Brought to you by Good Health magazine
Looking for inspiration for your work-out? Beverley Hadgraft speaks to four of Australia's top fitness experts for advice.
If you've had little experience of training and fear looking silly, you're not alone, says Justine Guest, managing director of Perth-based Babes on the Run, which specialises in fitness for women. Get help from one of the many women-friendly gyms, boot camps, running groups and training groups that can teach you anything from how to run properly to how to work out training schedules and achievable goals.
Don't let anyone convince you to do exercise you don't enjoy, says Andrew Simmons, the founder of the fitness chain Vision Personal Training.
"Textbooks always told me the best way to burn fat was to run," he says. "So I'd make my clients run then wonder why they would drop out. The fact was that I was making them do stuff they didn't like and that's where programs go astray.
"Most people don't like gyms. If that's you, choose something else and remember to start slowly."
All in the mind
When you're doing reps in training, Simmons says, the most important rep is the one you think you can't do that's the one that will give you results and change your body. So if you get to 10 reps of a weight and think you can't possibly manage another one, give it a go.
Aim for a win at every session to keep you motivated, Guest says. Do one more rep than you've ever done before, increase a weight or go further or faster than you've gone before. That way you're an achiever every time.
Faster fat burning
Want the best type of exercise to burn fat? Try performing long, slow cardio (30 minutes to an hour with a heart rate around 70 beats below your maximum heart rate) either on an empty stomach when you wake up in the morning or after a weights workout, says Ryan Gambin, personal trainer, Olympian and Busy Mums Fitness Club expert.
That's because to use fat as energy, we must have low glycogen levels, which is the case after a sleep or a weights session. However, when your glycogen is low you must keep your heart rate well below your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age) to avoid burning muscle.
Invest in a skipping rope, says Mireille Ryan, who runs Busy Mums Fitness Club and is Queensland Fitness Professional of the Year 2010. It uses your whole body, is easier on the joints than running and is an awesome fat-burner and cardio work-out. Learn boxing/skipping, which involves jumping from foot to foot. Practise without a rope first, then add the rope once you've got the hang of it.
Tricks and time-savers
Can't leave the kids? Don't have access to exercise equipment? Then head down to your local playground, Ryan says. Use park benches for step-ups and tricep dips, monkey bars for chin-ups, pull-ups or a hanging ab toner, or the platforms on the gym equipment for elevated push-ups or lunges.
"I'll often do Tabata training intervals when I'm at the playground with my kids," Ryan says. "That's 20 seconds of maximum-intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat eight times for a total of four minutes. You can do anything, jog on the spot, squats, step-ups or crunches."
Don't waste time on isolation exercises, Simmons says.
Why do a tricep kickback, which engages just one muscle, when you can do a push-up that engages your whole upper body and core? Do slow, controlled push-ups until you can't do any more it's one of the best exercises you can perform.
For the full story, see the February issue of Good Health.