I always read articles where women are worried that lifting weights will bulk them up. I wish it could be easy for us to gain muscle that fast! But it's not, so don't worry. :)
In fact, weight lifting is good for anybody and it helps your metabolism! In order to tone up your body gradually, just create a simple schedule that works with your daily routine. For example, here is what I do:
According to my current life-routine I create a gym schedule. I aim for 4 times a week working a specific muscle group each time, since I am trying to be more toned and gain a little bit of muscle mass [Once you're in your perfect shape, you can reduce it to 2-3 times a week and just do full body routines to maintain]. Important things to remember:
1) Set your goals. What do you want to improve on? I want to have better legs, arms, and back. I am leaving the chest for later, and I work on abs whenever I can squeeze them into my workout. But, again, my priorities are my legs, arms, and back. So 3 of my days will probably be dedicated for those areas.
2) Decide how you want to work out. Some people prefer to follow Upper Body vs. Lower Body routines. I divide my workouts the following way: Back+Biceps one day, Shoulders+Triceps another day, and Legs. Other ideas: Triceps+Biceps, Abs+Chest, Legs, Shoulders+Back
3) Let your muscles rest. Try to leave at least three days if you plan on using the same muscle. For example, I try to keep my Back+Biceps days apart from my Shoulders+Triceps days because I am using my arms in all of them. Also, I used to think that if I worked out my legs many times a week, I would get them toned faster. FALSE! It is not a good idea to over-train your muscles; their tissue starts to burn.
4) Don't forget to include cardio. Cardio is important because it helps your circulation, works your heart, and builds indurance. Since I aim for weights 3 times a week, I leave 1 for only cardio (1 hr walking/running intervals). But if I have some extra time on my other days, I finish with 10 minutes of cardio (after a weight lifting session, cardio is excellent for burning fat).
5) Vary your routines. Your muscles get used to doing the same thing, so you have to alter your routines once in a while. Do 3 sets one week, 4 the next, use dumbbells for 3 weeks, cords the next 3, do lunges 3 weeks, squats the next 3. These are just examples of things to vary; they are not complete routines. Now, for large muscle groups, like legs and back, I do about 7 different exercises with 3 sets of 12 as average. For small muscles like biceps, I do 3 exercises with 2 sets of 12 each. For triceps I do 3 exercises as well, but with 1 set of 12 reps. each [maybe 2 if I feel like I can do a few more]. Arm muscles are smaller and don't need as much training as legs and back. Here are two great websites that show you different exercises according to muscle group and how to do them correctly: http://www.fullfitness.net/
6) Don't forget your proteins :). A lot of natural products have protein and it's easy to find information about them online. But you could also try Organic Protein Supplements, (if I use a supplement, I'd rather have the organic one) and prepare yourself a yummy smoothie with frozen fruit (which, by the way, are said to contain more nutrients than fresh fruit). That way you are also satisfying your recommended daily fruit intake :) (at least half of it)
7) Use the Web! Any questions I have I type them on google. Things like: How many sets should I do for this muscle group? What are the best exercises for legs? How many grams of protein are recommended? Whatever your doubts are! Type them in google and most likely someone will have already answered the question.
Last but not least... allow yourself to just do whatever you feel like doing. Some days I am in the mood to ditch the weights and try a Pilates routine on TV, or Tae-bo, or Batuka (latin dancing workout), or bollywood dancing!. As long as you are doing something to release those daily tensions, you will most likely end up feeling great!
So... go, enjoy the gym, the weights, the yummy smoothie afterwards, and eventually... the results :)