Over the years, I’ve learned that physical exercise is the key to keeping up with my busy life. For me, working out has gone from, “if I get around to it” to, “it has to happen, or I can’t function.” It’s also gone from a purely vain attempt to stay slim, to a necessary outlet in keeping my mental health in check.
That said, knowing the summer is around the corner can’t help but make me kick up my routine. On top of that, my brother is getting married in early September, and I’m the oldest bridesmaid of all time. There’s nothing like knowing I have to go on a bachelorette weekend with a bunch of 20 somethings in bikinis to make me never eat a carb again. But that’s not what we’re talking about today.
As women, our lives are too busy, we are responsible for everything, and our health and wellness tend to take a backseat to every other obligation. But there comes a point when we have to take responsibility and take better care of ourselves. It’s been my experience that shifting your mindset around exercise is key. When you make it fun and something you look forward to, it’s so much easier to create a routine you can maintain. It can go from something you dread to something you can’t live without.
Over the years I have tried every workout possible. There have been more than a few that I’ve hated, but I’ve learned you have to give everything a few times to find what you love. For me, it’s all about the playlist, instructor, and ability to lose track of time. If I can get that trifecta, regardless of the actual workout, I know I’ve found a winner.
Below I rounded up my absolute favorite workouts that you can do, regardless of your fitness level.
Walking is the best things you can do for your mind and body. If hitting the gym or signing up for a class feels overwhelming, walking is the best place to start. It’s also a great daily activity to incorporate into an existing routine. Thirty minutes a day can help you maintain your weight, and does wonders for your mood and stress levels.
If you’re starting to get into shape, start with 30 minutes a day and increase from there. Walking for Weight Loss is a useful app that helps train you through creating walking plans with simple walking and “speed up” techniques. I don’t know about you, but if an activity is tied to an app, I get super interested.
Now that the weather is warming up, one of my favorite things to do is lace up my sneakers and walk a nature trail a few minutes away from my house. I listen to a podcast or audiobook and mentally escape for an hour. I’m always amazed how much better I feel, and I quickly I can regain focus when I get back to work.
Trampoline, also known as rebounding, is an incredible, low impact, high cardio workout, and my personal favorite. With the right instructor and playlist, you’ll spend 45 – 60 minutes moving to the beat and getting lost in the music. I end each class dripping with sweat, red-faced and my heart rate way up. It’s an awesome way to start your day.
There are all levels of fitness in these classes, from super athletes to women just getting started. Because you are on a trampoline, you get all the benefits of an intense cardio workout, but your joints don’t get beat up.
Many classes incorporate light handheld weights, which are impactful but don’t go crazy. The very first class I tried had an instructor that was out of her mind, and she was leaping up and down with a 15-pound dumbbell. I almost killed myself and never returned. Now, I use two small 3 pound weights. Good instructors will pay attention to everyone’s limits, help guide you in deciding what you can handle, and offer modifications if some of the moves feel too difficult.
There are many indoor cycling options these days, and I’ve tried them all. I even bought a Pelaton, which is just okay. Cycling can be a super fun experience. Similar to a trampoline class, you get lost in the movements and time flies. It’s another high cardio, lower impact workout.
Like most classes, it’s important to try different instructors until you find the ones you like best. I’m not a fan of instructors who scream at you. Why would you want someone yelling at you for an hour? I tried it once and left halfway through the class, with tears in my eyes. You also have to like their playlist. No thumping club music for me, I’m as vanilla as they come. Give me some top 40, a solid 90’s mix, or a little old school hip-hop and I’m a happy camper.
The kind of cycle I like best is called “RealRyder.” It’s a lesser-known form of indoor cycling that features a stationary bike that moves underneath you like a real bike. It feels like a natural movement because you are mimicking what it’s like to ride on the road. You control the bike by engaging your core, so in addition to cardio, you’re building your abdominal muscles.
Some studios will have a leaderboard, so not only are you moving to the music but you’re also racing everyone in the class. It’s like being in a video game.
All women should add some strength training into their routines. You’ll not only burn tons of calories, but you’ll strengthen your muscles and bones. If you do it the right way, you won’t bulk up. Instead, you’ll look longer and leaner and feel like a bad ass.
The key to strength training is proper, methodical movements. While most classes focus on speed of execution, strength should be slow and steady. It’s not about how many times you can do a movement but how you properly execute it and build your reps over time.
If you’re new to weights and strength training, consider working out with a personal trainer, or in a smaller group so you can learn the right way to move and get connected to your body. I worked out with my trainer for years. He basically rebuilt my core after I had my last c-section. Because of what I learned, I’m comfortable taking classes now because I understand my body, my limits and know where I can push myself.
One of the great things about strength training is how quickly you see the results. After just a few weeks of regular classes, you’ll see noticeable changes. Aside from the physical changes, I love how powerful I feel in each class. Each session I can do a few more pushups, or bench dips and that alone is incredible for my self-esteem.
Yoga might be the secret to a long, happy and healthy life. It might also be the most intimidating workout option. But don’t let that stop you. Yoga, especially beginner and gentle yoga, is a great place to start, yet still incredibly impactful.
The key to yoga is understanding it’s an evolving journey that involves your mind/body connection. It requires tons of patience, but it’s worth it. You’ll not only gain strength, but increase your energy, better your cardiovascular health and build and maintain your flexibility and balance.
The best part for me is the mental peace. When I am under a lot of stress, which seems like all the time lately, I find myself literally white knuckling my way through the day. I have to remind myself to drop my shoulders and loosen my grip. Sometimes (all the time) I wake up in the middle of the night rolled into a tight ball and have to tell myself to relax consciously. Yoga has helped me recognize my physical response to stress and ease it through breathing and movement.