I started with a personal trainer. My trainer, James, was really good but I had to stop using him in the second year when he moved first to another gym and then to California. I switched to another guy that he recommended until he left for some other location and since then I've been trainer-less. One of these days I will have a few sessions with a trainer again - but I'm going to wait until my mild tennis elbow gets better (I'm doing lots of but not enough stretches and should use ice more - this worked the last time). No, I don't play tennis. The tennis elbow is preventing me from doing biceps curls except with quite light weights - since I do nothing that hurts.
I go three times a week (when I had a trainer I used him once a week. I don't keep a chart anymore and haven't looked at the various notes I took when using these trainers, but I remember most of the things. Having a trainer is helpful on doing stuff right and pushing you harder and try new exercises. It is also good motivation since he looks at the chart from the workouts between sessions so you don't want to be embarrassed - its just like taking piano or voice lessons - you don't want to be chastised for not practicing. James always explained lots of things and stressed doing appropriate stretches after each thing which helps avoid injuries.
My current pattern is:
- 15-20 minutes of cardio on one of treadmill, elliptical, stair climber,
- a set of shoulder/neck stretches and small weight exercises,
- 3 sets of 12 reps of 4-5 exercises alternating between chest/back, arms, shoulders, and legs/abs. I do some free weights and some machines - different combos each time. - 10-15 minutes of cardio on one of treadmill, elliptical, bike, or rowing
The variety above is organized partly to keep me from being bored - a necessary element to keep me going
I use my iPod running in shuffle mode - I have a combo of contra dance, english country dance, classical, folk, and jazz and this leads to some interesting sequences. If the selection is too slow for the cardio I skip until I find the right thing. Contra Dance music is really the best for that.