Uh, am I doing this whole exercise thing right?

So, I’m pretty in love with going to the gym and getting a solid (albeit quick) workout going, and I’ve kind of got that whole, “Well as long as I’m moving, that’s gotta be good” mentality. While that is great for now, and I’m really enjoying my time on the elliptical and time to do weights, I’m wondering if I’m doing this right.

Basically my routine consist of around 20-30 minutes of cardio, and then 15-20 minutes of weight lifting, focusing on a specific muscle group each day so I never exhaust or overdo each muscle group. For cardio, I’m on the elliptical (10 times better than the treadmill due to it being low-impact) and have been running the Fat Burn program on their, which requires my heart rate and letting me know when I’m going too fast or too slow. Problem is, because I’m obviously overweight and have been out of shape, my heart rate is a little higher than the machine wants it to be. I know the whole “fat burning” heart rate is based merely on the whole 220 minus your age, but I’m thinking weight has something to do with it, no? I’ve been trying to do research on this but haven’t really found much.

The thing is, when I slow down and bring my heart rate down to the level that they state is around the cardio/fat burning level, I feel like I’m not getting much of a workout at all. So my dilemma is should I trust what the machine is and take it easier or do what I feel comfortable with in getting a solid workout, but have a higher heart rate which possibly means I’m not really burning many calories and am causing my body to freak out.

If anyone knows anything about this or has any information about it, I’d GREATLY appreciate it because it’s something I’ve been stuck on and am not sure how to handle. I actually tried the whole slow things down but got annoyed with going too slow and ended up speeding things up a bit for the second half of my work out.

With weights, I’m feeling pretty good on that front. The only question I have on that is how many reps I should be doing with each exercise that is appropriate for a workout. Now, I’m talking about the weight machines and not free weights here. I do reps of 10 but I’m never sure what is too much or too little!

For now, just being active at the gym in working out, doing cardio and weights is enough for me. But these are things that have been on my mind and I just want to make sure I’m basically taking full advantage of the 30-45 minutes I get every day after work to squeeze in my workout.

So yes, for the few of you guys and gals who actually do read my blog, I would absolutely love any advice given to me on this front. I never knew working out could be so complicated. 🙂



Filed under Exercise, Getting healthy

17 responses to “Uh, am I doing this whole exercise thing right?

  1. Not sure about the cardio/heartrate thing, but with reps, my crew coach told us we should do 3 sets of 8 reps each, and that the way we would know if we were doing it correctly is that it would be really, really hard by the 8th rep, as though you couldn’t go on without a break. So you take your few-second break, and then start over. If you aren’t feeling that by the 8th rep, you should try a heavier weight.

    • Awesome, that’s great to know! I will definitely try that out, I like to push myself and feel the burn by the time I get to the final rep. 3 reps of 8 sounds reasonable, too.

      Thanks for the advice. 🙂

  2. I don’t trust what the machine says for anything. They don’t take weight into consideration (unless you plugged it in at the beginning of the workout, but even then I don’t trust them), so I just go with how I feel. You definitely don’t want to hurt yourself, but if you don’t feel like you’re working very hard and you CAN step it up, you probably should! And if you’re intent on basing things of your heart rate, it would be well worth investing in a heart rate monitor. They are very reliable and you can load the info into your computer to track your workouts/progress.

    also – thanks for your comment the other day. It meant a lot and was really helpful to me 🙂

    • Yeah I definitely take it with a grain of salt. I put in my weight and age, and it tells me cals, but like you said, you can’t trust it. 😉 I think a heart rate monitor would be a great idea so I am definitely going to look into that! I definitely don’t push myself because I know my limits, but that whole heart rate thing was putting me at such a slow pace, I just didn’t like not feeling the burn I guess. That being said, I think I’ll stick with my gut and work out at the pace I feel comfortable with, that is pushing myself but not too hard.

