
Alternative: Fast Paced Walking
I tried to love running. I really did. I got most of the way through Couch to 5k before I started getting skin splints (my shoes were rubbish and new shoes fixed my issues almost overnight). But I have a love/hate relationship with cardio. I know that dancing was like 80% cardio and 20% flexibility, but because I was thinking about my routine, I didn’t focus as much on the exercise involved. When I run, I focus on every breath and I always swear that I’m dying. If you are one of the people that looks forward to your morning run every day, I envy you, I really do.
Obviously there is alternative cardio workouts, and I personally can swear by cycling. Not the LISS I just mentioned, but the Spin class type of cycling. I took a cycling class in college and lost nearly 30 pounds in a 4 month period. Probably not the most healthy thing in the world, since I really didn’t need to lose all of that, but I literally changed nothing about my lifestyle. Aside from dancing, cycling is my go-to cardio.
Recommended Workout: Cycling
Alternative: Swimming (I also really want to try kickboxing)
I’ve never been into weight lifting, mainly because I have very little upper body strength, but I know several friends that live and breathe it. And you don’t have to lift a massive amount to do a little bit of weight lifting. Actually, lighter weights with more reps will build leaner muscles. And don’t be nervous to be the only girl venturing over to the weights at the gym. Nobody cares if you are a beginner, because everyone starts somewhere and we are all at the gym to get fit.
I also have a large group of friends that all rock climb together. My fear of heights prevents me from joining them, but it’s a great alternative to weight lifting because you are using muscles throughout your body to lift yourself. And it’s obviously great for your arms.
Recommended Workout: Literally there are a million great ones on Pinterest
Alternative: Rock climbing
Stretching and Strengthening
Literally, this is probably the most important one. If you do ANY type of exercise you absolutely need to stretch really well. Even if you feel like you hardly pushed yourself, doesn’t matter. You need to stretch. This is so good for your muscle recovery and to keep you from accidentally injuring yourself. Stretching is always very important to dancers, so I find myself enjoying this more than most people, I assume.
My preferred method is yoga, after taking yoga in college. Yoga allows you to listen to your body, find your strengths and weaknesses, and really hone in on your form. I’ve found that my posture, balance (ha!), core strength, and flexibility have all drastically improved from adding Yoga to my routine. Mike and I are currently working our way through 30 days of Yoga, and Adriene is incredible! I highly recommend!
Recommended Workout: Yoga
Alternative: Again, so many options on Pinterest
Mentally Preparing to Workout
I’m still working on becoming one of those people that looks forward to working out. I’m not quite there yet, but that also doesn’t mean I’m throwing in the towel either. To make sure you don’t get burnt out on your workouts I suggest finding fun classes to take, or trying a workout you’ve never done before. Maybe now is the time to finally take up surfing. Or maybe it’s time to find your old jump rope from when you were a kid and bust out some old moves. (Do you ever realize how in shape you were as a kid and it kind of blows your mind for a second because you didn’t even think about working out back then? Kids have it so good, I’m telling you.)
You have to continue to make your workouts fun if you are going to stick with them. That’s just a fact of human nature. Bringing a friend will also help you stay on top of your fitness goals. Having Mike workout with me keeps me so much more motivated because I’m not alone.
Kayla Itsines always tells her followers to take mirror selfies. Yep, good old mirror selfies. And guess what? It’s a great idea! When you are seeing your body everyday, you don’t notice how much you are changing. But if you start documenting, from the very beginning, one day you will compare you current selfie with the first one and be shocked at the difference. It’s a fantastic feeling. And hey, every little bit of motivation helps.
Timing Is Everything
Finding your body’s perfect time for working out is essential for good results. I am so not a morning person and literally nothing will make me want to get out of the bed in the morning to hit the gym. But going to the gym at night is also hard because I’m usually exhausted. Since Mike and I have started training together, we go as soon as he is home from work. We like this mid-day workout because 1) our bodies are already pretty warmed up from the days activities, 2) We get it out of the way instead of dreading it all evening, and 3) We usually have the gym to ourselves.
You should also pay attention to how your body feels during your workout. Some days will be better than others, as with anything. But if you body is really not ready to workout, maybe it’s telling you to take a break for a bit.
My main advice after all this is to try a little of everything. Mix it up. See what you enjoy and what gives you the results you are looking for. Maybe a little bit of LISS and some Stretching is all you need to maintain your ideal body. Maybe you want to bulk up a bit with some HIIT and Weight Lifting. There are literally infinite ways to structure your workout and make it your own.
Also, keep switching up your methods, because bodies get used to workouts and need a challenge every once in awhile. If your muscles are sore the next day, that means you did something good for those muscles and taught them something new. (Am I the only one that gets a weird pleasure from stretching out sore muscles? So good, right?)
I’ll leave you with an average weekly workout plan that Mike and I tend to follow. Sometimes we switch it up, but this is pretty typical.
What sort of workouts are your favorites? And how do you continue to motivate yourself?