Do I need to change my weight-training workout to see better results?
Yes. Because your body adapts, you won't continue to see results with the same routine. After weeks or months of training, it may seem almost effortless to do the same exercises that once exhausted you. For continued improvement, you'll need to make your workouts progressively harder or change the activity. I generally recommend making a few alterations in a fitness program every four to eight weeks. You don't need to transform your workout -- just tweak one or two of the following variables.
Frequency: the number of times you work a muscle per week. Two to three times is optimal. Muscles need rest between workouts, so leave 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle again.
Repetition, or "rep": one complete action of an exercise. The heavier the weight, the fewer repetitions needed.
Training set: a predetermined number of repetitions of a specific activity.
Resistance: the weight used to perform the exercise. The weight will affect the number of repetitions and the number of sets you are able to perform. But don't increase it by more than 5% per week.
Rest and recovery: the amount of time between sets and between training sessions. As you increase resistance (weight), you will need longer periods of rest so your muscles can recover. Rest between sets for at least 30 seconds, and for 24 to 48 hours between training sessions for the same muscle group.
Other ways to change your workout include focusing on different muscle groups each time you exercise. For example, target the back and biceps one day, the chest, shoulders, and triceps the next time, and the legs and abdominals the next. Then start over again. You could also include a total body workout two times a week or change the type of exercises that you do.
I just started in-line skating and am finding that my leg muscles ache after skating for about 20 minutes. My skates fit properly, so I know that's not the issue. Is there anything I can do to combat it?
I like your initiative in starting a new sport -- what a great way to begin the new year. Whether it's tennis, kayaking or in-line skating, new activities often cause muscle aches and soreness. Try treating your soreness with some stretches and maybe even massage, and be sure to drink enough fluids to fuel your body. For in-line skating, it's a good idea to stretch the muscles of the hip, gluteus and legs specifically.
In the future, or for the next sport you try, consider sports-specific training before diving into an activity. Such training will help strengthen your muscles, increase your flexibility and prevent injuries from under-conditioned muscles.
Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health/fitness consultant. Send questions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. She cannot respond to every query.