Get fit fast and make it last! Our boredom-busting program will keep you motivated and prevent plateaus while delivering serious fat-blasting, body-sculpting benefits
Alexa Joy Sherman
In today’s immediate-gratification world, you want your body to look better now. Unfortunately, rapid changes are often short-lived ones, particularly if you lose interest in your program, undoing all your initial hard work. We asked Chicago-based personal trainer Sharon Mehalek to design a program that will not only help you lose weight and firm up fast but will actually stick.
“Just as we get bored with our workout routines, our bodies stagnate and stop reacting after a while as well,” says Mehalek, who is the group exercise coordinator/general manager at RiverPark Athletic Club. “The changes and challenges in this program help you stay motivated and continue to make progress.” That’s because the cardio workouts change daily and the strength moves change weekly, keeping tedium at bay and making a plateau less likely so you’ll continue to see your body get leaner and stronger. Who says quick and easy equal ephemeral? Try this program and you’ll see just how lasting an exercise program–and success–can really be!
the get fit fast workout plan
Schedule plus overview For the next 4 weeks, do 3-6 cardio and 2-3 strength sessions a week, according to the Beginner or Intermediate/Advanced prescriptions below. Vary your exercise as directed in the guidelines preceding each workout section. After 4 weeks, cycle through the same program, continuing to up your weight in the strength program and substitute a moderate-to-hard cardio day for an easy-to-moderate one.
Warm-up Begin all cardio and strength workouts with 5 minutes of low-intensity aerobic exercise such as walking on a treadmill or using the elliptical trainer or doing the outside activity you’ve chosen.
Beginner Rx If you’ve been exercising for 3 months or less, do 3-4 easy or easy-to-moderate cardio workouts and 2 strength workouts (on nonconsecutive days) each week. After 3-4 weeks, or when you feel ready, progress to the Intermediate/Advanced Rx.
Intermediate/Advanced Rx If you’ve been exercising consistently for more than 3 months, do 1 easy or easy-to-moderate, 2-3 moderate or moderate-to-hard and 1-2 hard cardio workouts, as well as 2-3 strength workouts (on nonconsecutive days) each week. Don’t exceed 2 hard cardio sessions per week.
Cool-down End every cardio and strength workout with 5 minutes of low-intensity aerobic activity on any machine of your choice or outside activity, then stretch all the major muscles you’ve worked, holding each stretch for 30 seconds without bouncing.
lower body: lunges
WEEK 1 Alternating Front Lunge Stand holding dumbbells, arms hanging at sides, feet hip-width apart. Step forward with right foot, bending both knees so right knee is over ankle, left heel lifted [shown]. Step back to starting position and repeat with left leg to complete 1 rep.
WEEK 2 Rear Lunge Lift Standing as in Alternating Front Lunge, step backward with right foot, aligning left knee over ankle, right heel lifted. Push off right foot, lifting right knee up to hip height [shown], then back into rear lunge again, repeating all reps with right leg before switching sides to complete 1 set.
WEEK 3 Walking Lunge [not shown] Begin as in Alternating Front Lunge, stepping forward with right foot, bending knees into a lunge. Straighten legs and immediately step forward with left foot to complete 1 rep. Continue alternating legs as you lunge, moving forward.
Weight: 5- to 10-pound dumbbells. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks and calves
lower body: plies
WEEK 1 Basic Plie Stand with feet slightly farther than hip-width apart, toes and knees turned out comfortably, dumbbells at front shoulders, elbows close to sides. Bend knees, lowering hips [shown] without rotating pelvis forward or backward. Straighten legs and repeat.
WEEK 2 Leg-Press Plie Lie on a leg-press machine, feet wide and turned out at top of foot plate, legs straight, not locked. Bend knees to about 90 degrees, keeping knees aligned with ankles [shown]. Straighten legs and repeat.
WEEK 3 Drag Plie Start with heels together, toes turned out, dumbbell at front shoulders. Step out sideways with right foot and perform Basic Plie; as you straighten legs, drag right foot in, bringing heels together [shown]. Repeat on the left (each side equals 1 rep).
Weight: 5- to 10-pound dumbbells in each hand for Week 1 and Week 3; no added weight to 90 pounds for Week 2. Strengthens quadriceps, hamstrings, buttocks, calves, inner thighs and upper hips
upper body: rows
WEEK 1 One-Arm Row Bending forward, place right knee and right palm on a flat bench. Hold a dumbbell in left hand, arm hanging down in line with shoulder, palm in, back straight. Pull elbow up, bringing dumbbell toward lower rib cage, knuckles facing down [shown]. Straighten arm and repeat. Complete reps, then switch sides and repeat to finish 1 set.
