By Akela Collins

Akela Collins graduated from the University of Florida in 2006 with a degree in Telecommunications/Production. In 2008 she suffered a spinal injury that required surgery and physical therapy. She went from hardly being able to walk to completely rebuilding her body and returning to a normal life. In 2012 she earned her group exercise instructor certificate and her personal training certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine in 2013. She joined the Gainesville Health and Fitness Personal Training and Group Exercise departments in 2015 and is now the director of Studio Q, a suspension-based training studio located at GHF Women in Thornebrook.

Do men and women need to train differently? Why? 

Generally speaking, no. Men and women can train the same, and the vast majority of exercises are safe for both. However, there are some types of exercises that pose a slightly greater risk for females. These are plyometrics, which are high impact, high intensity jump-based exercises. These exercises are a great tool for athletes and those who have demonstrated proficiency in all aspects of training. For me, it all comes down to risk versus reward, and the structural difference of females and males in the lower body is not something I feel should be ignored. The “Q angle” is the measurement of the hip to the knees to the ankles. Women have a naturally larger Q angle due to their larger hip width, which means that there is more pressure placed on their knees. This angle along with the generally higher risk of injury during a plyometric-based workout can lead to a greater likelihood of patellar and ACL injury for women. There are countless ways to challenge the body, and while plyo can be a great accessory component to an exercise program, I feel that it is a much riskier addition for females then males.

Should I work out in the morning before work or after I get home?

My best recommendation in this area is to try several different times. Going in the morning for a few weeks can help you to establish if you feel good working out at that time. Then switch to a lunchtime or evening workout and measure your success rate. Were you more successful in the morning because you didn’t have life commitments getting in the way? Did you feel stronger and more energized in the evening? I do not believe there is a right or wrong answer as long as you can develop a pattern of consistency. Consistency is key to the success of any program.

For me it comes down to what specific workout I’ll be doing. If I am doing cardio I will often do it in the morning before I go into work. For weightlifting I simply feel stronger in the midafternoon and know I will have a better workout if I wait until 3 p.m. I know that I am more likely to stay consistent, work harder and get it done if I am very specific about my time. This approach may not be feasible for everyone, but always keep in mind that if something isn’t working for you, you can change it.

Why can’t I just do cardio workouts?

While there is no denying that cardio is great for your heart, it simply will not make true noticeable compositional changes in your body like adding weights will. Apart from the aesthetic benefit, strength training helps you to increase bone density, improves balance and posture, and burns more calories for a longer period of time. In fact, strength training can even boost metabolism. The body has to work harder to maintain muscle mass, which means more calories are burned.

For those who are wary of picking up weights, you can always stick to body weight-based movements. Body weight strength training is a fantastic way to begin a weight lifting regimen, and it gives you the opportunity to perfect form before you add additional weight.

Is it better to workout in a group setting or on your own? Why?

Similar to the question of time, there is no true right or wrong answer here. It all comes down to what you will be more consistent with. I began my fitness journey in the group exercise setting. I found I was more likely to stay consistent if I had a set time that I was expected to be in a class. You can’t discount what a great tool accountability can be when you are trying to develop habits. If you have a friend or an instructor that is expecting you to be in a class with them, it makes it much harder to miss! If you despise the idea of a group setting then avoid it at all costs. Exercise is something you are doing for YOUR mind and YOUR body. It is meant to be enjoyable!

When I get to the gym, should I do weight training or cardio first?

If you plan to do both strength training and cardio in the same day, then I would recommend doing your cardio AFTER your weights. The body will need the energy stores (glycogen) to repair and rebuild your muscle following a strength-based exercise program. If you deplete these stores with cardio before strength, you will have a lower success rate in developing muscle mass over time.

I prefer that my clients have separate strength and cardio days, but sometimes this is unrealistic. If you need to do cardio before strength, try to give your body as much time to recover as possible before picking up the weights.

How often should I workout?

Depending on how hard you work out, you will need one to two days of rest each week. If you are doing a more strength-based workout, then I suggest breaking the workouts up throughout the week into different parts of the body or even different movements. Here is an example of an exercise schedule I enjoy.

Monday: Push/Pull/Rotate

Tuesday: Cardio

Wednesday: Hinge/Gait/Gassers

Thursday: Cardio

Friday: Lunge/Squat/Hinge

Saturday: Active rest day

Sunday: Rest day

I find my clients to be more successful if we do not schedule workouts on the weekends. Instead they partake in a physical activity they find enjoyable, such as kayaking, hiking or swimming.