The Importance of Effective Workout Plans for Women
Have you ever tried to follow a workout plan with your husband only to find that your results and ability to follow through differed wildly? You’re not alone. Men's and women’s bodies are incredibly different, and therefore the way we approach exercise should also be very different.
Like it or not, the fluctuating hormones we experience as women throughout the month make things more complicated when it comes to exercise. While men have relatively stable hormones throughout the month, women’s hormones fluctuate wildly. That means our workout programs likely need to look different as well.
An effective workout program for women should include weight training (a.k.a. strength training), everyday movement like walking, and restorative exercises like stretching. Most women think that cardio exercise is the most important. But in fact, long-duration cardio activity can actually work against our goals, especially for fat loss and building lean muscle.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that cardio boosts hunger in women. That’s why women who do lots of cardio often get into this unending cycle of training harder, eating more, feeling more fatigued, and getting fewer results. Sound familiar?
If you’re ready for a more effective way to get in shape, stay in shape, and feel amazing - without spending your life in the gym - you need a workout plan - designed specifically for women - that includes nine essential elements.
9 Key Elements of the Most Effective Workout Plans for Women
1. Healthy Diet
Another study of the effects of diet alone, exercise alone, and diet plus exercise found that diet plus exercise has the most significant impact on weight loss, while exercise alone is insignificant. In other words, a healthy diet is the foundation of an effective workout plan.
Adult women’s bodies are approximately 55% water. And it takes 1.5 to 2 liters (51 to 68 fluid ounces) of water a day just to replace normal fluid loss due to respiration, elimination, and normal sweating. (Source: National Library of Medicine) That doesn’t account for the fluids lost during our workouts.
Did you know that a sweat loss of 2% of our body weight significantly reduces physical and mental performance? And losses of just 5% can decrease performance by 30%? (Source: Sports Cardiology BC)
So hydration is a cornerstone of an effective workout plan for women.
Adequately challenging our muscles is a hallmark of any fitness routine. And physical activity increases our muscles’ need for oxygen, which results in that breathless feeling you have after an intense workout.
Adequately challenging our muscles also results in a burning sensation in our muscles. That burning feeling is caused by a buildup of lactic acid, which is a byproduct of the energy used by our muscles during an effective workout.
An effective workout will raise your body’s temperature and may cause you to sweat. If you’re not feeling warm, you’re not at the right intensity in your workout.
As you progress through your workout, your extremities (arms and legs) and weights (if you’re using them) should begin to feel heavier.
7. Leisurely Movement
Regular movement (not exercise) is imperative for lowering stress and activating our fat-burning hormones. It’s also great for mental health. Walking, dancing, swimming, golfing, gardening, horseback riding, and doing home improvement projects are all great examples of leisurely movement activities.
Our muscles need time to recover after a workout. So an effective workout plan will include rest days for adequate muscle recovery.
Research shows that stretching improves flexibility and range of motion, improving your performance during physical activities and decreasing the risk of injuries. (Source: Mayo Clinic) Effective workout plans for women should promote your fitness goals while minimizing the risk of injuries.
Now that you know the key elements of an effective workout plan, you may be wondering…
What’s The Best Workout Plan for Me?
We’ve got you covered with effective plans for beginners, weight loss, and everyday maintenance.
Women’s Workout Plans for Beginners
For those beginning to exercise for the first time, just getting into a regular moving pattern like daily walks, slow stair walking, easy hiking, or rhythmic movement like dancing can be wonderful. Consistency matters more than anything.
Many times women think that they need to have a complicated plan to get started, OR they think that they have to “work up” to weight training by doing lots of cardio. This is completely incorrect. You do NOT need to incorporate lots of cardio into your routine. In fact, with proper fat-loss-focused weight training, you will experience plenty of cardio exercise.
Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself with weights. Cute little pink weights that look like they were designed for children are ultimately not ideal for building muscle or losing fat. Unless you’re injured, choose weights that truly challenge you.
It can be intimidating to start weight training. Start with a few exercises that challenge your entire body, like squats, modified push-ups (on knees), lunges, and rows. Aim for 2 to 3 days per week of weight training. If weights are too challenging to start, almost any exercise can be done using bodyweight only. Just start!
We also encourage walking or other movements most days of the week. Walk inside, outside, with a friend, around Costco, or anything!
Be sure to stretch those muscles regularly with simple stretches for the hamstrings, hips, chest, and shoulders.
Understanding and practicing proper form is imperative to prevent injury. If you’re unsure of the proper form, be sure to watch instructional videos and watch yourself in the mirror to confirm your form is not compromised. It’s better to start slower and simpler and avoid injury.
Workout Plans for Women’s Weight Loss
Women talk about losing weight all the time. At Momsanity, we feel that the number on the scale has ZERO to do with your fitness level or physique. In fact, sometimes women get fit and weigh MORE while fitting into smaller clothes and rocking a leaner physique. Let’s dump the scale m’kay?
Our focus is on FAT loss. You must keep the muscle on your body and likely build even more. A toned, lean physique is what most women want, but they go about achieving it in all the wrong ways.
First of all, you can't out-train a poor diet. That means you cannot use exercise as a punishment or solution to overeating. It will leave you beating your head against the wall!
Now that we got that out of the way, how do we achieve this physique?
Weight training. It’s got to be front and center. Lift challenging weights 3 to 4 times per week. Your body WILL change, and you will be stronger in the process. Muscle burns more calories at rest, and when you lift weights effectively, your body will burn fat for HOURS after your workout is over.
Weight training should accomplish the following “Bs and Hs”
Breathless: Even though the exercises are not “cardio,” you will achieve a breathless response when challenged accurately.
Burning: Appropriate weight selection will elicit a burning sensation in the muscles.
Hot: You should feel sweaty or at least a sensation of warmth.
Heavy: Your weights should begin to feel heavy as you complete multiple sets during your workout routine.
Walking or Leisure Movement: It might sound unimportant, but we all need to engage in regular daily movement (not exercise). Walk while talking on the phone, with a friend, spouse or child, or while catching up on your favorite podcast. You can also very slowly walk your stairs at home. This is NOT power walking or running. It’s slow and leisurely. Consider a pace of 2.5 to 2.8 on the treadmill.
Rest: You NEED to rest. Do NOT lift weights or run every single day. It’s not good for your goals.
Stretch: Take time out of your day to stretch your body or work a range of motion activities like hip circles, arm circles, and arm swings.
Women’s Everyday Workout Plan
Need some ideas to get started? This is NOT a prescription, but a great idea to get started.
Monday: 20-minute full body workout with weights and 20-minute walk
Tuesday: 45-minute walk with a friend and lower body stretches
Wednesday: 10-minute upper body weight training workout and a walk with the family
Thursday: Slow walk stairs for 20 minutes, then upper body stretches
Friday: 15-minute lower body weight training workout and garden work
Saturday: Leisurely hike with the family
Sunday: Slow stretching while watching t.v. and a nap!
Need more guidance? Check out our Momsanity Sisterhood, where we offer FULL-length effective weight training workouts that help you achieve the Bs and Hs in the comfort of your home with very minimal equipment using our easy website or exclusive app. Your workouts are right at your fingertips! Just push play and stop thinking about what to do!
Our sisters enjoy access to coaches Debbie and Emily, monthly prizes as a reward for exercising, and exclusive discounts and opportunities.