For as long as I can remember, there has been a very distinct division between the weights section and cardio machines at the gym. Guys live near the dumbbells and squat racks, and girls are confined to the treadmills and ellipticals. The guys are often more than welcome to come run on a treadmill if they please but, girls going to the weights section? I’ve gotten a few weird looks when I head to the Smith Machine for my strength training session.

I’ve never understood why this stigma exists that girls shouldn’t be using anything above 10 lbs for their upper body because they’ll get too “bulky” or they shouldn’t train the lower body in case their thighs get too big.

Over my three-year journey with health and fitness, I have found that a happy combination of weights and cardio is the best way to workout. However, learning how to safely exercise using weights is important. Women should not exercise exactly like men because our bodies are different. We build muscle and retain fat in different parts of our body, which means we need to vary our fitness regimes.

We also typically have different reasons for why we are working out.

Men are usually lifting to build muscle whereas women are commonly trying to lose fat and tone the muscle they have. I have found that for me personally setting performance goals is more productive and healthy. While everyone's fitness journey is unique, I thought I would share my weekly workout routine that works well for me in hopes that maybe some of these workouts may work for you too.

Day 1 - 6-mile run, stretch and ab circuit

I try and run outside whenever it is over 4 miles. It keeps it interesting and (if it’s a nice day) it gets me outdoors to enjoy the sunshine. I’ve been getting out of the habit of stretching because I’m impatient and don’t feel like I am really doing anything while stretching even though I know that’s not the case.

Day 2 - Lower-body weights session, typically hypertrophy and strength-based

I usually combine compound lifts with free weights. I love training with weights because I can really see my performance progress. When I am able to lift more weight, I instantly feel gratification for all my hard work.

Day 3 - Upper-body strength coupled with a treadmill HIIT workout

Most women neglect their upper body. While biologically women are more petite in their arms and shoulders, we too can build muscle and definition in those areas of our bodies. High-intensity interval training or HIIT is one of my favorite ways to get cardio over and done with quickly. I usually do sprints on the treadmill or an incline interval run. It only takes 15 minutes and you’re done!

Day 4 - 4-mile run and ab circuit

These are usually my low-intensity aerobic cardio days and I try to place them on a day when I know I’ll be busy and need something that will only take 30-40 mins total. 4 miles on the treadmill is usually just enough time for a couple "Friends" episodes, which takes the boredom out of indoor running.

Day 5 - Cross-training, a 60 min low intensity swim

I only recently regained my love for swimming. During my half marathon training, I found that my joints were really feeling the effects of so much repetitive running and I needed a way to still work my aerobic system while being easy on the joints in my knees and ankles. Swimming has been the perfect solution.

Day 6 - High-intensity circuit training and a 3 mile run

Circuit training serves the same purpose as HIIT workouts. It is quick and varied and doesn’t allow my body to adapt to movements. I usually use the 3 mile run as my warm up and add weights/resistance to my circuits. These training sessions usually involve a whole lot of burpees...A LOT of burpees.

Day 7 - Active rest day, I try and stretch on these days to speed up my recovery

I’m not very good at this day. Because I love working out so much, asking me to sit still for a whole day does not usually go very well. I have on multiple occasions skipped a rest day because I don’t enjoy feeling like I haven’t moved my body. However, I have learned how important they are and find that walking or stretching does wonders for my recovery –– preparing it to start the week all over again.