4 Weeks to Health and Fitness for Yo-Yo Exercisers

A combo of cardio and weight lifting can help you meet your goal

Woman running on treadmill
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Do you want to lose weight? Most of us would probably say, "Yes, I'd love to lose weight." When you embark on that kind of goal, you probably spend a lot of time looking for results on the scale and in how your body looks.

The problem is that the amount of exercise we need to lose weight is often more than we can handle, both physically and mentally. That's just one reason many of us become yo-yo exercisers.

We start, we do well for a bit, we don't see results, and we quit.

One way to avoid doing too much too soon and, thus, rendering your workout program completely intolerable, is to try a different approach. Start simple and, for your first 30 days, focus on establishing a solid workout schedule, building strength and endurance and improving your health. 

When you focus on the behaviors you need to do to lose weight, rather than the weight loss itself, you take the pressure off. You're not watching the scale all the time, so it doesn't matter if it moves or not.

Keep in mind that starting small means the scale may not change from one workout to the next, but your health can change in just five minutes. In fact, just five minutes of outdoor exercise can boost your mood and self-esteem. Just 10 minutes can lower your blood pressure for hours and reduce your risk of a heart attack.

The other upside is that it doesn't require as much exercise as losing weight, allowing time to ease into exercise, build strength and endurance gradually, and avoid the injury and burnout that can accompany too much exercise.

So, just how much exercise do you need to be healthy? This four-week program incorporates the Physical Activity Guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These guidelines suggest:

  • Moderate intensity cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week 
  • Vigorous cardio for 20 minutes, three days a week

4 Weeks to Health 

In this program, you'll get specific workouts and a schedule to follow, with new exercise goals each week. The workouts are simple and straightforward, slowly progressing each week so that you're ready to move on to more intense programs, taking your workouts to the next level.

An Overview

  • Week 1 - Your first week starts with these goals: three days of cardio, two days of strength training with one set of each exercise and two days of rest. I've given you some cardio workout options as well as strength training workouts, but feel free to substitute your own.
  • Week 2 - Your goals are the same this week with just one small change. Your Thursday is no longer just resting, it's active rest. What does that mean? It means doing things to move around more than you normally do. Take short walks, stretch, stand up every hour, go up and down the stairs a few times a day, etc.
  • Week 3 - This week, your cardio workouts increase in intensity and you have a new goal of adding in some walking on your active rest days. You'll also do two sets of your strength training exercises, which will help you slowly progress and get stronger.
  • Week 4 - This week, we make more small changes with a longer cardio workout, an extra walking workout and an optional third set of strength training exercises. 

What You Need

  • A cardio machine or a favorite activity you can do for 20-30 minutes
  • A few sets of dumbbells - 5 to 15 pounds is a good range of weights to have. For beginners, start with three sets: light, medium, and heavy weights. For women, that might be 5, 8, or 10 pounds. For men, that might be 8, 10, or 12 to 15 pounds. 
  • An exercise ball 
  • A mat
  • Five to six days and 20-30 minutes of time on each of those days to complete your workouts

Exercise Tips

  • Don't be a slave to the workouts or schedule: This is just a sample program, so it won't work for everyone. If it's too much, take extra rest days if you feel sore, tired, or your performance suffers. Modify the schedule or workouts to fit your needs.
  • See your doctor if you have any medical conditions, illnesses or injuries.
  • Substitute your own workouts if you have other activities you enjoy.

Your Workout Schedule

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Mon - Choose 1

~20-Min Cardio
~10-Min Cardio-2 times
~Choose your own

Mon - Choose 1

~20-Min Cardio
~10-Min Blast-2 times
~Choose your own

Mon - Choose 1

~25-Min Cardio
~10-Min Blast-2.5 times
~Choose your own

Mon - Choose 1

~25-Min Cardio
~Tabata Low Impact
~Choose your own

Tues

Total Body Strength - 1 set

Tues

Total Body Strength - 1 set

Tues

Total Body Strength - 2 sets

Tues

Total Body Strength -2 or 3 sets

Wed - Choose 1

~20-Min Intervals
~Choose your own

Wed - Choose 1

~20-Min Intervals
~Choose your own

Wed - Choose 1

~25-Min Intervals
~10-Min Blast-2.5 times
~Choose your own

Wed - Choose 1

~30-Min Intervals
~Choose your own

Thurs

Rest

Thurs

Active Rest

Thurs

Active Rest

Thurs

10 min walk

Friday-Choose 1

~20-Min Cardio
~10-Minute Cardio - 2 times
~Choose your own

Friday-Choose 1

~20-Min Cardio
~10-Min Blast-2 times
~Choose your own

Friday-Choose 1

~25-Minute Cardio
~10-Min Blast-2.5 times
~Choose your own

Friday-Choose 1

~25-Min Cardio
~Tabata Low Impact
~Choose your own

Sat

Total Body Strength - 1 set

Sat

Total Body Strength - 1 set

Sat

Total Body Strength - 2 sets

Sat

Total Body Strength - 2 or 3 sets

Sun

Rest

Sun

Rest

Sun

10-min walk

Sun

15-min walk

 

Sources:

McGonigal, Kelly. Brief Bouts of Baby Steps. IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 8, Number 7 July 2011.

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