Here’s the situation in a nutshell:
Our gym has one, solitary Smith machine. If you’re not familiar with it, the Smith is basically a squat machine on a sled mechanism that allows you to “hook” into various parts of the exercise.
It’s a favorite of many gym-goers, myself included because you can do a number of different exercises on it without needing a spotter to help you.
(Personally, I like it for squats because it’s a bit easier on my knees than free weights.)
So this woman, we’ll call her Suzie, parks herself in the corner with the machine and sets up her own little circuit routine.
Side note: I am ALL for circuit training, just not when you’re using a bunch of equipment during rush hour as if you’re the only person in the gym.
The Smith machine is only part of her seemingly endless circuit. She sets up a base camp of sorts and bounces back and forth between several exercises, checking her phone in between sets and generally preventing anyone from using the machine for a good 30 to 45 minutes.
I try to busy myself with other exercises, occasionally looking over to see if Suzie’s going to release this machine from hostage any time soon.
I don’t want to be “that person” who complains to the management. The gym is my sanctuary and I avoid making waves at all costs.
You could say the most outlandish thing to me about your political or religious stance (I’ve heard both), and I’d just nod my head.
However, I got so frustrated (and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who wanted to use it), I even asked the manager — a friend of mine who was 100% understanding — if he could post a sign that says something to the effect of,
“DON’T BE A MACHINE HOG! PLEASE LIMIT YOUR TIME TO X MINUTES SO OTHERS CAN USE IT.”
I even offered to write it for him.
“We can’t do that,” he said. “Why don’t you ask to work in with her?” (This would be awkward beyond belief because no one does that.)
“That would require me talking to her,” I say. “Besides, I don’t want to work in with her.”
“Sorry, but it’s the only thing I can suggest,” he said.
Short of switching gyms (another nearby one has five of these bad boys) I decided to make a change to my own routine.
I have now restructured my workout so I’m using the machine different days.
You can probably relate to my situation on some level.
In my case, Suzie was my workout saboteur.
But you could also face your own “Suzie” in the form of unexpected meetings, family emergencies, or a sudden desire to ditch all activity and instead lie on the couch and binge The Real Housewives for three hours.
You can’t always predict.
But as long as you know the basics, you can make adjustments so the end result is what you want.
It’s like mastering a recipe where you can add a pinch of this or that without ruining the entire meal.
For example, the following is the bare bones of a well-rounded workout routine. It takes into account cardio, resistance and stretching — how much, how often.
Make this guide your overall goal and you’ll be sure to cover all bases.
First, what is this thing, “resistance training,” anyway? The American College of Sports Medicine defines resistance training as: A form of physical activity that is designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance.
That external resistance may be your own body weight (push-ups, pull-ups, planks, etc.), or the use of dumbbells, kettlebells, fitness tubing, sandbags, barbells, buckets of water or cans of soup.
Whatever it takes, as long as you include all major muscle groups (chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, glutes, core) and work beyond your comfort zone a bit you’ll see improved strength and muscle tone.
How often: 2 to 3 days a week (total body)
Reps: 12 to 15
Sets: 1 to 3 (fewer if you’re starting out)
Strive for five to six days a week of 30 minutes of activity. You don’t need to do a full half hour at once; you get the same heart health benefits in three, 10-minute mini bouts of cardio.
If you don’t have time to do a structured walking workout, for example, park 10 minutes from work and you can count the walk each way for ⅔ of your workout. Just add another 10 minutes at some point and you’re golden.
You can also mix cardio and resistance training, but you’ll need to keep moving to maintain a cardio level heart rate.
(Ideally, you want to get in one or two interval workouts as well. But I said I’d keep this simple so I’ll leave it at that.)
Everyday. Yes, I said it. Stretching while watching TV or otherwise sitting around is the perfect time to get it done before you know it.
You don’t have to stretch every muscle every day, but if back pain is an issue, for example, a few daily stretches — takes maybe two, three minutes — makes a HUGE difference. My back muscles give me grief unless I do a few targeted stretches every night.
Specific recommendations depend on many factors, but that’s the gist of a solid, overall fitness regime.
How does your routine compare? Do you fall short in one or more areas and why? Let me know in the comments section below…
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P.S. By the way, if you’d like to get your abs in shape pronto, check out my Total Ab-Firming Action Plan. Your favorite jeans with thank you.
Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.