Hello, again, friends! Today’s post is all about fall fitness … which may seem like odd timing to you. Why would I share fitness tips before most of the country goes into hibernation for the winter? Easy. By staying active during the fall and winter, you’ll already have great momentum going into the spring – which is when most of us start thinking about getting fit for swimsuit season. You’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the game!
Now, let me start by saying that I am by NO means trained in fitness, and you should always consult your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program. OK. So with that disclaimer out of the way, I thought I’d share a few awesome resources I’ve discovered along my own personal quest for fitness (which is totally ongoing, by the way).
What is often the most overwhelming part about starting a new fitness routine is knowing where to begin. That’s something I definitely have experienced first-hand. In fact, six years ago, I didn’t work out at all. I was still milking the 20-something metabolism, which meant I could stay slim without doing much – even while enjoying a terrible (yet delicious) diet and plenty of caloric adult bevvies. I had joined gyms before but I never, ever went – because when I did, I just beelined for the elliptical machine for 30 minutes, then did some crunches. After a while, that just gets old.
It wasn’t until I started dating my now-hubz that I got more into fitness. He worked out regularly, so often we would go to the gym together after work. While I was finally getting better about actually going to the gym, I was still overwhelmed with it. I’d do my cardio, or go to a Zumba class, and be done with it. I wasn’t doing much toning at all, and forget the big, scary weight machines … I had no idea how to use them!
Here’s what really turned things around for me: I discovered a website called Tone It Up, which is run by two amazing women, Karena and Katrina, who are trainers, nutritionists and best friends. They have these challenges every winter, spring, summer and fall that last 8 weeks and have set workout schedules. I could go online and get a full toning workout, complete with pictures and everything, and bring it to the gym with me. I no longer was relegated to the elliptical!
I started following them in January 2010. The first challenge I did, I lost 7 pounds. They also offer a nutrition plan, which I purchased – and is a big contributing factor to me losing that weight! But what they ultimately did for me is show me that with a plan, I absolutely CAN get fit. I highly recommend you check them out if you’re new to fitness or are looking for something with a bit of structure. They are actually a few weeks into their fall challenge right now, and you could totally start from the beginning. They have a huge following, and it’s a very supportive community.
Beyond Tone It Up, there are a variety of other fitness “gurus” I’ve discovered that I’d love to share with you all.
At the beginning of this year, I set a goal for myself to build more muscle. While I’ve always had fairly muscular legs, thanks to cheerleading and the like, I’ve never had very strong arms. I didn’t want beefy arms … I just wanted to feel strong.
I started reading articles about the benefits of women lifting heavy weights, and how – despite what you’d think – it doesn’t make you bulky. The thought of lifting weights freaked me out, so I found myself Googling weight-training plans and stumbled on Lauren Gleisberg’s website. The girl has a rockin’ body that she’s developed through weight training. She offers a couple 12-week plans that outline what workouts you do each day, including one plan that’s tailored toward using weight machines. The fact that I could see exactly what machines to use and how to use them was super appealing and took some of the scariness away. She also has a 12-week plan tailored toward at-home workouts, though I can’t share perspective on that one!
Her plans aren’t free, but they aren’t at all expensive. You can get the 12-week plan for $12. I think $1 a week is totally doable! She also has nutrition plans, but again, I can’t comment on those.
If you’re still intimidated by mastering weight machines, here’s a tip. Go to your gym when it’s not busy, and just start trying things out. When I first started Lauren’s plan and I didn’t know how to use a piece of equipment one of the exercises used, I’d Google it before I went to the gym. It totally helps to watch a video of someone doing an exercise.
My only complaint with Lauren’s plans is the way they’re organized. She provides a calendar for the full 12 weeks, outlining which workouts you do on which days. Then she also gives you a full overview of each individual workout, including the number of reps you do. At the back of the workout plan, she provides pictures of every exercise she references. When you’re new to weight lifting, you probably know what a bicep curl is, but you may not necessarily know what a lat pull-down is unless you see a picture. I wish she would have put the pictures with the overviews of each workout. I’ve actually made my own little cheat sheets I use in the gym to jog my memory about how to perform the various exercises for each workout, and that’s helped a lot.
Bikini Body Guide
Kayla Itsines, creator of the Bikini Body Guide, is a fitness phenomenon. She’s an Australian personal trainer who has developed a following of literally millions of girls around the world, thanks to her program. Like, no joke, she has 3.7 million followers on Instagram!
Like Lauren Gleisberg, her plan is 12 weeks long. But it’s a totally different style of training. Her workouts are all less than a half hour, and consist of two 7-minute circuits that are each repeated twice, for a total of 28 minutes. Each circuit has only 4 different exercises, and she specifies the number of reps you need to do. If you get through all 4 exercises before the 7-minute mark, you start back up at the top and work your way through them again until your time is up.
Very little equipment is needed – basically just a set of weights, a bench, a medicine ball or kettlebell, and a jump rope. Many of her exercises use your own body weight as resistance – like jump squats or burpees. It is INTENSE. There’s even a hashtag people use on social media to refer to her workouts: #deathbykayla.
Her workout guide is $70. But, again, spread over 12 weeks, that’s less than $6 a week. She offers a nutrition guide, as well, but I’d advise against getting it. I didn’t purchase it, but I read reviews from those who have – and it sounds like it’s pretty common sense. Plus, since she’s Australian, some of the foods she talks about aren’t things we have in the U.S.
I started doing Kayla’s plan this past spring, because I wanted to rev up my workouts with added cardio. Her workouts are definitely more HIIT-style (high-intensity interval training), which gets your heart rate really working and burns a lot of calories.
I’ll be totally honest, I didn’t stick with Kayla’s plan beyond 5 weeks – but not because it wasn’t effective. Five weeks into her plan, the Tone It Up spring Bikini Challenge was starting, and I really wanted to commit to that fully. At some point, I plan to complete the full 12 weeks. Right now, I’m dealing with some knee issues that I’ve been going to physical therapy to treat, so some of her intense plyometric moves will be too much for me to handle. But I’m definitely going to start over once my knee is back to normal!
The before and after photos I’ve seen from women who have completed the full 12 weeks (or more) are amazing. If you stick with a pretty clean diet, plus these workouts, you will definitely see results!
I wanted to give a shout out to a few other resources that have been really great in giving me workout ideas. The first is the blog Pumps and Iron, which is run by a female personal trainer in Boston. She has an awesome range of workouts on her blog, categorized in a variety of ways. Her site is definitely worth checking out.
My second honorable mention goes to Christine Salus, a YouTuber who posts some killer workout videos. She definitely has a major focus on HIIT workouts, and her videos range from quick 20-minute workouts to longer 45-60 minute workouts. Most require minimal equipment, and they are so challenging. The longest one I’ve been able to make it through is 40 minutes, and I thought I might die. Many of her workouts are intermediate to advanced, in my opinion. So if you’re just starting out, stick with her 20-30 minute workouts!
Wow, that ended up being a really long post, and I feel like there’s so much more I could talk about. Here’s the bottom line: Taking the guesswork out of going to the gym can really contributing to your success – and the internet is an amazing resource for finding plans that are right for you. Find a friend who will do the plan with you, and you can help each other stay accountable!
Do you have a favorite workout plan or blogger? Share it with me in the comments below!