workout faq one



I'm 5'9" and weigh 139 pounds. I'd like to get down to maybe 130, but I don't want to look skinny -- I want a defined, toned look. I'm considering taking some classes -- aqua aerobics, yoga, step aerobics or rock climbing. Which two should I take to tone my muscles?

Dear Reem,
Signing up for a class is a great way to stay motivated. As for which classes are the best for muscle toning, out of the four you've considered, yoga and rock climbing are your best bets. The aerobic classes will mainly improve your cardiovascular fitness -- making it easier to bolt up a flight of stairs without wheezing -- and burn fat. Those are important components to building a better body, though.
If you really want the best workout for your muscles, try weight training. Using dumbbells or machines allows you to increase the weight you're lifting as you get stronger -- the key to building muscles. That said, you will see improvements in muscle tone with yoga or rock climbing, but it may take longer and the results may not be as dramatic.
But these activities have other benefits too. I've found yoga to be a wonderful way to relax and improve my flexibility. And rock climbing -- I've tried the indoor version -- is a fun workout. It's even encouraged me to be more consistent in my weight training so I can get stronger and climb more difficult routes.
To build muscle you also need to let your muscles recover after a workout. Allow 48 hours between workouts. You can, however, do aerobic workouts most days of the week. So to get the best body possible, try to do a strength-training, muscle-building workout two to three times a week and complement that with aerobic workouts five days a week.
One last note: Don't get too hung up on what the scale says. When you're building muscle the scale might actually go up a bit because muscle weighs more than fat, but it looks a heck of a lot better. Instead, look for changes in how your clothes fit and how your body looks. The scale doesn't tell the whole story.


What is spinning, and will it help me slim down?

Dear Tasha,
Spinning or studio cycling is a popular new exercise class that is done on specially designed stationary bicycles that allow you to adjust resistance to make pedaling easier or harder. Originally developed so cyclists could train year-round, these cycling classes, led by fitness instructors and cyclists, are popping up in health clubs around the country. Bikes and videos are even being sold for home use.
The thought of riding a stationary bike may sound like torture for many folks -- myself included -- but in these classes the music and the energy of the group keep you pedaling, usually for an hour. And talk about sweat! People who waltz through other workouts without breaking a sweat are now discovering the exhilaration of a good hard workout. But the beauty of indoor cycling classes is you can go at your own pace. No need to worry about being the last one up the hill. Everyone finishes together.
In a typical class, the instructor guides you visually down a wide open country road. The road is level and you're pedaling easily. Then it gets steeper. You increase your resistance as you climb, eventually getting out of your seat to pedal. Finally you reach the top. You sit down, reduce the resistance, and speed down the hill.
Studio cycling is a great workout for your heart, lungs and legs. And depending on how hard you push yourself, you could burn up to 800 calories in an hour -- a definite plus if you're trying to slim down.

One downside: Cycling is not a weight-bearing activity like walking, running or aerobics, in which you're carrying your body weight. This type of exercise is important for keeping bones strong. So if you find that you enjoy spinning, mix it up with some other weight-bearing workouts. Besides, cross-training is one of the best ways to avoid injuries.