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9 Rules to Structure a Workout for Best Results

Updated on June 30, 2016
Sue Adams profile image

Dancer, choreologist (movement notator), author on fitness and health and Fellow of the Benesh Institute at the Royal Academy of Dance.

Take enough space to fully stretch out in all directions.
Take enough space to fully stretch out in all directions.

How to Structure a Workout Session

When you know how to structure a workout, you are in a position to help your body in any given situation. You may just need a brief loosening and re-adjustment of your position during a very uncomfortable situation, or you may be planning to go for a jog or a two hour yoga class. Whatever your exercise routine involves, and whatever method or discipline you are following, the basic structure of a workout remains the same, and comprises the following 9 elements:

  1. Environment (the space to move)
  2. Self Observation with a Mirror or Video (the visual awareness of your body)
  3. Clothing (comfort in what you wear)
  4. Ventilation (fresh air)
  5. Breathing and Timing (use music?)
  6. Warm Up
  7. Content (which exercise routine is for you?)
  8. Relaxation
  9. Recovery

Points 6 (Warm Up) and and 8 (Relaxation at the end of a workout) are usually respected in most dance and fitness classes. Unfortunately, the remaining points above are often ignored by professional institutions like gyms and fitness clubs where people come in dressed in their latest fitness attire and expensive trainers to compete, judge, compare and, if lucky, to socialize, with little awareness about what their bodies have to say about it all. So let us go over each of the 9 rules for quicker, safer, and longer lasting benefits of exercise.

1. Environment (Space)

Find enough space to move freely. Enough space means lying on the floor on your back with your limbs stretched out to make the largest possible X shape without hitting any people or furniture. In terms of physical exercise, your true height is not the measurement from the floor to the top of the head. I always make my clients aware of their true height in space by asking them to rise up onto the ball of the feet (relevé) and reach up high with arms overhead. Ditto with your true width: spread the arms far out sideways to become aware of the full amount of space your body can occupy, they go round and round to feel all your personal space. A room full of furniture or a crammed aerobics class just doesn't give people the space the body needs to move through its full potential range of movement.

2. Self Observation with a Full Length Mirror

Step out of yourself and see yourself as others see you. To control your posture, you need a full length mirror in which you can see your whole body from all directions. This may be achieved by standing with your back towards the large mirror and using a small handheld mirror at an angle to find your profile and your back view. In addition, taking video shots of your practice will often reveal unexpected surprises about your performance, which once observed, can be improved.

3. Clothing

As I mentioned before, wearing the latest fitness gear and most expensive training shoes is not going to help you get fit. If you are working out at home, wear nothing, or your pyjamas, shorts or very loose bottoms and Tshirt. Most importantly do not wear shoes. If you are working out at the gym wear the most comfortable and most simple attire and, if allowed, take your shoes off.

4. Ventilation (access to fresh air)

Air conditioned or centrally heated buildings are not the body's favourite places to be in, let alone to exercise in. With the lack of clean fresh air in cities and city buildings, it is almost impossible to find a place to exercise that will give you enough clean fresh air. Some people do Tai Chi in the parks, others play volleyball on the beach. Any form of outdoor activity is beneficial to the body. Walking, playing games, climbing a mountain, cycling along a river bank... There are many activities that you can chose from instead of locking yourself up in a noisy, crowded gym where opening a window is impossible for "security reasons"!

5. Breathing and Timing

Coherence of action, breathing and timing is shown below. An exercise is like a wave of energy, breath and rhythm. Try this now just by squeezing a fist while following the chart below to feel the power of breathing and timing. Simple 8 bar phrased music helps to keep the timing steady.

Now that you know the basic necessities, we can proceed to the correct sequential events that must occur in any properly structured workout session.

6. Warm Up

Before you start a workout, consider which body parts you will be exercising. If you are going to do a full-body session, warm up the whole body by dancing around for five to ten minutes before you start. Or if you don't feel that energetic, just do some improvised floor movements to loosen your joints and get warmed up that way.

7. Content - No Pain, Just Gain

Every "body" is different with different needs. The content of your workout will depend on whether you are working alone or in a group led by a teacher. If you are working on your own, you should know exactly which exercises work for your particular needs. If you are in a class or at the gym, you may have been given exercises to do that you either don't need, or that are really uncomfortable for you. In that case don't do them. Exercise is not punishment. Performing the right moves for you is an extremely pleasant experience. Dumbly following moves that are uncomfortable will do more harm than good. Learn to remember the moves you like and are effective for you. Ignore those that you hate doing. Never force yourself to perform an uncomfortable or painful exercise.

Fun is the Half of it

Exercise without fun cannot, in the long run, be sustained. One of the most fun, and beneficial ways to exercise is using a Yoga Swing. The advantages are manifold in that you can perform risky, new moves in complete safety to any level, and enjoy very rapid progress. Watch the next video to see for yourself.

