Working out in a gym or fitness center gives you access to machines, trainers, a pool and other resources you can’t find at home. Personal trainers can be helpful but expensive. To save money while getting the most out of your gym, plan what you’ll do before you get to the gym to help create the best workout to meet your goals.
Aerobic Workout Plan
Depending on your level of cardio-respiratory fitness, you might want to create a workout plan that has you start at a moderate intensity, with your first main to build stamina and endurance so you can exercise longer after you’re in better shape. Endurance, or stamina, is your ability to do exercise over a period of time.
Once you can exercise for 15 minutes or more without taking a break, create more traditional cardio, or aerobic workouts. These are done at 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, which is similar to a jogging pace. Work at the low end of this scale with several breaks over a 15-minute period as you begin your workout plan. As your endurance and cardiovascular strength improve, increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. Make sure you can talk while you’re exercise, or you’re working too hard and might have to stop.
Create a cardio workout plan that uses different machines and change the resistance and incline settings to work different muscle groups while you do aerobic exercises. In addition to treadmills, ellipticals, rowing machines and exercise bikes, add swimming and jogging to your plan, if the gym has those options. Calculate your maximum heart rate by using the correct formula for a man or a woman.
Muscle-Building Workout Plan
If your goal is to build muscle, create a strength-training plan using gym exercise equipment and weights. Your plan should focus on building specific muscle groups (e.g., upper body, lower body, core and back), as well as specific muscles within each group (e.g. biceps, triceps, pectorals). To maximize the post-workout repair process that builds muscles, allow your body to recover for at least 24 hours between workouts.
If you can visit the gym only three days per week, follow a plan that works your total body each visit, but which alternates your body-area each set. For example, work on one upper body exercise, then a lower body exercise, then your core before working on your upper body again.
If you are able to go to the gym daily, your plan should consist of working one or two body areas each day and resting them the next while you work different body areas the next day. For example, your plan could target upper body one day, lower body the next, back/shoulders on the third day and core on the fourth day. Or, you could work your upper body and core on one day, then back/shoulders and lower body the second day. Repeat the two days in order.
Choose weights or resistance levels that allow you to perform six to eight repetitions of an exercise before fatigue or failure, with one to two minutes of rest between each set. Alternately, perform more reps with a weight or resistance level that fatigues you to failure within 90 seconds.
Interval Workout Plan
Many sports, such as tennis, basketball and soccer, require start-and-stop activities that call on the body’s anaerobic energy systems. Unlike aerobic exercise, high-intensity interval training uses a higher heart rate for a shorter period of time. Some of the same machines you use for aerobic exercise are fine for interval workouts as well — just reduce the resistance and incline settings on bikes, rowing machines or ellipticals to help create sprint workouts.
Go as fast as you can on an elliptical for 60 seconds, then recover at a normal pace for two minutes. Sprint part of a track, then walk to recover for the next sprint. Use swimming-lane laps as a gauge for your sprint. Pedal fast on an exercise bike for 60 seconds, then coast for 90. Create an interval workout plan that has you working at a high intensity (80 to 90 percent of your maximum effort) for 30 to 120 seconds, depending on your conditioning level, with 90 to 120 seconds of rest in between sprints.
Never try sprint training without talking to your doctor or other health professional.