When I go to the gym for a workout, I always have a plan or a specific goal for that day. As I wander around during rest periods, I can’t help but notice how most people aimlessly go about their workouts. They jump from machine to machine, not paying attention to whether the machine is for upper body or lower. Others will be on their cell phones or texting friends during long rest periods.

These are all clues that they are lacking a plan.

To develop a plan, you must have goals that you want to accomplish: both short-term and long-term. Short-term goals can be as simple as wanting to lose 10 pounds in 4 weeks, or wanting to gain muscle tone. A long-term goal might be running your first marathon in 6 months, or wanting to improve your overall health because you have some conditions that your doctor said need to be addressed.

Once you have a goal in mind, the next item to consider is how to set up your workout plan. It is always best to consult with a qualified trainer to help set a plan into motion – especially if you are just beginning a workout regimen. Following are some helpful guidelines:

1. If losing weight is your goal, your workout program needs to be set up so that you are doing low weight and high repetitions. Also, your rest periods need to be no longer than 30 seconds. This can be done one exercise at a time or in a circuit of four. Burst training is another popular method to jump start weight loss and is done with a rower, elliptical, sled, bike or treadmill. This is done in bursts of 30 seconds at high intensity followed by a recovery of one minute, not allowing your heart rate to drop down too far, but enough to be able to carry on to the next burst.

2. If getting stronger is your goal, then your program needs to be set up so that you are doing moderate to heavy weight and low repetitions with at least 1.5 minutes of rest between sets. You can alternate days between upper and lower body, or work out the entire body with a rest day in between.

3. If you have orthopedic issues and need to get back into shape, it is always best to be guided by your physical therapist so that they can communicate with your trainer on the best program for you.

4. If you don’t want to work out with a trainer and would rather do it on your own, then remember safety first. Don’t underestimate the weights by lifting too much; do free weights versus machines because of the posture benefits you will receive; always watch your form; and never be caught bending from your back or rotating to one side while in a flexed position, as this could cause a back injury.

Just remember, it is always best to have a plan before attempting an exercise program so that you are assured of reaching your goals!

Michael K Butler is co owner of Kinetix Health and Performance Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 200.1719 or michael@kinetixcenter.com.

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