A Fun Way to Exercise - Yoga Swing on Venice Beach

8. Relaxation

It is absolutely imperative that a workout is closed off with a period of full relaxation. During this relaxation, lying flat on your back with your eyes closed, you visualise every part of your body, starting at the feet, flowing up the through the body, to fully give in to gravity. On each expiration, your body parts sink deeper into the floor until you can hardly feel the weight of your body at all. When you have reached complete relaxation, you may slip into a meditative state. This altered state of consciousness clears the mind of worries and clutter. It is the cream on top of the cake. When you are ready, slowly come back to the here and now, ready for a full recovery.

A Mantra for a Relaxing Meditation

9. Recovery

When you decide to come out of relaxation, back to the normal day-to-day world, follow the following procedure:

  1. Take a deep breath and a full body stretch, like when you wake up in the morning.
  2. Rebuild yourself by slowly getting up, to a deep squat, then
  3. lift your buttocks until your legs are straight but leave your upper body down, still forwardly bent, with your arms shoulders still relaxed. Let the head and neck hang loose.
  4. Now slowly pick up your spine from its base, from the coccyx, one vertebra at a time until finally you
  5. lift up your neck (again, starting at the base), and
  6. head last of all. Then, to fully re-energize,
  7. lift your arms up high while you
  8. rise up on your toes and try to touch the ceiling. Now
  9. slowly lower the heels while maintaining the wonderful tall, stretched feeling in the spine.
  10. Finally, lower the arms and relax the shoulders as if your arms were the empty sleeves of a coat.

That's it! You are ready to go, content, stronger, taller and completely revitalized.

Where do YOU Exercise?

See results

To Recap

Structure a workout with your space all set, a way to see what your body is doing (mirrors or video), dressed loosely, breathing fresh air, knowing your favorite exercise programs to your favorite tunes. At the end of your workout, take time to fully relax, to clear your mind, followed by a slow, tall stretching up towards the sky, to fully recover and maintain the benefits of your efforts until next time. Provided you stick to these 9 rules for a safe well structured workout, you will always enjoy your practice and look forward to the next session.

If you found this article useful, please share it. You may contribute, or put your questions in the comments discussion below which I shall answer to the best of my knowledge.


© 2016 JULIETTE KANDO - You may link to this article, but you may Not copy it. Copied content will be reported with a DMCA notice and will be removed.



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    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 5 years ago from Andalusia

      Not sure what you mean Martella, please explain yourself.

    • profile image

      martellawintek 5 years ago

      hello again granty i got it from a friend so i think this is the link

      filling address , they have a wealth of knowledge ,say m winteksgift him out

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 6 years ago from Andalusia

      Thank you Barbara. That is the whole idea, that one should find pleasure in exercising, as much as playing fun games and learn to find out what the body enjoys doing (apart from having sex, ahum :D ).

    • profile image

      barabarataylor 6 years ago

      I never heard that before: "No Pain JUST Gain". I love it. You make exercising sound fun and easy.

    • profile image

      kohku 7 years ago

      Great Hub for anyone who is into exercise. It might even persuade those who hate exercise to start working out. You make it sound so sensible and pleasant rather than a chore one has to endure.

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 7 years ago from Andalusia

      Hi mathew, nice to hear from you. When are you gong to join HubPages?

    • profile image

      mathew 7 years ago

      Your hub gives a great information on exercise with well detailed with product list that go along your content.Thanks for idea you share.Great hub!

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 7 years ago from Andalusia

      Yes Mike, people often forget recovery, to build themselves up again for the big wide world after they've done an exercise session. That could be exhausting. The whole idea is to retain the gain, not just walk away fom it.

    • profile image

      david stillwagon 7 years ago

      Your hub is well detailed with a lot of great graphics. And recovery is definitely a must for anyone who want to strengthen their body and feel good about themselves.

      Great hub!


    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 7 years ago from Andalusia

      Mike, trust your instincts. If going to the gym is a chore that you don't enjoy very much you are obviously not getting your money's worth. Is there any other way that you could become more active? Join a Salsa class, yoga, swimming, cycling, playing football in the park with a group of friends, rolling down a green grass hill with your kids, doing some gardening for an old lady, or even taking the stairs instead of the lift? There are a million fun things you can do to get fit. Listen to your body and trust its wants and needs.

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 7 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      This is a very good piece of work. I have been exercising at the gym for about 8-9 months. A few years ago I signed up for a gym and lasted about 6 months. I have reached a point where I don't want to quit, but I am bored with the routine and it is an effort to make myself get there. I have been trying to look for ways to shake things up to reinvigorate myself and the exercise sessions.

      I agree with Madeleine, what you have written here could certainly be adapted to other venues!

      Thanks for sharing your views.

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 7 years ago from Andalusia

      Thank you for your comment Madeleine.I'm not sure how to do a newsletter, maybe through my website? I'll certainly look into it. Thanks for the idea.

    • profile image

      madeleine 7 years ago

      Your advice is priceless. Is there a way you can send out a newsletter about your technique? I will be happy to sign up for it!