      Also, of course! I really mean every word of it; you look amazing and have been such an inspiration for me. ALSO! I totally added you on my blog roll here because I love your blog. 🙂

  3. Annie

    High Intensity Interval Training. Take a boot camp or ultimate conditioning class and you’ll see what I mean. Check out cross-fit, and do lots of burpees and squats and lunges and core work. You can do some light cardio on recovery days, but if you aren’t doing HIIT, it’s a waste of time. Also, lift HEAVY weights, it’s burns fat and without supplements it’s very hard for women to bulk up. Take an omega 3-6-9 every day, and CLA, also add in whey protein and a multi and you’ll be good to go. Also subscribe to women’s health magazine, they have amazing routines. Also read as much fitness stuff as possible: Fit Bottomed Girls, Fitness Magazine, Health Magazine, Jackie Warner at home DVDs, etc GOOD LUCK!

    • I should probably clarify that right now, I’m working with a free gym that is in the building I work in. Basically, there aren’t classes or anything like that, but rather ellipticals, treadmills, bikes, weight machines, etc. Classes really aren’t in the picture at the moment, though that’s not to say it is completely out of the picture forever. I’m working with pretty limited time at the moment, and I’m also very much at a beginner’s stage with a LOT of weight to lose… So I’m not sure a boot camp or conditioning class is something I’m about to jump into right now.. not yet anyway. 🙂

      I will check out the mags though and look into the supplements! Thanks for advice… Definitely going to be working it with the weights as well.

  4. Lindsay Reagan

    I usually stay away from that function on the elip. because of the heart rate nonsense. If you guys have cross trainers (kind of like an eliptical/stairmaster combo) those are the greatest low impact machines I have ever tried. They have an option for ‘weight loss’ and it pretty much does the same as the fat burn on the elip. It increases and decreases resistance and incline depending on which level you set it on. It also gives a pretty accurate count of how many cals your burning.

    Now I get pretty specific on these workouts just based on what my former personal trainer told me. I use to think that just going to the gym is great same ‘hey I’m moving, it’s better than not moving’ mentality. But he looked at me after my first workout and was like is this a joke? You’re not breaking a sweat. He said a key to workouts is push harder a little more each day whether it be including more reps into your weight training or upping the weight each week-you will be SO surprised at what your body is capable of. For example I used to just leg press it on 40lbs. Within just a few weeks I can do 130+ lbs which is still a challenge but I CAN do it.

    So I now see cardio as a WARMUP. No more than 15 minutes if I am doing weight training. It is to get your heart rate going which you shouldn’t let slow down. Go right from cardio to your weight training
    (and a tip: if it’s an ‘arms’ day, make sure your arms are moving during your warm up either on the elip. bars or on your own so they can get warmed up too-if it’s an abs day, leave your arms at your side and stand as straight as possible to tighten your core and warm that up for next portion of your workout)

    Now with weight training I also concentrate on one target area a day just as you’re doing. But like I said with the increase of weight and reps- you’ll be surprised at what you can handle. Now I have NO upper body strength. My strength is in my legs which came from a few years of field hockey but I can’t do a chin up to save my life. So I am still on 20-30 lbs for arms yet way more for legs (this is okay!) The most important thing is to not let one area go. Push to your ability in each target area and your whole body is going to thank you.

    You also want to understand the machines and what they are working. For example the rowing machine- not so much for your arms as it is for you back and should be done on an abs day (abs go nowhere without a strong back). I look for everything and all things triceps (that awesome second arm that waves in the opposite direction you do-it’s my worst enemy). This can include free weights too (which I NEVER ventued over to that side of the gym until recently because THAT is where the boys go and I don’t want to be judged) I just grab some 10lbs while everyone else is curling 80lbs and do my thing. You can google ANY type of arm workout and see what you feel comfortable with and honestly it is sometimes easier than awkwardly waiting around the bubbler for a gym-goer to get off the machine you need to do next.

    I think this is all I had to say? (lol on the word all) I hope this helps 🙂

    • Remarkably helpful comment right here! Seriously, I’ve been told time and time again that doing weights is so helpful for women and really bumps up your metabolism overall. I think I need to give more weight (ha, ha, get it?) to the idea that weight training is great. So that being said, I’ll make sure to make it a priority, or at least more of a priority, as I think I’ve been focusing way more on cardio as of late.

