Real-Life Type: Trim & Frail
You look fit because you log hours walking, running, or performing other cardio activities. But you’re not very strong, and some body parts jiggle more than you’d like.
Stick to 30-minute cardio workouts three to five days per week. Include at least one routine that uses both your upper and lower body, such as swimming or kickboxing. Try an interval workout, which alternates high- and low-intensity segments.
Lift two to three days a week, skipping a day in between. Vary your workout by mixing upper- and lower-body moves, like squats, then lateral raises, followed by lunges, then triceps extensions.
Real-Life Type: Starting from Scratch
You may be a bit exercise-shy because you haven’t moved much lately. Begin gently and push a little more as you become fitter.
Start by increasing your body awareness and sense of balance. Try a mind/body discipline such as Tai Chi, Pilates, yoga, or free-form dance classes that focus on balance, agility, and flexibility (look for names like Nia, DanceKinetics, and YogaRhythmics).
Improve your range of motion by incorporating regular feel-good stretches, especially for those notoriously stiff spots like your lower back, hamstrings, and chest. Before stretching deeply, warm up with a brisk walk until you begin to sweat a little.
Get used to moving your whole body with walking or water-aerobics classes, or hop on an elliptical trainer, a step machine, a stationary bike, or a treadmill. For four to six weeks, aim for a 20- to 40-minute session every other day, allowing your body a day to recover. Then increase the speed, frequency, or duration of your workout as you become fitter and more at ease with exercise. But avoid pushing too hard. Later, when you’re ready, ease into resistance training to tone and burn more calories.
Stick to activities you know you can do. When you’ve developed a base fitness level, move up to workouts that demand more skill and stamina.
Real-Life Type: Strong & Soft
Even though you put in time at the gym, you’ve got more padding than you’d like. To get more sculpted, you need to fine-tune your fitness strategy. Try eating a little less and jump-starting your exercise routine.
Strive for variety to stay challenged. If you’re walking four miles, try jogging one of them, or do an interval workout, which alternates high- and low-intensity segments.
If a set of 15 repetitions feels pretty easy at the weight you’re lifting now, increase the poundage enough that your muscles are tired before the 10th rep.
You might be slacking off in intensity. Find little ways to make a change, like wearing more formfitting clothes to motivate you to push a little more, or finding a workout partner who will challenge you.
Real-Life Type: Making a Comeback
An injury, a nasty cold, or a tendency toward knee or back pain might have put a damper on your workouts. Unless you merge slowly back into your routine, you run the risk of relapse. (Be sure to get the OK from your doctor first.)
On those days when you’re feeling tired, sore, worked over, burned-out, or unfocused, consider skipping your workout altogether.
Whenever you perform an activity, constantly evaluate how you feel. On a scale of 0 (pain-free) to 10 (excruciating), keep your pain level at 4 or less. If the pain registers any higher, decrease the intensity of your workout, or switch to an activity that’s more comfortable.
Aim to move all of your joints, especially the weak ones, through their full pain-free range of motion.
Don’t take aspirin or a painkiller before your workout, as it might mask signals that you need to take it easy.
Remind yourself that you’ve had a setback and need to take it easy before you can play at full strength again.