WEEK 2 Seated High Row Sit erect at a low cable pulley, feet on plate, knees slightly bent. Hold a long bar overhand and slightly farther than shoulder-width apart at chest height, arms straight. Squeezing shoulder blades, pull elbows back until they’re in line with shoulders [shown]. Straighten arms and repeat.
WEEK 3 Reverse Bent-Over Row Hold a barbell underhand, arms straight, hands slightly farther than shoulder-width apart. Bend knees and hinge forward at hips until torso is parallel to floor, arms hanging in line with shoulders. Squeezing shoulder blades, pull elbows up, bringing bar toward low rib cage [shown]. Straighten arms, lowering dumbbell, and repeat.
Weight: 5- to 10-pound dumbbells for Week 1; 30-60 pounds for Week 2; 20-40 pounds for Week 3. Strengthens middle back, rear shoulders and biceps
upper body: chest press
WEEK 1 One-Arm Stability-Ball Press Lie with head and upper back on a stability ball, hips lifted, buttocks tight, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Hold dumbbells in both hands above midchest, arms straight. Bend right elbow out and down to align with shoulder [shown]. Straighten and repeat with left arm to complete 1 rep.
WEEK 2 Standing Cable Fly Stand with feet in a staggered lunge, holding upper single handles with elbows open in a slight arc, palms forward. Press handles together at chest height [shown]. Repeat.
WEEK 3 Incline Press Lie on an incline bench adjusted to 60 degrees, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand above chest, arms straight. Bend both elbows out and down to align with shoulders [shown]. Straighten and repeat.
Weight: 5- to 10-pound dumbbells for Week 1 and Week 3; 10-30 pounds per side for Week 2. Strengthens chest, front shoulder and triceps
upper body: shoulder press
WEEK 1 Overhead Dumbbell Press Stand with feet hip-width apart, dumbbells resting at front shoulders, palms in, elbows close to sides, abs tight. Press dumbbells up, turning palms forward as arms straighten [shown]. Lower, rotating palms in and repeat.
WEEK 2 Military Press Sitting with back against pad of an overhead-press machine, hold handles that point forward, palms in and elbows bent, abs tight. Keeping wrists straight and shoulders relaxed, press handles up until arms are almost straight [shown]. Slowly lower and repeat.
WEEK 3 Seated Wide Row Sit on the end of a flat bench holding a dumbbell in each hand. Hinge forward from hips so torso hovers over thighs, dumbbells hanging and aligned with shoulders, palms facing rear. Squeeze shoulder blades and bend elbows out to sides and up to align with shoulders [shown]. Straighten and repeat.
Weight: 5- to 8-pound dumbbells for Week 1 and Week 3; 20-50 pounds for Week 2. Strengthens upper back and shoulders
upper body: triceps press
WEEK 1 Lying Extension Lie on a flat bench, knees bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand overhead and in line with shoulders, palms in. Bend elbows, bringing dumbbell heads down toward shoulders without changing arm position [shown]. Straighten arms and repeat.
WEEK 2 High Cable Press-Down Stand facing a high cable pulley, abs contracted. Grasp a short bar, palms down, bringing elbows in line with shoulders and close to rib cage, arms bent. Straighten arms, pressing bar down toward thighs, keeping wrists straight [shown]. Keeping elbows close to ribs, bend arms and repeat.
WEEK 3 One-Arm Kickback Kneel with left knee and palm on a flat bench. Hold a dumbbell in right hand, elbow bent close to waist, upper arm and torso parallel to floor, knuckles facing down. Straighten arm behind you keeping elbow stationary [shown]. Bend arm to starting position and repeat.
Weight: 5- to 10-pound dumbbells for Week 1 and Week 3; 30-40 pounds for Week 2. Strengthens triceps
RELATED ARTICLE: RPE
how hard are you working?
With the cardio workouts in this program, you’ll gauge your intensity using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). Here’s what the numbers mean:
Very easy; you can converse with no effort.
Easy; you can converse with almost no effort.
Moderately easy; you can converse comfortably with little effort.
Moderate; conversation requires some effort.
Moderately hard; conversation requires quite a bit of effort.
Difficult; conversation requires a lot of effort.
Very difficult; conversation requires maximum effort.
Peak effort; no-talking zone
RELATED ARTICLE: the cardio workouts
THE 10 PROGRAMS THAT FOLLOW VARY IN DURATION AND INTENSITY to deliver a quality calorie burn every time. Most of them can be done on any type of cardio equipment–treadmill, stair climber, elliptical trainer, stationary bike–unless otherwise specified. Or, if weather permits, head outside and do the selected program while walking, running, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Select your workout based on your difficulty level in “The Get Fit Fast Workout Plan” (opposite). (Times include warm-up and cool-down.)
