The most common problem I see when doing an assessment with women for the first time is that usually, most women are just not strong enough, especially in all the stabilising muscles, that keeps them up straight and are the base of all major movements in the body. Doing strength based work is usually not a very “girly” thing to do, and cardio is where women start, and lots of it.
The limiting factor that stops people achieving their results is almost always initially poor strength. Women usually have poor strength in their gluteus maximus (their buttock muscles), which is one of the major muscles that keeps you up straight and is the major propulsion muscle when walking, jumping and especially when running up and down hills.
Women usually have weakness in the major stabilisers of the lower back, the core stabilisers (transversus abdominus) and the direct stabilisers of the lumbar spine, the multifidus muscle, which means back pain and injury.
Women are weak in the small muscles of the feet, the calf muscles and the stabilisers of the feet and the direct support muscles of the arch of the foot, the tibialis posterior muscle, which mean they develop shin splints when starting a running program.
And weakness in the shoulders, in particular the stabilisers of the shoulder blades, the serratus anterior and upper trapezius muscles. These muscles control the posture of the upper half of the body and stop you from slouching and set the shoulders and arms to work in the best position possible, but women do not usually work on these muscles because they do not want to develop big, manly arms. But this won’t happen. Working on the stabilising muscles not only gives women the shapely arms and legs that they are after, which really stands out even more when your posture improves, but this is base that you need to develop first before you start your cardio program.
The ideal program should begin with working on the strength of your major stabilising muscles for at least 6 weeks. This gives you a good base of strength that protects your joints and muscles and allows you to begin your cardio program with a great foundation. Pilates is a great way of working on these muscles, but the program should always be tailored to your needs and monitored to be effective and achieve the results you are after, doing a large group class is not the same. 2 -3 times a week for strengthening is enough, more is not better.
The rest is just as important and the times you exercise. When you exercise, you put strain on the muscles and tendons, which is normal. You body then needs to repair this and make you stronger to allow you to cope with adapt the larger loads and this takes rest. Lack of rest between sessions means that you do not allow this process to occur and may even cause more damage. The in between days are then great days to do cardio work, because it is not the same type of training, it still allows this process to occur.
With patience, and consistently and not over doing it, the results will come. Although it always seems like forever, when you look back over a 3 month period, you’d be surprise how quickly the changes to occur and different you look at the end of the process, achieving your results. Over the years, I have seen many women start off the goal of losing weight in the short term, but continue for the long term, their body shape would change and they would achieve goals they could only dream of, such as starting to run half marathons or trekking through south America and much more.