Anatomy of the Workout Stages - VeryWellFit

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Anatomy of the Workout Stages - VeryWellFit

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When it comes to exercise, you probably already know the basics. But have you ever broken your workout down and explored each part? If not, you may find that exploring each phase of your workout, from getting ready to cool down, provides a deeper understanding of what a typical workout looks like and the areas that cause the most problems when it comes to being consistent.

Below, you'll learn the anatomy of a workout and get tips and information on how to get the most out of your workout time.

Getting Prepared for Your Workout

Not to depress you, but your workout actually starts well before your scheduled exercise time. This is one fact many people overlook and one reason some people find it hard to stick with an exercise program. The reason is that preparing for your workout is crucial to your success; if you have what you need and know what you're doing, you're that much closer to completing your workout. If you don't, you have one more reason to skip your workout.

For that reason, preparing for your workout is just as important as doing the workout. Start with these simple steps:

Schedule your workout. Carving out time and having it written down in your calendar makes exercise a priority in your schedule and in your mind. Even if you split your routine throughout the day, it's important to have that time set aside just for that purpose, even if it's only 10 minutes.
Plan what you'll do. Some people can wing it, but most of us do better when we know exactly what we're going to do during our workout time. For each workout you schedule, make a note of the following:
What type of workout you're doing (e.g., cardio, strength, yoga, pilates, etc.)
Your goal for that workout (e.g., to build endurance, work on flexibility, build strength, etc.)
How long you'll exercise
Exactly what you'll do during your workout (e.g., running intervals on the treadmill for 30 minutes and 30 minutes doing upper body strength exercises)

Gather your workout gear. The night before, get ready for the next day's workout by gathering everything you need to complete your workout. This might mean packing a gym bag, setting out your workout clothes, cueing up your video and/or getting out any other gear you need (water bottle, snacks, heart rate monitor, sunscreen, etc.). Having everything ready ahead of time will make it much easier to do your workout.
Prepare the body for exercise.

Another important part of preparation is making sure your body is ready for what's to come. That means you want to be well-fueled and well-hydrated. An hour or two before your workout, have a light snack and drink some water. If you're doing morning workouts, try to get up a little early to have some water, fruit or a sports drink before you exercise.
Once you have all these elements in place, it's time to face one of the toughest parts of your workout — getting started.

Getting started on your workout is probably the most critical time in your entire routine. It is here that you're faced with a choice — are you going to do your workout or not? Are you going to drive to the gym or drive home? Are you going to get up and exercise or hit the snooze button? It is at this moment that you're most vulnerable to that sly voice in your head, that part of you who'll do anything to get out of this workout.

If you followed the steps in Step 1 and did all your preparations, getting started will be a little easier for you. After all, your workout is scheduled, you know what you're doing, you have what you need to do it and your body is fueled and ready to go. You're running out of excuses to skip this workout.

But, don't worry, that voice in your head will find some.

The thing is, most of us end up mentally wrestling with ourselves, wondering will we or won't we? It's this mental wrestling that sucks energy and focuses away from something you already committed to doing. There are a number of reasons you may try to talk yourself out of exercise, but I think the main issue is fear. Maybe you're afraid the workout won't go well. Maybe you're afraid you won't finish or that it will hurt. Whatever fears you have of the coming workout, that voice inside your head will take advantage of that and try to wheedle you into giving up by saying things like:

You're tired, why don't you do this tomorrow when you're well-rested?
You've worked so hard today, wouldn't it be nice to just go home and watch TV?
You know the workout's going to suck, why even bother?
You haven't even lost any weight, so obviously this exercise thing isn't working.
Do you really need to spend time exercising when your sock drawer is in such chaos?
Know any other ones? If you're like me, you could probably make a nice long list of excuses to skip your workout and, though you may not be able to get rid of this voice entirely, knowing it's there and how to deal with it is crucial for making the right choice. Use these tricks for making it easier to get started with your workout:

Make up your mind. One way to silence the voice is to simply make up your mind that you're going to workout, no matter what. When you fully commit to what you're doing, it's easier to shut that voice down and just get moving.

Negotiate. Rather than go through the argument (will I or won't I?) commit to simply warming up. This tactic works well to motivate yourself on days when you feel tired — simply promise yourself you'll do a nice long warm up and if you still don't want to exercise, you can stop. I guarantee you'll keep going most of the time.

Bribe yourself. Another way to get yourself going is to promise yourself a little something for your hard work. Decide that if you complete your workout, you'll get to watch your favorite TV show, spend some time reading or start planning that weekend getaway you've been thinking about.

Figure out the worst thing that could happen. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen if you go through with your workout. Failure? Feeling tired? Not finishing your workout? Being miserable? Remind yourself that the real worst thing is not trying at all.

Take action. When you're in a mental argument with yourself, do something active to get on the right track. If you're lying in bed trying to figure out if you'll get up and exercise or not, get up and put on your workout clothes or do some light stretching. Whatever your mind is doing, point your physical body in the direction of your workout and you may find you're on the right track to getting started.

