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Create a personalized Circuit Training Workout in 5 easy steps

woman stretching for running in the city wearable watch for measure calories

by Samantha Clayton

Follow this balanced circuit training routine for a great full body workout that gets you the results you want, while limiting the possibility of overuse injuries.

Whatever your focus––be it improving your strength, cardiovascular fitness or endurance––you can benefit from doing weekly circuit training sessions.

Circuit training is a great way for people of all ability levels to exercise. Whether you’re new to exercising or a seasoned pro, you can use circuit training to help you improve your overall fitness level, and target and strengthen your trouble spots.

Circuit training involves performing lots of different exercises in one sequence. This makes it almost impossible to get bored during your session. Plus, because you get to set your own schedule, you can easily fit it into your day. Circuit training is also great because it allows you to squeeze in exercises that you don’t necessarily enjoy. Since you only have to do each move for a short amount of time, getting in some dreaded cardio or strength training work is a lot less daunting.

Here are a few simple tips to help you set up your circuit in a safe way that maximizes your time.

Choose Your Workout Duration

You can do a circuit that’s as long as 60 minutes, or as short as 5 minutes. Decide what amount of time will fit in with your personal schedule, while keeping in mind that the more intense training should be kept to a shorter duration.

Decide on Your Rest Time

You can do a continuous circuit, which is when you go from one exercise to the next without a rest until you have completed one full set. Or you can take a short rest after each exercise. The less rest you have in between exercises, the greater the challenge will be. However, having adequate rest between each full set of exercises is important, as it will allow you to work out at your very best. Base your rest times on your personal fitness level. As your fitness level improves, you will need less rest in between each exercise.

Choose Your Exercises

If you are doing a full-body circuit, try to include exercises that engage your largest muscle groups, such as legs, glutes, chest and back. Also, add in some stability-based moves that involve your core muscles, as well as some cardio. There are so many exercises to choose from, but a few of my favorites include squats, lunges, crunches, burpees, push-ups and jumping jacks.

Exercise Order

The best way to organize your workout is to avoid using the same muscle groups back to back. Alternating between lower body, upper body and core exercises can help you to avoid overworking a particular muscle. When you’re doing a targeted circuit workout and focusing primarily on one area of the body, it’s still important to think about how your joints work and how to avoid over-stressing your body. The shoulder joint, for instance, can become easily stressed out, so avoiding doing exercises like planks, push-ups and mountain climbers all in one set is important. Try to ensure that each exercise that you choose engages your muscles in a different way. When it comes to organizing your routine, common sense will steer you in the right direction.

Number of Exercises

The great thing about circuit training is that you can choose to include as many or as few exercises as you wish. I believe that it’s best to set up a circuit that allows you to repeat it three times. Adequate repetition is important when exercising if you wish to get results. For example, if you have 15 minutes for exercise, choose five exercises that will allow you to do each for 45 seconds, and perform three full sets with adequate time to catch your breath in between sets.

Planning out your own circuit can be a lot of fun and very rewarding. Though it takes a little bit of practice to design your own workouts, when you plan it out in advance and make sure it’s balanced, you’ll be well on your way to becoming your own perfect trainer.

Get Fit Starting From Scratch

strong man on starting position of running in the highway

by Samantha Clayton

Do you wish you were more fit, but the days and weeks just seem to pass by without you doing anything active? Here’s how you can turn it around.

Despite your best intentions, it’s not hard to get caught in a no-exercise rut. You have a busy life, and sometimes fitness slips down the priority list. Unfortunately, for some it can seem like you’re so far out of shape that you’ll never get fit again.

But don’t worry, you can get fit again. Regardless of your current fitness level, today’s fitness advice may help.

I’ve gone back to basics and focused on what really helped me. There was a time when I didn’t feel great about my body – I lacked stamina, strength and flexibility. My self-confidence dipped, and I wanted to hide. I couldn’t believe that I’d let myself fall so far, and regaining my former fitness felt like a mountain too steep to climb.

