How to Build your Own Fitness Plan

For many people, “working out” means going to the gym, lifting weights, or running. And, unintentionally, this ends up being a barrier to working out when we don’t like going to the gym, lifting weights, or running.

Getting in a meaningful and beneficial workout is much easier (and can be a lot more fun!) than many people think. There are a wide range of activities that help strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular health – and overall health!

What is your fitness goal?

Know your goals and build from there. Weight loss? Build muscle? Increase in strength? Tone and firm? Are your goals functional, aesthetic or both?

Start by getting in touch with why you want to work out – then we’ll create a plan to help you achieve those goals.

What type of exercise activities do you like to do? 

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to be active – whether you enjoy running, hiking, figure skating or boxing, there are many fun and enjoyable ways to stay active with physical activities you enjoy and find fulfilling.

Take note of the activities you know you’ll enjoy.

What are the four essential workout elements?

While there are a variety of activities you could include in your fitness plan based on your own preferences, goals, and fitness level, there are four main types of physical activity included in a well-rounded exercise plan. You don’t necessarily have to do them every day, but they should be incorporated on a regular basis.

The four essential elements of a good exercise plan are:

  • cardio

“Cardio” exercise increases your heart rate and breathing to improve the function of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. Cardio can be steady-state, low-to-moderate intensity exercise (like jogging or cycling) or high-intensity intervals (like Tabata or high-intensity interval training – “HIIT”). It just needs to tax the major muscle groups (legs and core) strenuously enough and long enough to keep you breathing hard – which means challenging your heart and lungs.

Cardio exercise doesn’t have to take place in a gym. Many activities in our daily lives can provide cardio exercises, such as taking the stairs, raking leaves, or shoveling snow. Aim for at least 4-5 cardio workouts per week – a 20-minute high-intensity workout or an hour-long low-intensity activity.

Example cardio activities: running, jogging, walking, biking, swimming, circuit training, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), dancing, climbing stairs, shoveling snow, leaf raking, sports such as soccer, basketball, or field hockey.

  • Enforcement

Strength training helps build muscle, improves muscle strength and endurance, and is important in metabolism. It also helps reduce injuries from other activities and keep your skeletal system healthy as you get older.

Strength training exercises can be done simply with your body weight or can include free weights, machines, or resistance bands.

In real life, muscles don’t work in isolation, so it’s best to focus on compound exercises that emphasize multiple muscle groups (like squats and pull-ups) than isolation exercises that emphasize just one muscle (like a biceps curl). It’s super important to use proper form when lifting weight, so if you’re just starting out, be sure to work with someone who can help you with proper form to avoid injury.

Example Strengths: bodyweight exercises, lifting weights, CrossFit, Pilates, yoga, resistance bands, weight machines.

  • Elasticity & Mobility

First, a couple of definitions: Flexibility is the ability of a muscle to stretch, and range of motion is the ability of a joint to move freely through its range of motion. Both are important parts of overall fitness, and both should be incorporated into your fitness routine.

Example flexibility & mobility activities: foam rolling, stretching, yoga, mobility exercises.

  • exhilaration

The last important element of your training plan is rest. When muscles are broken down, they need time to heal and repair – that’s how they get stronger. However, you can still be active during recovery. Just aim for low-intensity activities that you could easily talk about while working, like walking, hiking or light stretching.

How You Can Create A Schedule That Really Works For You?

It’s often said that in fitness, half the work is just getting your shoes on. For many people, the hardest part of creating a new fitness routine is just getting out the door. Whether that’s going to the gym, running in your neighborhood, or going to a yoga class, the initiative it takes to get going is really half the battle.

To make it easier for you to stick to a new fitness plan, there are a few important planning tips to follow:

When do you like to work out?

There may be a certain time of day that you prefer to work out. Some people enjoy being active first thing in the morning when they wake up, others feel more energized around lunchtime, and others prefer to work out in the evening. Tune into the time of day you enjoy sports the most (and maybe it matches with the time of day you feel the most energy for it too).

What makes sense for your daily routine?

Next, consider what time of day makes sense for your typical routine. If you have to work at 7 .m, morning workouts may not be your thing; or if you have packed evenings of clubs and social events, evening workouts may not be ideal. Notice the days and times in your typical schedule that you have time to do a workout.

How often do you want to be active?

Choose how many days a week you want to be active. While seven days a week is certainly ideal, it’s also okay if you don’t want a formal fitness schedule to follow every day of the week – you may want to choose four or five days a week of structured activities.

Do your desired activities require a specific schedule?

There are certain activities that follow a set schedule that can’t be changed – maybe you’re in a soccer league that meets at certain times, or you enjoy taking a certain dance class that is only scheduled at a certain time.

Fitness Tip: If possible, plan your meals on days when you have workouts scheduled at a specific time (especially workout classes that you can’t adjust if you run late). This helps ensure that you eat meals on a schedule that matches your fitness plan – meaning you don’t eat too early before your workout, and you don’t feel forgotten when your workout is supposed to start.

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