Copyright 2006 Dan Curtis, M.D.
There are two keys to getting the most from your workouts. If you omit either one of them you might not get the results you expect. But if you do them both, you will have maximum results with minimum effort. And that is what we all want.
First, when you come to the gym, or when you do any workout, you need to know what it is that you intend to accomplish and how you are going to go about it. In other words, you have to have a plan. It doesnt have to be a complicated plan, but you do need to know where you are going and how you plan on getting there.
For example, if you are trying to lose weight, it is vital to know where you are now. What do you weigh? What is your body fat percentage? How much muscle do you have?
It is the muscle that burns up the calories while you are at the gym exercising. And it is also the muscle that burns up calories throughout the day, while you are at work, at home resting and even while you are sleeping. It is the muscle that does this.
So you need to know how much muscle you have now, and you need to keep track of how much more you are developing, to see if you are making progress.
You can do this with a few simple tools. A bathroom scale or the scale at the gym will tell you how much you weigh. You can figure out the fat percentage with a simple, inexpensive caliper.
The Accu-Measure Fitness 2888body fat caliper is an inexpensive tool that has been proven to be very accurate; it is available for about $20.00. It will tell you what your body fat percentage is.
Just subtract the fat mass from your body weight, and that is your lean mass. As long as the lean mass is going up while the fat mass is going down, you are doing well, gaining muscle and getting into better shape.
Second, you need to know what you are doing each workout. If you are walking, you should keep track of how far you walk and how long it takes you. That way you can tell if you are doing better as time goes on. If you are not improving your times or your distance you might not be making the progress you should.
If you are using weights to gain muscle and slim down (and you should if at all possible, because weight training is one of the best ways to lose weight, no matter who you are, how old you are, how out of shape you are, or what you weigh) then you need to know what workout you are going to do each time you go to the gym.
Your program should be written out beforehand, and include the exercises and the number of repetitions that you are going to do. Then all you have to do is keep a log book (a simple spiral notebook works well) and make a quick note as you do each set of exercises.
It only takes a second you write down the name of the exercise, the number of repetitions, and the weight you are using on each set. This is a vital step that many people leave out. But when you do this, you are recording your progress each workout, and you will know from week to week whether you are improving or not. You can flip the page and see how you did last week, and challenge yourself to do at least one more.
If you do these two things, have a long term plan in mind and keep records of your progress, you can have maximum benefit from minimum effort. And you really can lose that extra weight and at last have the body that you have always wanted.