I started out doing strength training only. That's where you find the highest weight you can do for maybe 10 - 15 reps. By the 10th or 15th rep, you should not be able to budge the bar past maybe an inch when you're trying with all your might and yelling, "GRRREEAAARRRGGGHH." (spelling approximate).
It's tough, but on the bright side, it doesn't take that long. It's very helpful if you have someone who can give you a teeensy tiny bit of help on that last rep. Charlie is good for that. He'll put one finger on the bar and pull only if it looks like I'm really straining and not moving the thing.
Then after I half kill myself on that one rep, he goes, "Okay, five more."
Charlie would have been a good drill sergeant.
I don't even work all my muscle groups. My routine is bench press, lat pull-downs, another kind of pull down where I have my hands close together on the bar, palms facing me, and I pull it down in the front kind of like a wussy chinup, curls, this leg thing where you sit down, hook your ankles around this bar, and straighten your legs (this does something for your thighs, I think), and sometimes this thing where I put on ankle weights and do the leg lifting thingy where it's like you're trying to kick your own ass.
There's also this thing I do for obliques that is a little dangerous. Basically, I hold a hand-weight (about 20 pounds) in my hand while standing straight up, arm hanging to the side, then I lean sideways just a little toward the weight side and stand back straight. You can really tweak your back doing this one if you're not totally straight, and if you're not using your obliques (side of your abs) so be really careful if you do this. I keep my other hand on my side so I can feel the muscle working, and concentrate really hard on just using my abs to straighten myself back up.
The whole thing takes about 10 minutes, sometimes less, but I am really seeing muscle definition in my arms, and was after maybe a month. You can also cycle through and do more sets, but I don't. I just want to work to muscle failure and go have a cigarette. :-)
Yes, a shining bastion of health, that's me!
Before we got the treadmill, I alternated the weight training with things like putting on 5-pound ankle weights and walking up and down the stairs about 30 times, or just wearing the ankle weights around. Anything to try to build up muscle.
Since we got the treadmill, I try to do at least 25 minutes on that. I started out walking at about 3 miles per hour, running one minute out of every 5 at something like 4.2mph. (If you can call that running -- hehe!) I'm up to around 30 minutes at 3.5mph/5.5mph which is enough to pretty much keep me out of breath. I find that I can jog for just about one minute comfortably, and that, as a side note, it takes almost exactly one minute to sing the "C-130 going down the strip" cadence all the way through to "Bury me in the leanin' rest." (Little trivia for ya.) Sometimes I push it a bit if I'm almost to the end of a 1/4 mile lap, and run to the end of the lap, but I try to take it easy.
One thing that I found is really important for me is that I be very careful not to hurt myself. A little muscle soreness is okay -- it just means that you're building up. But if I get even the slightest hint that something is pulling, or cramping, or tweaking, I either stop that exercise altogether, reduce the weight, or see if I can move such that whatever it is isn't tweaking anymore.
Similar thing for the treadmill: if I feel at all like I'm getting to where I might trip or stumble or cramp up, I reduce the speed or otherwise kick it down a notch.
Taking it easy is EXTREMELY important for me. When I go out to do the weights, I go out to do 10-20 reps max of each exercise, period. Sometimes, I feel like I want to do a little more, and I do, and that's okay, but if I get done with my 10 reps, I can stop there. When I do the treadmill, I go out to do 25 minutes including a 5-minute "cool down" at a slow walk of 2 - 2.5 miles per hour. When I get to 25 minutes, I can stop, but if I feel like I can do more, I do.
But I don't HAVE to do more. I think this is really important for keeping me motivated -- if I only HAVE to do 10 minutes, I can do it. It's like, "Geez, what's 10 minutes?" You can get a pretty decent workout working to muscle failure in 10 minutes as far as I'm concerned. I'm not going for the Olympics -- I'm just trying to be moderately fit and able to brush the cat. :-)
The other thing that goes into this, is that I'm watching my caloric intake very carefully. (Possibly too carefully, as you can see from previous entries.) I use FitDay and I put pretty much everything I eat in there. I've also entered custom "foods" for the supplements I'm taking, and I've set up custom nutritional goals so I can see if I need to pop a Viactiv calcium chew or have a little more protein or something during the course of the day. The nutritional reports are really handy, plus there's the "am I burning the calories I eat" report.
You may want to go and spend the 25 or 50 bucks or whatever it is to get your metabolism tested, if you haven't already done so. The height/weight/age calculations for how many calories you need to maintain are generally WAY the hell off. It may be that you're taking in more than you need without even knowing it. There is a lookup of places that have the BodyGem RMR tester here at HealthETech.com. Once you have a number, you start to get an idea of what you have to work with, and you can plan your intake accordingly. Sometimes I use FitDay to enter stuff early in the day so I can see what would be cool to eat and still stay within my requirements.
From what I've read, it seems like strength training is more bang for the buck, so to speak. It doesn't burn all that many calories when you're doing it, but it builds up muscle which uses more calories overall. Plus, unless you do cardio for over 30 minutes, you're probably still burning the body's store of glycogen or whatever. I don't think the body resorts to burning fat until you've been working out for 30 minutes or more (maybe 20). I'm doing the treadmill thing not so much for cardio benefits as for building up muscle in my legs.
So, I think it's a combination of the weight training building up muscle, knowing my resting metabolic rate so I can have an idea of how many calories I can take in without gaining, and keeping track.
At least, it seems to be working pretty well for me.
Addendum: I should probably mention that throughout the last couple of months, I've actually gained weight, but people say I look thinner. I go back and forth on this, because I have a really warped body image. Sometimes I look at myself and go, "Damn, I look gaunt!" while other times it's more like, "Gah! I look chunky!" (My mom confronted me because she was really worried about me losing too much weight. She thought I was still losing, but I can honestly say I've been gaining.)
This is one reason why, in the whole course of this, you should not pay attention to the scale. I have gained and/or lost between 5 - 8 pounds overnight or in a single day according to the scale.
I pick clothing for my measurement. I have at least one outfit that's a little too small, so if I think I'm getting smaller, I can try it on. I have other outfits that fit just right, so if I think I'm getting bigger, I can see if they're too tight. Sometimes I do tape measurements, but honestly, nobody wears a tape measure, so I think the clothing thing is a better judge. :-)
And another addendum: for the treadmill, by the time I do that last one-minute run, I should be beginning to feel like I really can't do any more after that. Once I get to the point where, at a certain speed, I feel like I *could* do more after that, then the next day I bump the speed up by .1 miles per hour and go at that speed until that's comfortable. Sometimes I can only do the higher speed for, say, half of the time that I would normally be on the treadmill and I have to bump it back down to the previous level. But that's okay: I give myself permission to wuss out. :-)
I am all about the wussing out, man.
Same with the weights. When it gets to the point that I can do 20 reps on a certain weight, I bump it up. Sometimes, I can't do the bumped up weight for 10 reps, so I'll do as many as I can, then take it down to the previous weight for 10-20.
Basically, as soon as what I'm doing gets comfortable, I leave it there for maybe a week, then bump up the speed or the weight a little.