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How to create a workout plan

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Creating a workout plan is like drawing a map. Once you set the destination, you then have to draw a line from where you are to where you want to go. And if your health and fitness goals are the ‘X’ that marks the spot, then your exercise plan is the journey you need to embark on.

That leaves one question, however: how do you create a workout plan?

We’ve put together this five-step guide to help. 

How can I make a workout plan at home?

If you’re new to working out, don’t fret. You can make a workout plan for yourself with just a few tools, some patience, and a willingness to work. 

That said, before you can draw your map, you need to know where you’re starting.

Step #1: Perform a self-assessment

The first step to creating a workout routine is to perform an honest self-assessment. We want to stress the importance of the word honest. Overestimating your abilities won’t get you into shape faster. Instead, it can backfire, ending up in injuries and discouragement.

Fitness goal

Start with your goals. What do you want to accomplish through exercising regularly? Do you want to:

  • Reach a target weight

  • Improve your overall health

  • Work toward a specific athletic event such as a 5k run or walk

Each of these goals will require a different route to get to your destination. 

Current fitness level

Once you know where you’re going, you’ll need to figure out what you’re working with. Questions you should answer about your current habits include:

  • How often have you worked out in the last three months?

  • What workouts did you do?

  • How long and frequent were those workouts?

  • What do you like and dislike when exercising?

If you haven’t done any exercise over the last few months, then you’ll want to start from scratch. If you have a regular training session like walking or weekly yoga, then you have a base upon which to build.

Age

Your age is also an important factor to consider when crafting the perfect fitness plan. Older adults might focus on activities that put less stress on their joints, while younger people might be able to handle more intense workouts.

Schedule

How much exercise do you need in a day? The answer isn’t how much but how often. Consistency is the key to getting to your fitness destination. To reach your goal, you must make time in your schedule to exercise. Before you design your workout program, look at your daily, weekly, and even monthly calendar. 

Where can you block time to work out? 

Once you’ve found those open timeslots, pencil in exercise time. You’re more likely to stick to your commitment if it’s in writing. 

Equipment

Lastly, you’ll need to assess the equipment you have available. The must-haves include:

  • Comfortable athletic shoes

  • Breathable workout clothing

  • An exercise mat

  • Watch or phone for timing

These items are nice to have, but not necessary:

  • Dumbbell or resistance bands

  • Bicycle or stationary bike

  • Yoga blocks

  • Treadmill

  • Stability ball

  • Bench Press

  • Fitness app

Remember, you can always build your home gym as you go. Figure out what you enjoy doing and invest in equipment for those activities is one of the ways to work out at home.

Step #2: Balance your workouts

Once you’ve assessed your starting point, you’re ready to build the components of your custom workout plan. It’s important to balance your workouts so that you’re improving all three elements of fitness: aerobic, strength, and flexibility.

Get moving 

What are the benefits of cardiovascular exercise? Aerobic or cardiovascular exercise can elevate your heart rate, lower blood pressure, improve blood circulation, and lower cholesterol. The CDC outlines two levels of aerobic exercise that adults should focus on:

  • Moderate-intensity – At this level, you should be able to speak with effort. However, singing should be impossible. The minimum recommendation for moderate-intensity exercise is 150 minutes per week.

  • Vigorous – This should feel much harder than moderate aerobic activity. You shouldn’t be able to speak more than a few words. If your aerobic activity is more vigorous, the CDC recommends about 75 minutes per week.

There are many activities you can do for aerobic exercise. Some of the best choices for beginners include:

  • Walking or hiking at a brisk pace

  • Alternating walking with easy jogging

  • Biking on flat terrain

  • Riding a stationary bike

  • Using an elliptical machine

  • Swimming at a leisurely pace

  • Following an online cardio exercise class

  • Squatting without weights

Of these, the right choices for you are the activities you can do and that you’ll enjoy doing over a long period of time.

Build strength

Cardio is only one component of good physical health. Strength training is equally important. The CDC recommends at least two sessions of strength-building exercises per week. These sessions should focus on training all of your major muscle groups, including:

  • Arms, shoulders, and chest

  • Core and back

  • Hips, legs, and glutes

Even if you don't want to build muscle mass, you should aim for two sets of between 8 and 12 repetitions for most strength-building exercises.

