Workouts for Women — How to Lose Weight, Get in Shape and Tone Your Body
No matter how hard we try, losing weight and toning our bodies is difficult if we are trying to avoid exercise as much as possible. The thing is — dieting will only get us so far. Unless we finally take the plunge and decide that we will, from now on, focus on increasing our strength and boosting our health — we might as well give up right now.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Women can benefit from exercising, as it will allow them to lead a better life and keep their bodies in top-notch shape. But which type of workouts to choose? Are there some that provide better results than others? Of course! Today, we’ll talk about HIIT and spin classes.
A word or two about core and warm-ups
Most of us live quite a sedentary lifestyle, utterly unaware of what it is doing to our bodies. When our posture is terrible due to always crouching our backs while working, our core becomes weak. The lower back, as well as the hip flexors, suffer, which can lead to chronic pain over time.
So, before delving into exercise, you have to be aware of the importance of a proper warm-up and a strong core. If just one portion of our core is a bit weaker than the rest, some parts of our body will have to work harder. As a result, we can easily strain some areas and injure ourselves.
Our lower abs are the parts we need to strengthen to get strong obliques and upper abs. An excellent way to go about it would be to learn how to breathe correctly first.
While on your back, take deep breaths and feel the air coming in and out of your belly. Place your left hand on it and see how it moves — it should be continuously rising and falling. Do that for a while until you’re ready to engage the abs with each exhale. Don’t worry — you’ll know how to do it. It will sort of feel like someone is punching you in the gut.
This sort of breathing exercise will let you warm up your core, which will then allow you to do more complicated moves and ab exercises. Once you feel you’ve had enough, warm up the rest of your body — stretch out — and then start working out for real.
Nourishing your body — the right diet makes a huge difference
If you’re trying to train yourself through a bad diet somehow, i.e., eat junk food and train like a crazy person — you can stop right now. It won’t work because it NEVER works.
Our bodies need food for fuel, and unless we’re giving them what they need, we won’t even be able to exercise properly. More importantly, creating a calorie deficit to lose weight will be too hard if we’re regularly indulging in things that don’t have any nutrients — just sugar and bad fat.
Instead, why not do something good for yourself and switch to a healthier lifestyle? Here are some tips that will help you nourish your body so that it can not only be healthy but stronger too.
Our bodies are about 80% water, so whenever we cut down on this percentage, either through sweat or by going through the most basic physiological processes — we need to hydrate. If we don’t drink enough water during the day (about 2.5 liters of filtered or mineral water), we might get too dehydrated to function. As a result, we won’t be able to stay healthy or even exercise properly.
So, it’s settled — from now on, aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day. You’re going to need it to replenish the minerals, electrolytes, and fluids you’ll lose while vigorously training.
2. Eat a lot of healthy protein
For our muscles to repair themselves and grow, we need to up our protein intake. Luckily, there are plenty of options to choose from. Chicken, eggs, turkey, fish, dairy, grass-fed red meat, and even nuts and seeds — all of these foods will give us enough strength to go through the workouts and finally get in shape.
Calculate how much protein you need by eating anywhere from 0.6 to 1 gram per 1 pound of your body weight. However, remember to spread that amount evenly — don’t just eat a whole lot of protein in one sitting!
3. But remember to fill up on veggies too
Apart from protein and healthy fats, you’ll also need to consume complex carbs and ensure you’re eating your greens.
Given that veggies are full of dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, you’ll be able to enjoy flavorful meals full of texture and stay fuller for longer. There’s no need to take supplements — you’ll find everything you need in vegetables.
4. Consider taking whey protein
If you’re not allergic or intolerant to whey, this supplement might be worth investing in. Whey protein shakes are fantastic when it comes to building muscle and burning fat. Each one has about or more than 30 grams of protein, so you’ll also boost your protein intake. What’s more, they’re easy to make, packed with nutrients and come in a variety of flavors.
Benefits of using stability balls
Now, before we move on to explaining what HIIT is and why spin classes might be the right choice, let’s briefly talk about stability balls.
Most of you have probably seen these but never had enough courage to try them. Well, we’re here to tell you that you’ve been missing out on a lot. Stability balls are fantastic if you’re looking to boost your endurance, strength, and balance.
By using these while going through some basic moves, such as plank and push-ups, you’ll engage your muscles more and make them burn. Additionally, they’re a great idea if you’ve been injured and are just starting to exercise again. Stability balls will lower the amount of pressure and strain you’re putting onto your muscles and spine.
How you decide to use stability balls will depend on your level of fitness and the workout itself. Some people will be able to go through more reps and sets, while others might need to stop after just three. Either way, if you’re looking to engage muscles you weren’t even aware you had, opt for stability balls whenever you can. They make a huge difference and turn even a basic crunch into a power move!
HIIT 101: Everything you need to know
The main reason HIIT workouts are so popular is the fact that we can burn more calories with them but work out less. Since they’re intense and incorporate interval training, our bodies don’t have enough time to stop the calorie-burning process. Thus, while doing a HIIT workout, we’re burning a massive number of calories, and if we train hard enough, we may even get a fantastic afterburn.
