If you want to get in shape you need to be sure that you get the maximum benefit from the time and effort that you have put into it. Here are the key components of an effective workout.
Warm up and cool down
When starting any exercise it is important to warm up your muscles and gently get your heart and lungs working. The body needs to warm-up first before you intensify your workout. Always, always do a short warm-up at the beginning of any exercise period. For example, whatever exercise you are doing whether it is going out for a walk, run, swim or cycle start out at a slow easy pace and keep it for the first 5 to 10 minutes then you can begin to speed up the workout.
This is one area that often gets left out, but stretching after a brief warm-up can get your muscles ready for the workout. Stretching prepares the muscles for a full range of motion during exercise. When you are stretching be relaxed and do not strain. You should be able to feel a slight pull of the muscle but not hurting. By stretching before doing an exercise you will be able to stride further or reach further, but never stretch cold muscles. This is why it is important to warm-up first. Also, when you complete your workout be sure to stretch out the muscles that you've been using. Stretching both at the beginning and the end of a workout helps to develop nice elongated muscles that look so attractive.
You've heard the old adage that 'timing is everything', well it is important when doing certain exercises as well. Timing is especially important when doing weight or resistance exercises. Whether you are using free weights, a gym machine or your own body weight as resistance, the timing of the lift and lowering must be done properly. The most effort is usually on the lift and should take about a count of two to move through the lift. Pause for 1 to 2 seconds before lowering and lower for a count of 4. The benefit of resistance training is just as important in the lowering of weights as it is with the lifting. All too often people move too quickly through the exercise and they do not get the full benefit of the workout.
Doing anaerobic exercises such as weight lifting, timing and breathing go hand in hand. At first the breathing may not seem natural but after a bit of practice it will. Never hold your breath when lifting weights because this could be potentially dangerous. Lifting too heavy weights is the main reason you'll see people stop breathing. Don't do that! To breathe properly and safely, breathe out during the heaviest exertion as in the lifting of the weights and breath in on the release or lowering of the weights. When doing aerobic exercises like running, breathing should remain fairly easy taking deeper breathes every few minutes. Experienced runners say if you are unable to keep a conversation going during a run then you are going too fast which usually means you are breathing too hard.
Timing and breathing play a key role in the intensity of the workout. A lot of people get a pace going and stay in that pace all the time. This is not really the best way to get in shape, especially if you are interested in increasing your fitness level or losing weight. Varying your intensity during the exercise works best. If you are doing an aerobic type of exercise such as running or walking, start out slow for your warm-up and slowly pick up your pace for a few minutes until your heart rate is about 60% of your maximum heart rate. The maximum heart rate is calculated using 220 minus your age, then multiplied by .6 to get 60% of your maximum. Try varying your workout intensity between 60% and 75% every few minutes. You will notice that your breathing and heart rate will increase as the intensity level increases.
Muscle soreness is a sign that you have been working out beyond your fitness level. The soreness is a result of lactic build-up in the muscle following exertion. Also, if you haven't done your stretching exercises at the end of a more strenuous exercise then you will probably feel soreness in the muscle as well. Cooling down slowly at the end of a workout followed by stretching is a good way to prevent sore muscles.
By following these simple work out tips you'll be doing your exercises properly and safely. Also, they will help you to prevent injury and make your workouts more enjoyable.