Stay limber

Lastly, you’ll need to work on maintaining flexibility. Yoga, pilates, or other stretching activities are important to build into your plan. You can aim for 5 to 10 minutes of stretching after your warm-up or cardio workout. You can also schedule a yoga class once or twice per week. The key is to make sure you’re keeping your muscles limber.

Step #3: Start slowly

You shouldn’t expect to go from 0 to 60 in a matter of weeks. Unfortunately for those speed-racers out there, there aren’t shortcuts on the road to fitness. You have to build a strong base and add on new challenges slowly.

Your body will get stronger and fitter only when it has time to adapt. When you exercise, you’re breaking down muscle tissue. The gains in fitness come when those tissues have time to repair themselves. If you accelerate your workouts too quickly, your body won’t have time to rebuild, which leads to injury and burnout.

Step #4: Vary your activities

Another key to avoiding burnout and putting too much stress on one muscle group is to vary the fitness activities. A balanced fitness program will contain a variety of aerobic, strength, and flexibility routines. 

Mixing it up doesn’t have to be complicated, though. It can be as simple as challenging yourself to try one new physical activity or adding a new exercise to your strength training routine each week.

Step #5: Monitor your progress

Remember the self-assessment we recommended in step 1? Another reason it’s so important to do before starting your program is that it’ll help you monitor your progress. Some benchmarks you can use at the start (and then re-evaluate every six weeks or so) of your fitness program include: 

  • Your resting heart rate

  • The time it takes you to walk (or jog) 1 mile

  • Number of push-ups you can do 

  • Your flexibility when you bend to touch your toes

  • Your waist circumference

  • Your energy levels

Improvement in these categories shows an increase in overall fitness.

Don’t forget to rest.

When you’re on a long drive, you need to stop and rest so that you can continue. The same is true of your exercise journey—without rest, your body will eventually crash. Rest is necessary for improvement. Plan at least one full rest day each week.

How do you plan a weekly workout program?

Now that you know how to create a workout plan, let’s outline what a solid week for a beginner might look like. Remember, your target is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise with two strengthening sessions and regular stretching.

  • Day 1 – 30-minute walk followed by 10 minutes of stretching

  • Day 2 – 30-minute walk, 20 minutes strength training

  • Day 3 – Rest 

  • Day 4 – Morning: 15-minute walk, Evening: 15-minute walk followed by 10 minutes of stretching

  • Day 5 – 30-minute bike ride, 20 minutes weight training

  • Day 6 – 30-minute walk followed by 10 minutes of stretching

  • Day 7 – 20 minutes of gentle yoga

A simple plan like this provides a solid starting point, regardless of whether you want a weight loss program, muscle building program, or even something more like an overall wellness program. You can intensify your exercise routine or the amount of time you spend on each activity as your fitness improves.

Reach your destination with Found

Drawing a clear map of your trek to improved fitness is bound to improve your outcomes. Getting to your destination requires consistency and patience. However, sometimes even the best directions can fail when they run into unanticipated roadblocks.

When you’re having a difficult time getting around those obstructions in your path, we can help. Think of us as your virtual weight care assistant. 

At Found, we combine the latest scientific research with an excellent support team to create the ideal workout session for your weight loss and health needs. This is one of dozens of benefits that Found members receive as part of our program. If you’re stuck on the road and need some assistance, take our quiz today to see if we’re the right choice for you.

Sources: 

NASM. How to Conduct Fitness Consultations. https://blog.nasm.org/how-to-conduct-fitness-consultations

CDC. How Much Physical Activity Do Older Adults Need? https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/index.htm

Mayo Clinic. Fitness Training: Elements of a Well-Rounded Routine. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness-training/art-20044792

CDC. How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need? https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm

American Council on Exercise. Myths and Misconceptions: Muscle Soreness. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/3654/myths-and-misconceptions-muscle-soreness/

Mayo Clinic. Fitness Program: 5 Steps to Get Started. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20048269

American Council on Exercise. 8 Reasons to Take a Rest Day. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/7176/8-reasons-to-take-a-rest-day/

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