      I’m kind of saying eff it when it comes to worrying about heart rate according to the machine. I’m going to look into my own personal heart rate monitor instead. Alsoooo planning on buying an adjustable free weight set for home, as both Matt and I do weights and it’d be really awesome to have for nights where I’m stretched for time at the gym and don’t get to do as much weight training as I’d have liked.. so instead I can do it at home, which is way easier to do when I have Matt doing it with me.

      I am totally with you on my extra arm friends who seem to never stop waving, even when I tell them to quit it. Ugh, probably the least favorite part of my body. Definitely want to ditch those suckers, so I’m excited to look at tricep exercises!! My lower body is definitely stronger than my upper, probably mostly from carrying extra weight.

      We do have cross trainers at my gym so I think today I will give it a shot. I’m sure I’ll be dying on it, since my co-worker told me it was way harder than the other ones we’ve been using, haha.

      Today is a weight day since I did all cardio last time, and honestly I much prefer weight training to cardio, haha. Thanks again for this comment; it’s epic but so informative so I can’t thank you enough!

      • Lindsay Reagan

        Sure thing! I thought I was just hot stuff at the gym until I had a personal trainer come with me and although workouts vary between people, they all follow the basic concepts. My favorite arm exercise alternates between bicep and triceps which is good to keep heart rate up but give the muscle a break while you move to the next. It’s done with free weights at a poundage of your choice (I usually pick up a 10 pounder) and you start with your elbows up at your ears and one weight cupped between your two hands behind your head. Keeping your elbows next to your head, you dip the weight down below your neck and bring it back up to just above your head really steady. Do that 12 times then switch to biceps. With your biceps take a weight in each hand, hold one upright to your shoulder then in a controlled movement curl one 12 times. After one bicep, go back and do the triceps again, then switch to the other bicep.

        I hope this makes sense and I hope I’m not over-sharing 🙂 I just know what it feels like to be at the gym and see all the scary equipment and get freaked out! (I still stay away from the bench pressers…)

  5. Hey Danielle! I had the same issue when I was going to the gym with the whole heart rate versus workout level. I spoke with a trainer about it at the time and she explained it to me. Basically, if you’re overweight then your heart pumps harder than someone who is at a target weight (common sense lol). She told me that my heart rate range to burn fat would be higher than others because of my weight. She gave the advice to use monitor my heart rate to make sure it didn’t go drastic, however use how I feel as the monitor. It always worked for me 🙂 I would ignore the heart rate (up to a point) and just focus on how I felt my insides were doing.

    • Yeah, I think the heart rate thing is something I’m just going to ignore at this point and do my workout as I want. Enough to get me good and sweaty, but not so much that I’m going to pass out. Yesterday I did this, and also kept switching up the intensity as well, just to keep my body guessing. Thanks for posting this!

  6. Plain and simple – don’t trust the machines. Make sure you’re breathing hard, sweating, and can feel your heart pumping. You should be good with that!

  7. Julia

    TOTALLY buy “New Rules of Lifting for Women”. It explains the entire science behind heavy lifting and how it transforms your body without bulking you up! I would focus on a balance of both, but NROLFW really gives amazing advice on specific routines, even for the novice lifter. Diet though is really key, none of your hard work will show unless you really combine both of these things together. I have a feeling you’re really going to have great success and I think your determination and curiosity is awesome.

    • This sounds like something totally worth getting into. And yes, changing your eating is really the key… I’ve just kept that up and slowly added in exercise and it’s really starting to make me feel great.

      But I am totally going to look at getting this book because I really would like to know what kind of exercises I should be doing both at the gym and at home with free weights.

  8. Becca

    Hey Danielle,

    Was just reading this article and thought of your blog post, particuarly the heart rate section.


    Hope it is helpful/of interest!

    • Haha Becca, this totally answered like ALL of my questions! Extremely helpful and now I know to trust myself and how I feel while working out, to keep up the pace and not worry about what the machine says. Thank you SO much for posting this!

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