There’s no need to be intimidated if you’re new to the gym or exercise, because you’ll start out at a low intensity and volume and then gradually bump it up as your body adapts. A beginning workout regimen for women should include cardio to burn calories and develop the cardiorespiratory system, and strength training to build lean muscle and bone density. In addition, regular bouts of static stretching should be incorporated to improve and maintain flexibility.
Women just starting out should shoot for three cardio workouts and two strength-training sessions per week. Schedule your cardio sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and your strength-training workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This schedule allows time for your muscles to heal and recover between sessions. At the end of each of your five weekly workouts, fit in a 10- to 15-minute static stretching routine.
Doing cardio at the gym offers an array of different types of workouts, so you can try them out and select the one you enjoy the most. Most gyms offer treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, stair climbers and rowers. Each cardio machine allows you to begin at a low intensity or speed. Women older than 40, who see natural decreases in bone density because of hormonal changes, would do best to incorporate the machines that involve being on their feet, such as the treadmill, elliptical machines and stair climbers, as they will help to promote bone growth. Begin with 15-minute workouts, gradually increasing the duration as your cardiorespiratory system develops.
Although women naturally possess lower levels of muscle-building hormones, strength training is beneficial because it effectively increases lean muscle, which in turn will speed up your metabolic rate and support a healthy body composition. In addition, it helps to build bone density. A full-body workout regimen for beginners includes the chest press, shoulder press, back rows, leg press, leg extensions, leg curls and crunches. The American Council on Exercise recommends that beginners perform one set of eight to 12 reps of each exercise. Take your time and use a light weight until you’re comfortable with the technique of each exercise. Once you’ve mastered the techniques, use a weight that will make completing eight to 12 reps challenging.
Because of long hours that working women sit throughout the day, their hamstrings, glutes and lower back can become tight. Regular bouts of static stretching will make a significant impact on your flexibility, which in turn will reduce muscle tension, improve posture and reduce your risk of injury. Performing stretching at the end of each workout is ideal because your muscles are already warm. Static stretching involves getting into a position where your muscles are elongated and then holding that position for 15 to 30 seconds.