LEVEL THE WORKOUT
EASY Cruising Work at RPE 4 for 10 min., then pick up the pace
to RPE 5 for 5 min. and finish with 10 min. at RPE 4.
Total time: 35 min. Calories burned: 210*
EASY-MODERATE Pure Steady Work at RPE 4-5 for 30-45 min. Total time:
40-55 min. Calories burned: 270-405
EASY-MODERATE Even Keel On any piece of cardio equipment, work for 4
min. at RPE 4 and light resistance/incline, then increase
the resistance or incline by 1% or level, working at RPE
5 for 4 min., then increase the resistance or incline
again and work at RPE 6 for 4 min. Return to the original
resistance/incline and repeat entire sequence 1 more
time. Total time: 34 min. Calories burned: 240
MODERATE Progressive Hills On a treadmill, work at RPE 5-6,
increasing the incline 1% every minute from 2% up to 12%,
then decrease by 1% every minute to come back down. On an
elliptical or stair climber, increase the resistance 1
level every minute, then gradually decreasing the
resistance every minute to come back down. If
experienced, stay at the top level for 3-5 min. before
decreasing resistance. Total time: 31-35 min. Calories
MODERATE 3:2:1 Work at RPE 5 for 3 min., then RPE 6 for 2 min.,
then RPE 7 for 1 min. Do 4 times total. Total time: 34
min. Calories burned: 276
MODERATE Change of Pace Choose any 3 pieces of cardio equipment
and work at RPE 5 for 10 min. on each. Total time: 40
min. Calories burned: 260
MODERATE-HARD Rolling Hills Alternate 3 min. at RPE 5-6 with 1 min. at
RPE 7. Do 5-6 times total. Total time: 30-34 min.
Calories burned: 225-270
MODERATE-HARD Fast Pace Alternate 2 min. at RPE 4-5 with 2 min. at RPE
6-7. Do 7-8 times total. Total time: 38-42 min. Calories
HARD Power Burner Work at RPE 5 for 8 min. Then, alternate 2
min. at RPE 6 with 30 seconds at RPE 8-9; do 4 times for
a total of 10 min. Return to RPE 5 for 8 min., then
repeat the 10-min. intervals a second time. Total time:
46 min. Calories burned: 411
HARD In ‘n’ Out Alternate 2 min. at RPE 6 with 1 min. at RPE
7-8. Do 6 times total. Total time: 28 min. Calories
*Calorie burns are based upon a 145-pound woman.
RELATED ARTICLE: the strength workouts
EACH EXERCISE HAS 3 VARIATIONS TARGETING THE SAME MUSCLE GROUPS. You’ll do 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps (beginners start with 2 sets) of each move.
WEEK 1 Do the 6 moves–1 from each category–labeled “Week 1.”
WEEK 2 Do the 6 moves–1 from each category–labeled “Week 2.”
WEEK 3 Do the 6 moves–1 from each category–labeled “Week 3.”
WEEK 4 Perform the Week 1 and Week 3 moves as a superset (that is, do them back-to-back without resting in between). Do 2-3 supersets of 8-12 reps each.
With every workout, always use enough weight to fatigue your muscles by the final rep of each set and stretch the muscle group you’ve worked for 20-30 seconds without bouncing between sets.
RELATED ARTICLE: 6 stick-with-it secrets
Everyone has days she just doesn’t feel like working out–even with a program as fresh and fun as ours. Here, Chicago-based personal trainer Sharon Mehalek offers strategies to help you through the motivation slumps.
1. SKIP AND EXPAND If you miss a workout, make your next session a challenge day. For your strength workout, do an extra set of moves or up the weight. If you miss a cardio workout, tack an extra 10 minutes of moderate-intensity activity onto your next workout or go for a higher-intensity option.
2. DIVIDE AND CONQUER If time is tight, do just 1 set of each resistance move (try fewer reps with heavier weights) or 20 minutes of cardio (preferably doing intervals, such as Rolling Hills). Repeat 2-3 times instead of 5-6 times.
3. JUST DO IT Start your workout, even though you don’t feel like it. Put on your workout clothes, tie your shoes, get out there and, chances are, by the time you’ve done all that, your mind will be back in the game.
4. CHANGE THE SCENERY If you do every workout at the gym, try doing a few outside if weather permits. Take a kickboxing class in place of a cardio session–or substitute a yoga class for a strength workout. Get creative!
5. PARTNER UP Plan on doing your program with a pal, and you’ll be less likely to 86 your exercise plans.
6. GET OVER IT Don’t beat yourself up for one missed workout. Focus on the ones you have done, then get right back in the saddle.
Alexa Joy Sherman is a freelance writer in Los Angeles who stays motivated by hitting the gym with her husband.
Photography by Lisa Romerein
COPYRIGHT 2005 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group