There are a lot of options when you are looking for workout programs for women. Most women aren’t really looking to build muscle. They may be looking for a weight loss program but most women want an exercise program that is right for simply toning up. If this is you – and it probably is, there are some pretty important things to check out before you start.
Some ready-made programs are often a good bet for women because they offer a lot of cardiovascular work which has advantages of increasing your cardio fitness level – and increasing your overall health. Workout programs which focus on cardiovascular fitness are usually high-energy sets that also help you lose weight.
These out-of-the-box options usually also include a good deal of muscle work which helps you tone up the muscles you have – and increase your muscle strength which adds to stability. Increasing your core strength and balance can help you avoid injury in normal activities. We don’t like to think about it too much – but women have to do a lot more work than we used to. Mosst women have to go to work at an outside job, do some of the “man” stuff – like car maintenance, carry in the groceries, do lawn work – and still do all the “woman” stuff – like taking care of the housework and kids.
This puts a lot of stress on a woman’s body – and though it might not be you, a lot of women suddenly look up and find they are fatigued, gaining weight and way out of shape. The key to getting back into shape is really to “start low” and “go slow”. This means easing into a workout routine so that you don’t hurt too much and overwork in the beginning. You should enjoy how you feel after a workout – not dread doing the next one.
Classes are often the best route to go, especially for women who are often looking to be a little more sociable than men. Classes or pre-made exercise programs such as videos or dvds that you can use at home offer some real advantages such as
An enthusiastic leader – if you find an exercise program whose leader is not enthusiastic and making it look fun, look elsewhere for a class. Whether male or female, the leader of a fitness class should enjoy the program and enjoy teaching it. They should be supportive and help you out if you are struggling.
Other people – exercise classes and even videos have other participants who are at varying levels of expertise. Some will be operating at full-speed, but some will be regular people who are just beginners. This gives you, no matter what your fitness level, someone else to identify with or commiserate with – whichever attitude you need to take.
Music – most of today’s exercise programs are set to fun music. Many of the programs use a calypso or rock beat which is easy to move to and dance to – making the program fun and enjoyable. If your mind is on the music, it will be easier to forget that it may be hard.
Variable difficulty – a good exercise program or class will have full-speed exercises that may be complex, but will offer some lower intensity modifications for the beginner or intermediate level. As you become more adept at the program and increase your fitness level, you can speed up your own routine and will find yourself able to keep up with the best sooner than you know.
Variety – this goes for both the exercise program itself which should be a change-up periodically or even vary enough within the class or from week to week. Variety means that you also have a choice – that you don’t have to stick with a particular type of program if you don’t like it. Even if you have ordered a DVD – you can usually find another one for a fairly minimal cost and your choices in specific type of program are nearly endless.
Most of these programs offer both classes that can be found at a local gym or fitness center, but also online or DVD based programs that you can use in your home.
Zumba is a commercial fitness routine that combines aerobic exercise and dance into a routine. It is set to a Latin beat and includes dance styles like salsa, mambo, merengue and even hip-hop but it also works in martial arts activities. Zumba is a nation-wide company with offerings on the internet but also has a number of totally Zumba fitness outlets – and teachers that are “certified” by the Zumba company.
Zumba has programs for everyone – from the regular Zumba program to specific classes for kid, elderly people both in and out of a chair, and even “Kosher Zumba” which focuses on “women-only” movements and music that are not sexual in content and don’t have explicit lyrics.
Boxing has traditionally been considered a “man’s sport” but boxing has developed quite a bit from the image of “Rocky”. First – there are a lot more women boxers than there used to be so the stereotype doesn’t fit as well.
In addition, boxing has moved into the fitness arena in that you don’t have to be a boxer in order to enjoy and benefit from a boxer workout. Boxing training is hard-core, fast paced cardio exercise that also takes a lot of muscle endurance. If you can keep up – and most women can – you can tone your muscles and lose weight at the same time. You don’t really have to start at full speed but can work up to it as you get more fit.
You also don’t have to wear any special gear, your regular fitness clothes will do. Boxer movements have also worked their way into a lot of other fitness programs that use martial arts as one of the foundations – such as kick-boxer routines
Kickboxing has been growing in popularity over the last decade or so. It combines a boxer’s movements with some more Asian type martial arts movements. While kickboxing itself is a contact sport, the routine is not. It is usually set to fun music and provides a great workout for both the heart and respiratory system – but also for the muscles and you tend to use all of them.
Kickboxing is a type of martial arts focused on combat training based on kicking and punching movements. It was developed from both boxing and Asian martial arts practice and is designed for self-defense or as a contact sport but has been widely used for development of general fitness.
Kickboxing is also one of the major foundations for other programs such as Tae Bo and is even seen a little bit in Zumba and celebrity programs such as The Biggest Loser.
Tae Bo is a national craze. Developed by a boxing and martial arts champion, it combines boxing, kick-boxing and fun. Works both large and small muscles along with balance and cardio fitness. It has been made popular through a lot of infomercials and features on news shows and it is a big commercial company. Fitness leaders who claim to be “Tae Bo” instructors have to learn the program from thee company themselves which means if you are taking a Tae Bo class – you are getting a Tae Bo instructor who knows the program. Tae Bo is one of the best workout programs for women – but it is great for men too so you can take your partner along if you so choose.
Yoga and Pilates
Yoga is not what it used to be – the meditation and weird music is mostly gone. Today’s yoga programs aimed at fitness still use the poses and a lot of the exercises are static. Most people aren’t aware of how much muscle strength it takes to maintain the poses so yoga should not be discounted as not being “real exercise” – it is. It also helps with flexibility and “lengthening” of the body which helps to produce a graceful and willowy look that a lot of women envy.
Pilates was created by a guy that was named…you guessed it…Pilates. His program was intended to be proprietary but the name “Pilates” is now considered a generic term. Pilates workouts focus on core strengthening and sometimes involve other gear such as “Pilates balls” and equipment which helps to increase the strength of your abdominal muscles.
It does tend to be slower, but never think you aren’t getting a good workout. Breathing is still emphasized – mainly in the exercises themselves which helps to ensure oxygenation of body tissues. This means that you might (we say might, not will) not be as tired and sore after a workout.
One thing to know about yoga and Pilates is that there are tons of different “styles”, there is no one school of either – so different classes offer different things. Neither are pre-made programs like Zumba or Tae Bo so you will just have to check out the program you are looking at before you know what you are getting into. There are DVDs and videos – and even though the Wii has fallen out of fashion somewhat, the Wii does have a yoga component which is not too bad when combined with some of the other activities. Pilates and yoga classes are offered everywhere.
Since yoga and Pilates are both quite slow, if you are looking to lose weight, you may need to add in some cardio work.
No matter what type of program you think you might enjoy, the main thing is to get out there and start looking!