Going to the gym is a lot easier at college, since it’s less than a 10 minute walk away and it’s free. Getting there is the first step, but where do you go from there? Knowing what type of workout routine best suits your lifestyle is tough – especially if you are like me and played sports in high school and therefore have no clue how to work out on your own. But when it comes to being physically fit, there are only a few basic components.
Step 1: Cardiovascular endurance
Cardiovascular endurance, otherwise know as “cardio,” means getting your heart rate up and sustaining that heart rate for an extended period of time.
Each person’s ideal form of cardio is different; you have a lot of options to choose from. Choose an activity that you enjoy, so you can tolerate it at least four times a week. Treadmills, elliptical trainers, StairMasters and intramural sports all get your heart pounding and qualify as cardio exercise.
If you are a beginner, start by doing 10-20 minutes of cardio four to six days a week and keep increasing until you reach 30 minutes per session. This is the basic recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Once you’ve made it to 30 minutes, increasing the intensity level is the next step. The harder you work, the more the workout will pay off.
Step 2: Muscular fitness
Muscular fitness is the ability to produce force for brief and extended amounts of time. Weight training is known to increase muscle mass, strength and endurance.
To increase muscle strength, perform a low number of repetitions using heavy weights.
To increase muscle endurance, perform a high number of repetitions using lighter weights.
Try to weight train two to three non-consecutive days a week, doing eight to 12 reps in sets of three.
This applies to anyone trying to build muscle in their arms, legs, abs, and any other main muscle group.
Squats, lunges, calf raises and the leg press machine are excellent ways to build muscle strength in the legs.
“Include both cardio and strength training in your weekly routine but not at the same time,” athletic instructor Susan Henderson, a professor of chemistry, said. “Change your routine periodically to create muscle confusion to get the most benefit from strength training, and always build in time to rest the muscles so they can repair and grow stronger.”
When using heavy weights, allow at least two minutes of rest in between sets. Only about 30 seconds is needed when using lighter weights.
Step 3: Flexibility
Flexibility is another very important part of physical fitness. Stretching is the most common exercise to improve range of motion. Improving flexibility can help your balance, posture and the circulation of blood and nutrients throughout your body. It also reduces muscle soreness and the risk of injury. The most common form is static stretching, which is locating a particular area, extending it to a position of mild discomfort, holding for 10-30 seconds and releasing. For each targeted muscle group, do three to four repetitions.