General Advice: Don’t start too hard, it’s a big lifestyle change to start exercising, and while exercising too hard isn’t that dangerous (many people will warn you about injury, which is possible) the chief concern is if you go harder than you’re ready for it may weaken your resolve to stick with the plan.
Aerobic Exercise/Cardio: If you’re doing a half hour and you’re breaking a sweat, I think that’s a good level for you. Some people who are just starting off will have trouble even doing 15 minutes, looks like you’re in better shape than that. I would focus on increasing intensity to be honest, until eventually you can do very intense aerobic exercise for 20 minutes straight.
This is controversial, lots of people who are distance runners and those types think the goal of aerobics is to be able to go low-intensity for hours on end. I disagree with that, I think you can get all health benefits of aerobic exercise by gradually building up to intense exercise in which your body actually works anaerobically. On a treadmill or whatever, see how many miles you’ve done in half an hour. I’d set a goal of each week increasing that number by .1 miles, I wouldn’t glue your face to mph display of the treadmill, just gradually increase intensity each week. Anytime you can’t get any further intense, just stay at your current intensity level until you can, try each Friday or something to push yourself and see if you’re ready to go to the next level the following week.
Weights/Resistance Training: I almost would warn you against researching this too much. The number one problem with looking into weight training is most of the literature is developed by people who are bodybuilders or power lifters. Within bodybuilding, there are dozens of different philosophies on proper workout regimens. Within powerlifting, it’s a little more uniform but there are still tons of different theories.
I would actually advise something that most of these forums would hate, because it would seem foreign to them. But I’m looking at it from the perspective of some regular guy wanting to get in shape, and that’s very different than what most of these authorities have as their frame of reference.
With lifting I’m going to advise full body, Monday/Weds/Friday(or any 3 days a week with a day in between.)
Each of those days do the following:
Dumbbell Bench Press
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
Pullovers (using a cable machine is best)
Upright Dumbbell or Barbell Rows
Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Dumbbell Curls (or barbell curls)
Overhead Triceps Extensions (Seated or Standing)
Leg Extensions (should be able to do on Bowflex)
Lying Leg Curls (should be able to do on Bowflex)
That’s decent full body. Now, a lot of people are going to freak out because they think you should have a week in between exercising any major muscle group. Well, you aren’t a bodybuilder or a professional lifter, you’re just a guy trying to get in shape.
I understand you might only have a Bowflex and no dumbbells, I think dumbbells are a really good investment but if you can’t make it, then go to www.exrx.net and research the exercises I’ve posted above and see if your Bowflex will allow you to do them or similar.
Really if you can’t make that regimen work just generally hit:
-Few chest exercises (3ish)
-Few back/shoulder exercises (3ish)
-Few leg exercises (2-3)
-Few arm exercises (one isolation bicep, one isolation tricep, then maybe one other if desired)
Do lying leg raises on a bench for abs, or do a “McGill situp”, both of these exercises give good ab workout without the negative back damage that regular situps and crunches can cause.
As for intensity, let me say that you will never be a bodybuilder with that physique without heavily regimented diet plan, so don’t worry about that. What you want to do is build up some muscle and strength because that causes permanent metabolism increase and is a great general boost to your health and fitness.
To achieve that, I want you to do the above 3 day a week routine and with each exercise try to do 2 sets. I know a lot of people advocate 3, 4, 5 sets. I’m not for you, I’m saying do 2 sets. Same weight each set, aim for 10-12 reps per set. The weight should be enough that you aren’t viciously struggling on the first rep, it’s probably about the “sweet spot” if you’re having difficulty on rep 10-12, and it’s “okay” if you can’t get a full 12 in. It’s too heavy if you can’t get to 10.
Do that regimen for probably 12 weeks (3 months.) Your gains won’t be great, but the real goal of this period is to just get you used to the motions, to build up some control, and etc. After the 12 weeks if you want to do something that gives a little more benefit, I would start to advocate you move to 3-4 reps for those exercises, and instead of trying to lift a weigh where it is “difficult to do 10-12 reps but you consistently get them in” instead start lifting a weight where you are sometimes “lifting to fail”, meaning you may not be getting 10-12 but your last rep is the last rep your body can physically handle.
You will also at that point want to research more traditional lifting plans, where you might still only lift 3 days a week, but each of those 3 days are different. So you might do a range of leg exercises on Monday, then you don’t do leg again until the next Monday. On Weds you might do chest and back, and then you don’t touch chest and back again until next Weds, then on Friday do basically “everything else” and etc.
Some people would advocate doing arms 2 times a week because they are smaller and have less recovery time. What I’ll say is doing 12 weeks of a “beginners” plan like I outlined above, you will be in the shape where maybe changing it to a more traditional plan will benefit you and you can do your research at that time.