Starting out at a gym for the first time can be overwhelming. When you’re at the beginning of your fitness journey, it’s hard to know how to choose between the many options, programs, and plans.
Should you join CrossFit? Start running? Go on a paleo diet? Get a personal trainer? Count macros? Lift weights? Take a yoga class? Do a bootcamp? It’s starts to feel really complicated.
Here at Fit Factory, we offer dozens of different workout options, in order to support our diverse members and make sure that everyone has the support they need. But, we know that all those options can make your workout decisions more difficult.
So, today, we’re gonna make it simple. Here are three different exercise categories...and a few tips to help you decide which one is right for you.
First of all, “cardio” is actually short for “cardiovascular,” which refers to your circulatory system—AKA, your heart and all of the blood vessels in your body.
So, what is a cardio workout? It’s any endurance exercise that strengthens your cardiovascular system. Typically, cardio workouts are done for longer stretches of time, causing your heart to beat faster and pump more blood through your system, which carries nutrients and oxygen to every cell.
To get technical, any activity that gets your heart rate to about 50 – 75% of your maximum heart rate can be classified as cardio. In non-technical terms, this means you’re probably breathing heavily and getting sweaty!
Benefits: strengthens heart, burns calories, increases bone density, supports weight loss, supports healthy cholesterol levels
Examples: Fit Cycle class, running (outdoors or on a treadmill), Zumba class
Strength training is any practice or exercise specifically designed to increase muscle tone, strength, and fitness—and it’s a vital part of any balanced exercise routine.
Although lean muscle mass naturally diminishes with age, strength training can reverse and prevent this pattern. Regular strength training can preserve and enhance your muscle mass at any age.
Many people think that weightlifting is the only method of strength training, but that’s just not true! If weightlifting doesn’t appeal to you, you can increase your strength and muscle mass using bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, or weight machines.
Benefits: tones and builds muscle, boosts metabolism, supports weight loss, supports healthy blood pressure
Examples: CrossFit class, weight circuits, bodyweight exercise, personal training sessions
Here’s the good news: interval training isn't as complicated as it sounds. Interval training is simply alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity.
Research suggests that by alternating bursts of high-intensity exercise with short segments of rest, you can supercharge fat-burning, boost your metabolism, and improve your cardiovascular fitness.
Interval training workouts are a great way to burn fat fast and overcome a plateau in training or weight loss. They’re also very adaptable, which means that you can include your favorite type of exercise within the training system—whether you want to alternate sprinting with walking, intense weight-lifting with rest, or bodyweight exercises with rest.
Benefits: boosts metabolism, supports cardiovascular health, burns fat, builds muscle, increases endurance
Examples: Kickboxing and Abs class, bootcamp-style class, circuit training, personal training session, sprint circuit
Now, you hopefully have a better understanding of which type of workout is best for your body and your goals. If you’re still not sure, schedule a session with a personal trainer, and they can create a customized workout plan just for you.
And, one final reminder: you don’t have to pick just one type of workout! It’s healthy (and fun!) to mix up your routine, so don’t hesitate to start your week in a yoga class and end your week with a weight-lifting session.