The 10 Commandments of Working Out
It doesn't matter if you do one workout a week or one workout a day — if you exercise at all, follow these 10 essential rules in order to get strong and lose weight effectively, prevent injury, and love working out enough to stick with it.
1. Thou Shalt Enjoy Working Out
If the exercise you're doing isn't fun or you cringe whenever you think about having to do it, that workout is as good as skipped. Sweating it out shouldn't feel like a chore, so find workouts that inspire you, that you can't wait to go to, and that make you feel good about yourself.
2. Thou Shalt Work Hard
A typical workout is only 30 to 60 minutes out of your day (plus extra time for getting ready and travel), so get the most out of this short time by giving it 100 percent. Push yourself, get your heart rate up, and get sweaty. After an intense workout, you shouldn't still look cute.
3. Thou Shalt Do Cardio
Heart-pumping cardio not only keeps your cardiovascular system in tip-top shape, but it's also essential for building endurance and burning major calories. For overall health, make vigorous cardio a part of your weekly workout schedule for 20 minutes a day, three times a week — up it to 60 minutes a day, five days a week, if you're trying to lose weight.
4. Thou Shalt Strength Train
Strengthening your muscles makes them look toned and defined, and for a double bonus, having more muscle means your body is burning more calories. Include strength training sessions three times a week; focus on targeting all the major parts of the body. Bodyweight exercises are great for overall strengthening, but if you want to build muscles faster, you'll want to use weights. Keep in mind that lifting heavier weights will help you lose weight faster.
5. Thou Shalt Stretch
To prevent injury and keep your muscles supple, always stretch after your cardio and strength training workouts. It doesn't take much time, just 10 minutes will do it. Or commit to yoga sessions two to three times a week to not only keep your muscles loose, but to calm and clear your mind as well.
6. Thou Shalt Mix Up Thy Workouts
Think your brain gets bored going for a run every day? Your muscles do too, which means you're more prone to reach a plateau. Be sure to vary your workouts with different kinds of cardio and strength-training moves, and try new types of workouts at least once a month. It's a great way to challenge your muscles and prevent overuse injuries.
7. Thou Shalt Nourish Thy Body Before and After Workouts
Your body needs protein, carbs, and healthy fats, so be sure to fuel up before and after your workouts with fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, seeds — and don't forget the water! If you're putting in the time to shape your body, eating clean is the best way to build muscle, lose excess fat, and have the energy to keep up with your workouts.
8. Thou Shalt Schedule Workouts
Workouts don't just happen when you have time — you have to make the time. Find what works for you whether it's exercising out at the exact same time of day, pre-signing up for classes, paying a fitness trainer, or planning workouts with friends to keep each other accountable. Take some time Sunday to schedule out the week and write it down in your planner so you know it's as important as any other meeting you schedule. Go the extra mile by doing laundry, packing your gym bag, and getting together any gear you might need like headphones or equipment for home workouts. Planning ahead makes it more likely to happen.
9. Thou Shalt Set Goals and Celebrate Them in Healthy Ways
You set out to go to the gym five days this week, and you nailed it! Now don't undo all your hard work with a celebratory burger, fries, and margarita. Try to avoid food as a reward, and choose something that will help you continue on your healthy path like a new pair of capris, download new tunes or an audio book to listen to on your next run, or buy a new blender for smoothies.
10. Thou Shalt Rest
Rest days are just as essential as workout days. Two days out of the week should be devoted to resting, which doesn't have to mean sitting on the couch watching a Netflix marathon (although those are essential at times too). Your rest days can be active, meaning going for a leisurely walk or hike, a casual bike ride, or a relaxing yoga class. Resting not only allows time for your muscles to heal and rebuild so they get stronger, but mentally taking a break will leave you hungry and ready for your next workout.