Question: Hi Rocco. I'm 32, 5'1" and my weight fluctuates around 102-105. I work out 4 days a week and Im wondering if Im doing it the right way or if it's too much? I do lower body and cardio 2 times a week (cardio is 45 on the elliptical, interval setting levels 10-13) and upper body (arms and abs) 2 times a week. I do legs and cardio on the same day.
For my size and, of course, being female, my body fat fluctuates from 9 percent (the lowest) and 11.5 percent. Am I doing too much? I love being toned and a little muscley, but don't want to look like a body builder. Or, does this sound like a good workout plan? Any advice is greatly appreciated!
Answer: Let me start by saying there is no wrong way or right way to exercise unless you are doing movements that are potentially dangerous to your joints. Depending on your time restrictions and fitness level almost every exercise routine works. With that said, there are more efficient ways to exercise (getting the same results faster) and there certain exercise myths that usually need to be addressed. There are a couple of red flags that I would caution you on but they are not too serious.
Your body fat seems a little low for a woman unless you are an athlete, specifically a runner, sprinter or professional bodybuilder. Many women who have body fat as low as yours can develop a condition called Amenorrhea, which is the loss of their menstruation cycle for a period of time. The jury is still out on the low body fat issue but there is positive research on training volume (how much you are doing) and this condition, which in turn can help produce less body fat.
You havent told me if you were performing your "cardio," (a term that annoys me) before or after your leg workout. If you are doing it before your workout, youre wasting at least 15 minutes of valuable workout time and totally taking strength away from your leg workout. In my opinion, 45 minutes is a long time to be on any piece of equipment especially doing intervals. If you are doing intervals correctly you shouldnt last more then 20 minutes. Try 2 minutes moderate (115) strides per minute (SPM) and then 2 minutes very high SPM (160). If you last 20 minutes increase the intensity. Just because you can do the Elliptical for 45 minutes doesnt mean you should.
These are just suggestions and should be taken as such. Everyones body is different and responds to exercise differently. The easiest way to know if you are doing too much is to listen to your body. If you feel strong on Monday and Tuesday but feel sluggish on Thursday and Friday, youre doing too much.