Getting Fit & Fabulous

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Expert tips to build your personal training routine.


Think you can’t get in shape because you don’t have enough time? Think again. The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes a week of physical activity, and that breaks down to just over 20 minutes a day of exercise. Basically it’s the time it takes to place a mobile Starbucks order and then drive there to pick it up. So the short answer is: just make the time. 


The average person essentially has two choices to get in shape: break out the sweats and start in your own home, or take a trip to a local gym or fitness center. Most facilities provide some degree of support or coaching, which is highly recommended for those new to or reentering the world of fitness.  

Take the YMCA. Its Smart Start Program is a nation-wide, one-on-one coaching program that offers goal-setting and nutrition sessions, as well as check-ins. You’re paired with a wellness coach, who helps you set attainable goals and establish a realistic fitness plan. There are more than 100 YMCAs throughout the state of Virginia and over 2,600 nationwide. 

Still, the hardest part about starting a fitness plan is starting a fitness plan. How many people do you know whose once-precious Peloton is now a very expensive clothes rack? You can buy all the fancy, colorful free weights you want, but you have to actually use them to get results. So while it might be daunting to take those first few steps of getting into shape, Rosie Hemphill, the Richmond Northside YMCA’s wellness director, breaks down the process into digestible steps, sharing her personal training expertise and explaining the ropes to better health.  

“Believe it or not, just walking alone is a good way to start your own program, as long as you don’t have joint problems,” Hemphill says. Her first session with a client might start out with a solid 10 minutes on a treadmill with a goal of working up a sweat and an increased heart rate. Resistance training comes next. 

“Resistance training is using your muscle power and your body’s own resistance—that push/pull effect of using your own weight to build strength,” she says. “It helps build bone density and increase muscle tone, which we lose as we age. This type of training could be as simple as doing push-ups against a wall for a series of repetitions or getting into free weights. That’s where weightlifting helps—with weight bearing exercises, you build up those bones and muscles.”

Hemphill shares her weekly training program that makes the most of 20 minutes a day, building a stellar, butt-kicking routine, from three to seven days a week. Her workouts include a range of resistance training with free weights and muscle work using your own body weight—think calf raises, squats, and lunges. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t manage deep squats from the get-go. Trust us, if you’re a newbie, it won’t happen immediately, but what counts is to try and repeat. And to keep at it. 

While using weight machine circuits at a gym is a great way to be exact about your level of resistance training, you can also use free weights at home to do most of the exercises on your own. Or you can combine the two—head to the gym for a rotation of bench presses and push-ups, along with reverse crunches (positioning your legs at a 90-degree angle to your back while lying on the floor, and then crunching your abdomen up to touch your toes with your fingers), and then use free weights at home to give your arms an additional workout.  

“Start with 20 minutes,” Hemphill says. “If you can hang in there longer, great. If not, 20 minutes a day is just one way to get started.” Her tips are a great way to get started. Just remember to stretch. 

Setting the Bar
Rosie Hemphill’s tips to start your fitness journey

While a personal trainer can tailor a workout to your individual needs, Hemphill suggests these simple exercises for anyone looking for a place to start:

1. Warm Up 

– Treadmill

Start with 10 minutes, just to build a sweat and increase your heart rate.

2. Strength

– Bench press

– Chest flys

– Push ups

– Tricep kickbacks

Start slow with 10 or 12.5 lb weights and work your way up. Lift slowly with a single set of 10–15 reps for each exercise and listen to your body.

3. Abs

– Alternating superman

– Reverse crunch

– Scissor crossover kicks

Focus on your form, and remember to exhale before every move.

4. Cool Down

– Chest doorway stretch

– Tricep stretch

Don’t skip the cool down! This step is key in preventing injuries and reducing soreness. 


This article originally appeared in the June 2024 issue. 

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