HIIT workouts are also great for both beginners and advanced fitness enthusiasts because there are plenty of options to choose from. With HIIT, exercise doesn’t have to be boring. We can choose a different workout every week and ensure our muscles don’t know in advance what’s waiting for them.
But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the basics and everything you need to know to reap all the benefits of incorporating high-intensity interval training.
How does HIIT work?
The four most important aspects of HIIT are:
- Intensity: You’re supposed to get to 85–90% of your maximum heart rate
- Duration: Make sure each exercise lasts up to 60 seconds. Anything above that will drain you completely.
- Frequency: You shouldn’t strain yourself too much, so 1–2 of HIIT per week will do. If you get into it, you can do 3–5 classes. Either way, remember that these workouts should last about 20 to 45 minutes. An hour is not possible; if you feel you can train more after 45 minutes, you’re doing something wrong.
- Work: rest ratio: This will depend on what you’re doing. Many HIIT enthusiasts use the Tabata ratio. According to it, you ought to work for 20 and rest for 10 seconds, or work for 40 and rest for 15.
Given that HIIT is supposed to test our limits and get us out of our comfort zone, we’ll have to work hard. More importantly, we’ll have to pay attention to the intervals and our heart rate.
Most HIIT workouts are based around work intervals that last about 5–8 minutes. During that time, we should be able to work out at an intensity that’s about 80–95% of our maximum heart rate. In other words, we should be at level 9–10 according to the Perceived Exertion Scale.
Is there something we should pay attention to?
Just like with any other type of exercise, there are some drawbacks to HIIT. High-intensity workouts can feel a bit uncomfortable, and in some cases, we may even injure ourselves, especially if we’re beginners who are just not ready for this level of fitness. So, before starting with HIIT, we ought to train for several weeks beforehand. That way, we’ll ease into this new high-intensity exercise without risking injuries or discomfort.
An excellent way to do that is by:
- Warming up — since HIIT can lead to injuries, you have to reduce that risk by getting a decent warm-up before you start sweating. If you go from 1 to 100 in just a matter of minutes, you’ll likely sprain something or gravely injure yourself.
- Considering the intensity — if it doesn’t feel right or is too much for you to handle, rest more. The more you work out, the higher your endurance will get. After a while, you won’t need to rest as much as before.
- Monitoring pain — if something hurts, skip it and go for an alternative move.
- Doing HIIT once or twice each week — you don’t want to overtrain, burn out, or break something.
- End the workout with a nice stretch and a cool down.
HIIT workouts are intense, so much so that the exertion should and will get to level 9 or 10 each time you exercise. Therefore, you have to rest in between if you want to build up enough endurance to push your limits. If you’re starting with HIIT, take into account your level of fitness and adjust to it. There’s nothing wrong with resting more and working out less in the beginning. You’ll slowly build up to more advanced exercises over time.
A word to the wise — if you’re a beginner, now is not the time to risk an injury.
If you get injured right away, you’ll set yourself back a few weeks and probably lose all the will to train anyway. So, when you start with HIIT, choose simple exercises, and use lighter weights. Additionally, you can also start with a rowing machine or a bike first. You can choose your level of intensity then and work your way up to more complicated moves.
Just remember that HIIT workouts are not a quick fix. They’re hard work and will only be useful if you stay persistent. Also, these aren’t the easy workouts you can do whenever you have some time. They might not feel great, so you may even decide half-way through that you’d like to do something else. It’s OK — HIIT isn’t for everyone. Just try your best and see if the results are worth the trouble.
Benefits of HIIT training
In comparison to other forms of exercise, HIIT training burns more calories and does more for our whole system. According to research, by doing HIIT three times per week for six weeks, you can improve your blood sugar levels and aerobic capacity.
The main reason everyone is raving about HIIT is the fact that it’s better than regular cardio. It has the fat-burning potential necessary for us to burn a lot of calories fast. By getting our heart rate up, and in the amount HIIT requires, we’ll trigger calorie burn and even get an afterburn effect free of charge!
Changes our bodies
One of the best things about HIIT is the fact that the results are apparent FAST. Of course, proper nutrition plays a huge role too. But, with short bursts of intense exercise, we tire ourselves out. As a result, we need to up our oxygen intake, which translates into burning calories even after we’re done working out.
Boosts our mood
According to one study, HIIT can also help us battle depression by boosting both our mood and memory.
Is there a reason NOT to do HIIT?
Unfortunately, there are certain things you have to keep in mind if you want to do HIIT. First of all, the risk of injury is higher due to the intensity of the workouts. The changing intervals, as well as the burn you’ll probably feel in just a couple of minutes, will make maintaining proper form a challenge. Top that off with a weak warm-up, and you’ve got yourself a disaster right there.