If you've made it to this part of your workout, you've already achieved success, having dealt with the mental obstacles that stand in the way of your workout. The warm-up is your chance to focus on the physical, namely, getting your body ready for the workout to come. For this reason, the warm-up is an essential part of your workout, not just for your body, but for your mind. Warming up is important for a number of reasons including:

It warms the muscles and increases body temperature, which improves the oxygen supply to the body
It helps increase blood flow to the muscles, allowing them to contract and relax more quickly
It helps prepare the body and the mind for more strenuous activity
It may help reduce the risk of injury
It may increase overall exercise performance
It increases the elasticity of the ligaments, tendons and other connective tissues
There are different ways to warm up and they're often classified into three categories: passive, general and specific. With passive warm-ups, you raise the body's temperature by doing things like sitting in a hot tub or taking a hot shower. General warm-ups involve increasing the heart rate and body temperature by just moving the body around. Specific warm ups mean you do similar movements to the exercises you'll be doing. Any of these can work and what you choose will often depend on what type of exercise you're doing. Passive warm-ups (like taking a hot bath) can be a good choice for gentle activities such as stretching or yoga workouts.1 For other types of workouts, you may want to choose more specific activities.

Warm-ups for Cardio Workouts. For cardio workouts, it's best to stick with lighter versions of the exercise you'll be doing. For example, if you're running, you might start with a few minutes of light walking, move into a slow jog and then into the workout. If you're doing an aerobics workout, you might start with low-impact moves (step-touches, grapevines, marching in place, etc.) before you move on to more vigorous activities.

Warm-ups for Strength Training. For strength workouts, you can either do a general warm-up (e.g., do a few minutes of light cardio) or a specific warm-up where you do warm-up sets for each exercise. In that case, you might do one set of the coming exercise with lighter weights before you reach for the heavier weights.

Whatever type of warm-up you choose, use the following tips for getting the most of your warm-up:

Warm up for about 5-10 minutes. How long you warm up will often depend on what you're doing and how much time you need to transition into exercise. For example, if you're working out on a cold day or doing a very hard workout, you may need 10 or more minutes to warm up. If you're doing a light workout or you're already warm from doing other activities, you may need just a few minutes.

Stretch if you need it. There's some controversy over whether to stretch before or after your workout. I often recommend that my clients do the bulk of their stretching after the cool down. But, if you have chronically tight muscles (like your lower back or hips) doing a few stretches beforehand may make your workout more comfortable.
Take your time. The idea is to warm up gradually. Allowing your heart rate and respiration to increase slowly will make the transition into your workout easier and give your body time to prepare for what's to come.
Once you're through the warm-up, it's time for the next phase, The Workout. It is here where you'll ramp up the intensity and begin to challenge your body and mind.

The "workout" part of your exercise routine is, of course, where you set your focus and start working towards your goals. That makes this the most important part of your workout. Below, you'll find information about different types of workouts and the elements of each.


When it comes to cardio, you might have a number of goals, but the most common are conditioning the heart and burning calories for weight management. The elements you want to have in place for cardio exercise include:

Type of exercise. The type of exercise you choose will be based on your fitness level, what you enjoy and the equipment you have available. For beginners, walking might be a good place to start. Any activity that uses the large muscles of the body (e.g., the legs) and allows you to get your heart rate up counts, so choose what you enjoy.

Exercise intensity. Another element to determine is how hard you want to work. You can measure intensity by using your Target Heart Rate, perceived exertion or other methods. Different types of workouts include:
Continuous training. This type of workout would be like walking or jogging at a medium pace for 20-60 minutes. This type of workout is good for building endurance and conditioning the body. Example: 45-Minute Cardio Endurance Workout

Interval training. This workout involves alternating high and low-intensity bouts of exercise and helps to improve aerobic power and burn more calories. This is a great way to begin a running program (by alternating walking and running) or to boost endurance quickly. Example: Beginner Interval Training

Circuit training. With this type of workout, you cycle through a series of moves, one after the other, with little or no rest in between. This is great when you're short on time and want an intense workout. Example: Advanced Cardio Blast Workout
Exercise duration. How long you exercise will, again, depend on your goals, fitness level and how much time you have. For most goals, you want to shoot for at least 20 minutes, but having a variety of workouts is a great way to keep your body challenged.
Whatever workout you choose, make sure you:

Have a purpose. Don't just go through the motions but figure out what you're trying to accomplish. Do you want to go faster than you did before? Go longer? Make sure your workout meets that purpose.

Variety. Schedule workouts of varying intensities (try an interval workout one day and an endurance workout the next) and different activities to keep yourself challenged.

Check in with yourself. Don't just zone out but, instead, check in with yourself throughout the workout to see how you're doing and if you're working at the right intensity.


Source: Anatomy of the Workout Stages - VeryWellFit


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