One of the most common fitness questions, especially during this time of year, is:
“What the heck is the best workout for me?”
The overly simplistic answer is: “The workout you enjoy most, can do on a consistent basis, and that provides you with the fitness results you want.”
The actual answer is a bit more complicated, especially if your exercise experience is limited.
There are literally 100′s of different workout options available to the typical person. Many people, especially fitness beginners and “newbie” exercisers, feel overwhelmed when they look at all the different types of exercise, workout equipment, gyms, classes, DVDs, books, gadgets, etc. etc. Confusion and frustration can easily set in, which is not good when you’re looking to get motivation-boosting results quickly!
So, what really is the best workout for you?
Obviously, the correct answer to this question depends on a lot of things. Your personal fitness goals, current conditioning level, unique personality, time schedule, location, and available resources — along with dozens of other factors — combine to determine which types of exercise are “best” for you.
If your primary goal is just fast fat loss/weight reduction, you’ll probably want to go with a workout that involves both cardio exercise and resistance training. A good low-cost example is bodyweight circuit training. It combines simple equipment-free exercises (e.g. free squats, push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, etc.) with higher-intensity cardio training (e.g. wind sprints, jumping rope, or box jumps).
Workouts like yoga and Pilates are great and provide many health benefits but they usually aren’t the best for burning calories and losing body fat asap.
If you’re not in a rush, a very good workout-selecting method is to try out something new every week for a couple of months and see which options you like best. Buy 1-day or 1-week passes at local gyms, follow free workout videos on YouTube, hit up friends and family members for “guest” passes to their exercise studios, borrow home workout DVDs, try out a friend’s new elliptical trainer… basically try everything you can get your hands on!
Example: one week you try walking/running on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day… the next week you do 25-minute bodyweight circuits at the park… the next week you try “exergaming” workouts on the Wii Fit or Xbox Fitness… the next week you go to your friend’s Zumba class at a local gym… the next week you give CrossFit a try… and so on and so on until you’ve figured out what you enjoy the most.
By the way, it’s not a bad idea to constantly change up your workout routines anyway. It’ll keep you from getting bored, help to prevent exercise “burnout,” and possibly even help prevent injury over the long run. (That being said, real world limitations and convenience leads most of us to sticking with one or two primary workouts — and that’s just fine.)
The biggest mistake most people make is trying to force themselves to do workout they really hate to do. This is how you “train your brain” to hate exercise and it’s one of the biggest reasons why so many people end up giving up on new fitness programs!
If running on a treadmill hurts your knees and/or bores you to death — don’t do it. Make the effort to try out some new things and find out what you truly enjoy. Good, effective workouts make you feel good and make you want to do them again in the near future. Great workouts lead to the kind of “exercise addiction” that, in turn, leads to dramatic fitness improvements and permanent healthy habits!
Recently, one of our favorite fitness blogs — Fit Bottomed Girls – created a “decision flowchart” anyone can use to help choose their next workout. It’s pretty good. Click the image below to see the whole thing…
More good stuff below:
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Photo credit: portofsandiego