The most common injuries are those of legs, for example, tendinopathies, and back injuries and pain. However, that isn’t to say you have to risk it all — you can protect yourself while working out by choosing weights wisely, slowly building up the intensity, and recovering after the workout. Additionally, once you’re done, you can even get a massage, go for a quick sauna session, or take an Epsom salts bath to relax both your muscles and your mind.
Of course, there’s no need to go on a HIIT frenzy if you’re sick or injured. These sorts of workouts will put a lot of stress on your body, which may worsen your condition. Still, this doesn’t mean you’ll have to skip a session if you’re on your period — unless you have severe cramps. While women are on their periods, their progesterone and estrogen levels drop. That allows them to use up carbs and glycogen, break down fat fast, and enjoy a more intense workout.
The dreaded bulkiness — typical with HIIT or not?
Many women are afraid of working out because they don’t want prominent muscles. However, what you might not know is that women cannot bulk up that easily. Since their testosterone levels are much lower than in men, they’d need to work out vigorously every day and eat a lot of calories. Besides, bulkiness depends on our genetic makeup as well.
In any case, if you don’t overload on the calories and do HIIT 2–3 times per week, your muscles might become more prominent — but you’ll hardly get bulky.
Spin class — Is it something you should try?
Indoor cycling is all the rage right now, and many women are taking it up to either lose or maintain weight.
In terms of cardio, spinning is in a league of its own; you have an instructor to motivate you, loud music, and you can even get a bit competitive. That all works in your favor, as you’ll get a better workout and feel fantastic about yourself. During a spin class, you’ll get to do all sorts of pedaling and work on both your speed and resistance. Additionally, you’ll change positions to target different muscles.
In a nutshell, spinning can be defined as a type of exercise that focuses on intervals, high intensity, strength, endurance, and recovery — and you’ll get all of that just by riding an indoor bike.
Benefits of spinning
1. Burns a lot of calories and can help us lose weight
Of course, any type of cardio is likely to help you shed some pounds. However, what makes spinning unique is that it helps with pure fat loss, even though the scale is maybe showing the same number.
Spinning burns about 400 to 600 calories per hour, depending on the intensity and your weight/fitness level. While the scale might not show results, your BMI will undoubtedly change, sometimes even if you don’t adjust your diet.
Spinning also leads to:
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Lower cholesterol
- Higher exercise ability
- Lower triglyceride levels.
2. Doesn’t take up all of our free time
Because it’s a form of HIIT training, spinning also has the afterburn effect. Even 20 or 30 minutes of it will let you burn more calories than running or walking. You’ll consume more oxygen (afterburn is also called EPOC — excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) after it because you’re still recovering, thus prolonging the calorie-burning process.
3. Leads to a more positive state of mind
Whether you decide to cycle at home or take a spin class, you can expect that you’ll feel as if all the dark clouds above your head are gone. Spinning has a positive effect on our mood, and its effects persist even after we get off the bike.
4. Gets us a toned posterior and shapely legs
Given that our legs are what we’ll use the most in a spin class, it doesn’t come as a surprise that spinning can give us toned legs and a perky posterior. Indeed, we use many muscles while we’re pedaling, including gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, and lateral head of the gastrocnemius. Thus, although indoor cycling is mostly cardio-based, it can help you build lower body muscle as well.
However, just because it can work out our gluteal muscles, it doesn’t mean spinning should serve as a substitute for resistance training. Proper squats are still the best thing you can do for a nice, shaped bottom!
5. Great for joints
High-impact cardio workouts, such as running, can put a lot of pressure on our joints. In contrast, spinning saves them, as we won’t be hitting the pavement or anything else for that matter but will get our heart rate up.
6. Makes us want to keep up with it
The spinning community is a rather large one, and with each spin class, whether it’s at a local gym or online, this community grows even more. Thus, it’s tough to give up, especially since accountability is on the table too. What’s more, meeting new people and making friends can motivate you to keep up with it and have someone to look up to for inspiration.
Final tip: What you should know before hitting a spin class
We all want to lose weight and get the body of our dreams. However, overtraining ourselves can hinder our progress, especially if we develop rhabdomyolysis.
When someone has rhabdo, their skeletal muscle starts slowly breaking down. Once that happens, they experience the leakage of muscle proteins, as well as other breakdown products. So imagine it — all sorts of things will get into your bloodstream, including creatine kinase, electrolytes, aldolase, myoglobin, and lactate dehydrogenase.
The result? Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all. Other times, your kidneys might fail, which will put you in a life-threatening situation.
Why are we warning you about this? Well, it’s because spinning could lead to this, and so can CrossFit, long runs, vigorous weightlifting and working out in humid and hot weather. What’s more, the condition usually occurs due to many working professionals going too hard too soon to diminish the effect of an often quite sedentary lifestyle. Interestingly enough, this condition even has a name — white-collar rhabdomyolysis.
In the end, you cannot undo what you’ve eaten or how you’ve lived your life so far with just one workout. You cannot even undo it with ten exercises — it will take time until you build your endurance and strength. So, why not enjoy the process? You’ll reach your goals one day —be patient enough not to push yourself too hard in the meantime.