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IFPA Trainer Nicole Wilkins

ironmanmagazine.comShe’s not just the three-time Figure Olympia and three-time Figure International champ. Nicole Wilkins is an IFPA Certified Personal Trainer—and Trainer of the Year for 2012. She also holds a B.A. in health, wellness and injury prevention from Oakland University in Michigan, is the owner of NW Fitness Group and is the seminar host and future head of Phat Camps Fitness Camps, founded by Jen Hendershott.


It’s great when people are enthusiastic about getting in shape, but how much exercise should beginners do? How many weight workouts a week vs. cardio sessions? How long should they be, and how much work; that is, total sets? When is it time to add more—and how much?


If you are just beginning a workout program, up to three days of 30-minute cardio sessions and three days of weight training is a great starting point. The weight work would be total-body sessions, 45 minute to an hour, with 15 to 20 total sets. Be sure to have a rest day in between weight workouts to allow for adequate recovery. Cardio can be done on the same day as the weight workouts or performed on separate days. Here’s an example:


Monday: Total-body workout

Tuesday: Cardio x 30 minutes

Wednesday: Total-body workout

Thursday: Cardio x 30 minutes

Friday: Total-body workout

Saturday and Sunday: Off


It’s best to be realistic with your program and incorporate the number of days that you know you can stick to 100 percent. When we are excited about getting in shape, we can become overzealous, which usually just sets us up for failure.

It’s good to change your program every six to eight weeks to ensure continued progress. If you’re looking to gain more lean muscle, you can add another day of weights and then divide your routine into an upper-body /lower-body split.


What’s your best advice for someone who can’t seem to make room for fitness in a busy schedule, despite the best of intentions?

Although some may disagree, I do not believe in the excuse, “I don’t have time.”  I’m aware of what a busy schedule looks like, so I know how difficult it can be to fit it in some days. On days that I work from 7 or 8 a.m. until 9 or 10 p.m., I wake up earlier or do my training later. The good thing is, more and more gyms are open 24 hours. If there is absolutely no way I can get to the gym on a certain day, I structure my week in advance to make up the day I may not be able to train. If you really and truly want to do it, you will find a way.

Additional options for getting in some exercise include the following:


• Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

• Park your car in the farthest spot from your office.

• Go for a walk during your lunch break.

• Do three 10-minute sessions throughout the day. Something is better than nothing.

• Invest in equipment for your home—dumbbells, balls and bands are possibilities.

• Spend less time on Facebook or watching TV, and invest that time in exercise.


—Ruth Silverman


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