A woman lifts dumbbells in a gym
Digest Issue 47 Special Interviews and Features

An Inside Look at the Workout Routines of a ‘Lifelong Gym Girl’

I’ve been a sports and fitness enthusiast and involved with workout routines for as long as I can remember. It started with ballet and moved to soccer and basketball teams from the age of 6 and up. At the age of 14, I started going to a gym with my athletic father—a way for us to bond and for me to prepare for making the high school field hockey team. I played competitive field hockey for about 10 years—four in high school, four in college and two years of adult field hockey and high school coaching.

Jenny Lapan wears a Maryland field hockey sweatshirt
Jenny Lapan played competitive field hockey for about 10 years and has learned lots about staying in shape over the past two-plus decades. All story photographs (except the featured image) by Jenny Lapan.

After my field hockey “career,” I started running and racing to keep my fitness goal-oriented. This was the first time that I had a cardio-only workout routine, seeing that field hockey is a very strength-based sport. It was during this running phase that I realized keeping your body in great working order as well as maintaining a physique that I was happy with was going to take more than running and cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise.

It was just before a marathon I was training for that I injured my IT band and had to take a break from running for long enough to develop the motivation to find alternative forms of fitness. So, in 2005, I went to a library to do some research on fitness and weightlifting for the “average” athlete. I wanted to find something that was a great balance between challenging and simple. A plan of action was needed—what do to and when to do it, whether at a gym or at home. I came across a book called World’s Fittest You by Joe Decker, and to this day, this book and the four workout routines laid out by Decker are my go-to workouts. I carried out his plan for a few months that year, and I had never seen my body change in so many positive ways.

My confidence and increased strength were at an all-time high. Since then, I’ve taken many, many different paths of fitness. I’ve completed more than 300 Bikram yoga classes; I have gone back to running at times; I followed a triathlon training plan for three months on two occasions; and I’ve been a general gym-goer with no specific plan. I’ve also taken many months off of working out, including my 21- and 12-day water fasts. After 22 years of personal experience, I can’t stress enough how beneficial and important it is for women to lift weights! There is no end to the positive effects—mental, physical and aesthetics—gained from strength training.

Joe Decker’s World’s Fittest You program is based on the push-pull method of weightlifting. He provides four workouts based on this method. There are two “push” workouts and two “pull” workouts, each combined with either legs or abs, to split up the exercises evenly. The reason I think this is the best plan for women is that it’s simple, works the entire body, doesn’t make your body too sore, doesn’t create excess muscle bulk and allows for each woman to adjust the workouts according to her goals. You can perform these exercises at high weight and low repetitions (4 to 8 reps) for muscle gain or moderate weight and high reps (8 to 12) for muscle toning. Of course, I suggest challenging yourself as much as possible without causing any pain.

In a self-photograph, Jenny Lapan wears exercise apparel

Because there are four total workouts, you can choose to do two, three or all four per week, mixing in days of cardio and yoga when desired. I prefer to do three of these workouts per week. I find that gives me a good challenge, keeps my muscles toned and doesn’t make me too sore or tired of going to my gym. I typically do two cardio-only days per week in addition, and this will sometimes include jogging or hiking outdoors or using an indoor cycling or elliptical machine if the weather is bad. In my general experience, I estimate that you’ll start seeing positive results in about four weeks. In about four months, you’ll have a new, stronger and improved body.

Jenny Lapan’s Top 3 Exercises

My top three exercises, being both my favorite to perform as well as the most effective in my opinion are:

1. Lat pull-downs. These are amazing for the shoulders, back and biceps and my key to sexy arms!

2. Cable machine abs. You absolutely need to challenge your stomach muscles with weighted exercises!

3. Hip thrusts, or bridges. Look up the proper form for this exercise. In my opinion, this is the most effective exercise for glutes. It isolates the glute muscles most effectively and activates them in places squats don’t reach!


Closeup photograph of Jenny Lapan's left hand holding a dumbbell
Several exercises featuring dumbbells are featured in Jenny’s workout routines.

Jenny’s Top Motivational Tips

There are so many terrific resources on the Internet for women’s fitness, so I’ll keep this simple. My top tips for keeping motivated are:

1. Strength train at least twice per week!

2. Keep a fitness journal. Track your progress and reward your consistency.

3. Find a fitness role model and copy her. Look no farther than YouTube or Instagram for someone who inspires you! Try to emulate someone you have something in common with such as your body type or diet preferences. There are lots of raw vegan and vegan fitness girls with terrific content.

4. Find a podcast or audiobooks for listening to while exercising! Save this specific content for working out only. That way, you’ll look forward to the workout portion of your day. I used to listen to The Rich Roll Podcast. Now I’m an Audible member and love positive-message audio books.


I created these “workout cards” of the four workout routines that I like to use when I need guidance at my gym. Download these to your phone and use them as your phone lock screen or wallpaper. That way, you can look at them easily while working out. Just a little inside tip from a lifelong gym girl. 🙂

Happy lifting!

Check out Cards for Jenny’s Workout Routines


Jenny Lapan takes a self-photo in a mirror

Check out Jenny Lapan’s transformation story!


A woman leans against a tree

Check out Jenny’s article “Seeing Through the Many Lenses of Green Beauty”!

About the author

Jenny Lapan

Jenny Lapan

Jenny Lapan was born in 1981 in a suburb of Washington, D.C. She grew up as an active child. Along the way, she experienced surprisingly low energy, sleep disorders, fatigue, and dietary confusion despite her best efforts. At age 19, Jenny began a typical path in a search for health from vegetarian, to vegan, to raw, to a sustainable long-term high-carb, fruit-based diet which she is enthusiastic about. She is an artist, an athlete, and a human girl seeking truth, clarity, and happiness throughout life. She can be found either at the gym, at the movies, or on Twitter at any given time.

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