This isn’t the usual fitness article about how you need ‘x’ minutes of this exercise and ‘x’ minutes of that exercise. This is for those of you who sincerely want to get fit and don’t know where to start, because right now all exercise feels too daunting to even try. Don’t despair – I’m here to give you fitness hope.

My ‘ABC x 3’ Get Fit Program

Using my own experience of adjusting to life with four children and a husband who was always traveling for work, these are my ABCs to help you get back on track. Give these tips a go and you could find yourself back in possession of willpower, confidence and energy in no time.

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Action

Fitness and exercise can feel like too big a challenge, so let’s just push to become more active and get fit. That can mean adding in a simple stretch or a walk around the block. Any movement is better than no movement.

If you’re not fit, then you don’t need any high-pressure labels. So, let’s simply take ‘action’ by being ‘active’ in some way, every day.

Analyze

Look at your schedule and see where there is time for action. You don’t think you have two hours to get to the gym, change, work out, change and get home again? Fine. Let’s start small. Can you find a minute before breakfast or two minutes after work?

Just as you wouldn’t start climbing a mountain at breakneck speed, you can slowly ease yourself into action. Find a few minutes and use them to stretch. Reach to the ceiling or gently roll your neck and enjoy the feeling. Over time, try to build from two minutes of action to five.

Accountability

You know you need to exercise. I know you need to exercise. Add it to your daily to-do list and do something active every day.

If you stretch before breakfast for a minute, then write it down. If you walk to the end of your street, then write it down. You’re more likely to exercise if you hold yourself accountable, and after five days you’ll have at least five minutes of exercise to show for it.

You might not be at the top of the mountain yet, but you can see you’ve made a start!

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Breathe

For me, my falling fitness level was tied to an increasingly busy lifestyle and stress. That taught me that it’s good to make time to breathe.

Right now, as you’re reading this, take a deep breath in and feel your chest swell. Now breathe out slowly. Try to push all the air out of your lungs.

Mindful breathing can help us focus, so find something you do every day and use it as a reminder to enjoy some relaxation and deep breathing. You might decide to breathe deeply while waiting for the coffee to brew or as you water your plants. I do it after the kids clamber out of the car for school and I have a moment before driving away and tackling the next part of my day.

You won’t get far up that mountain if you don’t take time to breathe and assess your progress.

Break

Take a break. We’re all busy, and it feels like we just don’t have any time, but are you sure you can’t squeeze in a five-minute break from what you’re doing? Hard as it might be to believe, your productivity may go up if you step away for a moment. A break to walk from one side of the room to the other or to step outside can help you refocus while adding crucial action moments to your day.

If you do take a moment to walk around your place of work, then don’t forget to write it down. Every step takes you a little higher up that fitness mountain.

Balance

You’re more likely to stick with your daily actions if you can find a way to balance your new activities with your daily needs. You still need to do your chores, keep up your social circle and all the other things that make up your day-to-day life. No one wants to be boring, so find the right life balance. That means you need to add more action than you were doing, but don’t go over the top and become so active that it’s unsustainable.

To get all the way up that fitness mountain, you need to pace yourself.

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Change

Change won’t happen unless you make it. We can all wish and hope and dream, but we won’t get fit unless we take a first action step.

You have to be honest with yourself every day. If a day goes by and you haven’t had an action moment, then understand that you aren’t climbing the mountain. You’re standing still or even rolling back down.

Community

Use your community to help you rebuild and get fit. Your family, friends and coworkers can help you clock up action moments and may want to join you as you steadily climb the mountain. You probably aren’t the only person you know who wants to get fit. Tell everybody what you’re trying to do, and your friends will motivate you. They’re likely to be proud of you for actively taking back control.

Climbing that mountain is easier if you aren’t struggling up alone.

Commit

None of my ABCs will help if you don’t commit to taking action. As you read this, I hope you feel motivated. Use that feeling right now: move your body in some way, stretch your arms out or take a deep breath and point your toes. If you’re feeling really motivated, then do a little wiggle and feel yourself smile!

Now that you’ve started, commit to taking a few more steps up the mountain each day. Pretty soon you’ll look back and see how far you’ve climbed.