How will I know? A Guide to the Best Workout for Your Body and Life 

Tamra L. Christiansen, Director of Fitness and Wellness

I am often asked these questions:
• “How often should I work out?”:
• “Should I do the same workout every time?”:
• “How much weight should I use?”
• “Which classes can I take back-to-back?”

Beginner/Starting back after a long break: 

If you have never worked out, or it has been a long time since you worked out, start slowly. This means only walking, riding the recumbent bike or doing the elliptical. After time off or a surgery, you may have to treat yourself as a beginner to not injure yourself or impede on your healing. 

On the Peloton, use the 15-minute beginner classes to ease your way into a good workout. Start with two to three days a week and build a day in the weeks to follow.

This goes for classes as well. Start with one to two per week and add classes from there. You might find that you are sore from an easy class. Let this encourage you: anyone, novice to professional, can get sore from what they are not used to.

In strength training, do the same. Start with a couple of days a week, adding a day each week, and always begin with a proper warm-up. Begin with full body training, focusing on alternating lower body to upper body. Work the large to small muscle groups: squats or leg press, then calf press; chest press to triceps work; lat pulldown machine, then do some bicep work. Start with 15-20 reps for the first set, with the last 3-5 reps being a true challenge to finish. On the second set, go a bit heavier and do 10-12 reps.  

Another great way to start a program is to do Circuit Training. Do the entire list of eight to 10 exercises once, then do the list a second time.

With cardiovascular workouts, start with 15 minutes of easier work, bringing yourself to sweat. This means lower resistance and slower movement for the first two to four weeks. After that, increase speed, resistance or incline to the workout. You will feel the difference and moreover, you will see the higher caloric burn per minute. If adding incline, make sure it starts with intervals, meaning going uphill for a short time and returning to flat/ground walking for 30-60 seconds. For every 1% uphill grade, the average 150-pound person burns 10 calories more per mile. At a 10% incline, that person will burn twice what they would walking on a flat level.

When you begin classes, keep each type of class to a twice-a-week minimum and start very light, even if some of the exercises are done with body weight only. Listen to your body. If you are too sore, choose to do light cardiovascular exercise instead of the class again. This is called Active Recovery. The worst thing you can do when your body is sore is to not move. The muscles tighten up even more and cannot release the lactic acid. Stretching is one of the most important things you can do. It doesn’t have to be yoga, but you need to stretch the specific muscles worked that day.

Novice to Intermediate

Once you have been working out for four to six weeks, you can add weight to your strength regimen. Add 2.5-5 pounds to each set. Add another day of strength training. Try doing a different routine. Now, you can move from total body workouts to more concentrated workouts. Here is an example:

  • Day 1: Legs and Shoulders
  • Day 2: Cardio and Stretch
  • Day 3: Chest, Triceps and Upper Core
  • Day 4: Cardio and Stretch
  • Day 5: Back, Biceps and Lower Core

Did I mention Core? (Snide smirk.)

Here is another example of a more advanced workout:

  • Day 1: Legs and Core, Light Cardio
  • Day 2: Chest and Back, Longer Cardio
  • Day 3: Shoulders, Biceps and Triceps (Arms Day), 20-minute Intervals
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Days 5, 6, 7: Repeat Days 1, 2, 3

When lifting, you can add more strength by changing the order, the move, increasing the reps or adding weight. Spend a session or two learning how to use progressions to moves that you have mastered. There is always an easier or harder way to approach training. Being in a constant state of learning only improves…well, your entire body inside and out!

Notice that our Group Exercise schedule has a distinct design that is created specifically for a good balance of your workout week.

Your week can look something like this: 

  • Monday: Barre or Cycle and/or Pilates (both challenging after a weekend of heavier eating)
  • Tuesday: SRT (Strength Resistance Training), followed by Yoga Fit. We also have Open Level Pilates or Barrelates for      the lunchtime workouts.
  • Wednesday: A mid-week challenge with Jump Board on the Reformers or Open Level Pilates
  • Thursday: Rinse and Repeat Tuesday’s workouts.
  • Friday: Cycle or Pilates
  • Saturday: X-Fit to really end the week strong or Gentle Yoga to calm the mind and relax the body.

We have so many classes to suit all needs, even outdoor enthusiast classes with the OutFITter Workout. This is a great class for early risers! See our schedule of group exercise classes listed on

Intermediate to Advanced

A sign that your workouts are working is to notice if you are still feeling sore from what you did in the day(s) before. If you are finding that you are not sore or if you are bored with your routine, this is a telltale sign to change it up. Signing up for an event is a great way to have dedicated training for a goal and purpose. Our bodies are highly adaptable and need to be challenged with strength and changes in our cardio routine. Adding a third set to your core routine and learning how to do Pyramids or Drop-Sets could build your strength, tone and stamina!

Another point to make in your year of working out is to acclimate to the weather you are working out in. It takes about 10 days of being in a certain temperature to acclimate the body to working out in that element. For the cold weather snaps we have, think about layering your clothing.   

The most important thought on all of this: be patient and encouraging with yourself. Commend yourself for the work you have done. You can only get better from this point on! Soreness doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. Resist beating yourself up about “how much I haven’t been working out,” or “I’m so out of shape.” Know what you enjoy most so you know that you will stick with the program. Our trainers and instructors are talented in guiding you to your VERY BEST!

Tamra Christiansen is the Fitness and Wellness Director at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. She can be reached at and 830.336.9184.

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