Your top workout questions answered

Four fitness experts answer the eight most common questions that are asked about exercising. These questions deal with motivation for exercising, minimum amount of workouts and keeping workout schedules, among others.

We asked four fitness professionals to answer your top questions about working out. Read their answers and then get with a program!

Q What’s the minimum amount of working out I can do and still see results?

Always looking for short-cuts aren’t we? Lucky for you, this is one case where you may actually benefit from keeping your workout time to a minimum. According to Noah Mann of Miami’s Club Body Tech, if you’re just starting out, keeping your aerobic routine to 20 minutes, three times a week will not only do your body good, but it’ll keep you from getting totally bored.

As long as you’re breaking a sweat and keeping your heart rate up, you’ll be burning fat away – and we bet that after you start seeing results, you’ll want to push ahead and add in a little more time. Check out the chart on the next page to see where you fit in and how to take it to the next level.

FIND YOUR FITNESS LEVEL AND SEE WHAT YOUR MINIMUM WORKOUT DEAL IS:
FITNESS          MINIMUM
LEVEL            TIME             SUGGESTIONS
BEGINNER
(You get         20-30 minutes,   Start out slowly - build up to
minimal          two to three     that third or fourth workout;
exercise)        times a week     Remember to alternate aerobics
                                  and strength-training.
MODERATE
(You work        20-30 minutes,   Push yourself to get to that
out a few        three to four    four or five times a week
times            times a week     spot; When strength-training,
weekly)                           do extra sets as you get stronger.
ADVANCE
(You play a      30-45 minutes    Most likely, you're already
junior varsity   four to five     in great shape. Concentrate
or varsity       times a week     on keeping your body toned
spot)                             with calisthenics and weight
                                  training.

Q Can I split my workout into three 10-minute mini workouts?

Because it takes your body at least twenty minutes to get your target heart rate up and in optimal working condition, when it comes to aerobic workouts, these mini-sessions are a no-go, says Frank Schrecker of New York Health & Racquet Club. You can split up toning exercises (stomach crunches, arm workouts with weights, etc.) into short periods of time throughout the day. Set a routine where you do three or four sets of bicep curls in the morning before school, get down with squat thrusts to work your legs in the later afternoon, and then tackle tricep extensions before bed. The key is to vary your muscle work all over. Simple!

Q Will walking get me into shape?

Walking a couple of blocks to school won’t cut it – you definitely need to put some major effort into your stride to make it burn fat. According to Deborah O’Connell, fitness trainer at New York Health & Racquet Club, if exercising indoors drives you stir-crazy and you’re not ready for running, check out a walking audio tape. Not only do the tapes provide work-out-worthy music, but most feature a ticking metronome beat that forces you to stay in step and keep your pace brisk!

Q How can I get some motivation?

First of all, making the decision that you want to get in shape and have a great-looking body is one commitment that should remain with you for the rest of your life. It’s got to become a habit, as in a lifestyle change. Compare exercising to brushing your teeth, advises New York Health & Racquet Club’s O’Connell. You brush your teeth every day so that they’ll look clean and sparkling, and won’t get unhealthy and fall out. You should pay the same kind of attention to your body. Another tip: try making a weekly workout schedule – penciling exercise in on your calendar will help you to stick with it. And once you get into shape, staying in shape is a whole lot easier!

Q How can I find a workout I’ll stick with?

workout-with-friendsWorking out with others is not only a great way to do something productive while you hang with your friends, but it’s practically a guarantee that you won’t throw in the towel as easily as you might if you were the only one around. You can also try trading video tapes or testing out new workouts with each other – let a friend teach you tennis, then you can show her the ropes of in-line skating or take her on some serious mountain-biking trails.

Q How soon will I see results?

Results start in a few weeks. Every fitness expert we spoke to, however, couldn’t stress enough that, in order to see results, you must not only develop a workout regime and stick to it, but devote some attention to changing your eating habits. Don’t starve yourself – if you do, your body will store fat to use it as energy.

“You don’t need to diet,” says Manne, “just cut back on bready carbohydrates, cut back on sugary foods and drinks, and you’ll see visible results in a month or two.” Finally, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a week or so of working out; you’re still way ahead of when you started, so just get back on track.

Q How can I make myself stick with my workout schedule?

Every time you exercise, put a quarter in a jar, suggests Todd Person, a trainer with Los Angeles’ Metabolic Project. Not only will the coin stash serve as a reminder of how much work you’ve put into getting in shape, but after you’ve reached one of your goals, you’ll have some money to treat yourself to a cool top or halter that can showcase your iron-hard abs!

Q How can I figure out my target heart rate?

Target-Heart-RateTo know for sure that you’re working as hard as you should, you should try to keep your heart beating at your target heart rate. (It’s at that level that you’re really working your bod.) When you’re born, your heart rate is 220 beats per minute. As each year passes, your heart rate drops one beat.

To figure out your heart rate now, take 220 and subtract your age. You need to stay between 65 and 85 percent of that number in order to get real results. If you go below your target heart rate, you’re not pushing yourself enough. Here’s an example: If you’re 15 years old: 220-15=205, multiply 205 by 0.65=133 (your minimum heart rate) – then multiply 205 by 0.85=174 (your maximum heart rate).

Stay between your minimum and maximum heart rate numbers when you’re working out. To check your heart rate, take your pulse in the middle of exercising (walk in place while doing it, try not to completely cool down). Place two fingers on the side of your neck and count the number of beats. (You can count for a minute, or save time by counting for 15 seconds, then multiply that number by four.) Based on what you count, you’ll know if you’re working too much or not enough!