First of all my gym time is basically split between cardio and lifting. I do all my other exercises at home because they don't require equipment and because my gym does not have a good mat area.
My cardio exercises are broken into 3 different levels: hard, medium, and easy and I do all my cardio on the elliptical. For my hardest workouts I do intervals for an hour. For my medium workouts I do intervals for 40 minutes and for my easy workouts I just go for 35 minutes with no intervals. I never do a hard workout two days in a row because is simply too tiring and too hard on the body. Take into consideration that your energy levels will not be the same throughout the week either.
The reasoning behind my cardio workouts: I use the elliptical because it provides a high energy, low impact, total body work out. On my hard days I can usually burn around 600 calories on the machine just to give you all an idea if you go by the calorie number. I try not to focus too much on that number though, and I just keep in mind that any type of cardio I do is helping me to blast off fat. Remember, cardio is the best way to get rid of fat, so no matter what kind of cardio you do, it's all helping. Now, I've been doing interval training from the start, but at first I only did it occasionally. When I plateaued a few weeks ago, I decided to change my cardio workouts to incorporate mostly interval training. Interval training prevents your body from building up a tolerance to your exercise routine, and it also keeps your body burning fat for energy long after your workout is over.
A note about my cardio training...I did not start out with such intense workouts. I had to spend the first couple weeks building up my stamina. Initially I aimed to go for at least 30 minutes at whatever speed it took to get there, no matter how slow. If you try to start off with a very intense workout, you risk injuring yourself, so take it easy. I still managed to lose 2 lbs a week in those first two weeks, so keep in mind, it's not all about the intensity level.
On to lifting. I pretty much taught myself about lifting and I actually have not done a huge amount of research in this area...something I should probably do. My gym has a circuit of weight machines that I basically stick to. All of the machines have images and descriptions of how to use them and what muscles are being worked when you use them. Going by those, I determined which machines I should use.
I break up lifting by legs/lower body, and abs/arms. I alternate so that I do them every other day. On a hard day I will do 5 sets of 10 on the machines and on an easy day I will do 3 sets of 10. I sometimes base my hard and easy days off of how hard my cardio workout was, and not necessarily how hard I did it the day before. I increase my weight every couple of weeks. Always be careful when you do this and make sure that you are not lifting anything that is too heavy because that can lead to injury. If it feels like too much after the first few reps, chances are it is too heavy.
My reasoning for lifting. I would like to have slight muscle definition and muscle burns more calories than fat does. Why I do it the way I do? I use what I know from high school sports training, combined with what I've read, to be completely honest and so far it seems to be working. Hopefully I will get around to looking into the best methods for lifting at some point though so that I can be more informed about it.
The last part of my workout takes place at home where I do a series of sit ups, crunches, planks and squats to work on toning. Some days I will incorporate other moves, but these are the ones I do most consistently. I do 3 sets of 20 reps for each exercise.
So, this is my regular workout. Remember, I definitely did not start off like this. What you read here is the result of a lot of reading and fitness research, and time. I also had to build up stamina to be able to do what I can now. For those of you just starting out, read as much as you can about fitness and exercising, and take it easy and carefully, and set realistic goals for yourself in the first few weeks. Eventually you'll start upping your times, weights and reps and before you know it exercising will become a breeze!
This was a bit lengthy, but thanks for staying with me. Any questions? Just ask and I'm happy to answer. Look for more coming soon!