As a group exercise instructor and personal trainer, I’m often asked by people, “what are the best workouts to get in shape?” While it’s a simple question, the answer is more multi-faceted. You must first consider your goals, such as weight loss or more endurance or a shorter race time, and then evaluate your options, such as home equipment, a health club membership, a pool, etc.
Clearly the best workout regimen for overall fitness includes a balance of cardio, strength and flexibility exercises. These can come in all forms – from the elliptical, to weight training classes to stretching and yoga.
Specificity is an important concept that says that if you want to improve a specific skill, such as running races, then you must train by running, as opposed to swimming or biking. While swimming and biking can help your endurance and strength and be valuable cross training options, to become a better runner, you have to practice running.
Variety is important as well if you can incorporate it. While there is nothing particularly wrong with someone who runs 3 miles everyday, you’ll experience greater overall health and fitness benefits by adding different workouts to challenge the body uniquely.
And ultimately, I believe that the “best” workout is the one that you enjoy and will do consistently. Let’s face it, if you hate to run and you choose that as your primary workout, it’s likely that you won’t stick with it. If you need motivation, perhaps try a group exercise class; if you want convenience and are disciplined, home equipment can meet your needs. If you like to bike or lift weights, then work those both into your routine.
There’s no such thing as a “best” exercise that meets everyone’s goals. The keys are variety and adherence over time.