Before beginning any exercise program, it is important to have a plan. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. A regular exercise routine will make it easy for you to know what exercises you will be doing each day. Otherwise, you may be tempted to skip workout sessions.
When it comes to gaining the benefits of exercise, consistency is key. The more consistent you are, the more results you will get. What is an exercise plan? It is a written schedule that tells you which exercises to do, at what time to do them, on what days, and for how long.
An exercise plan keeps you accountable. Being accountable keeps you on task. Let’s create an exercise plan that you are willing to be consistent with.
First: Set Your Goals
Before you begin, make a list of 4 or 5 fitness goals. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to have more energy? Do you want to be able to jog for 15 minutes straight without slowing down to a walk? Are you looking to get stronger? Have bigger muscles? Exercising will help you achieve those goals. Make sure you write them down at the top of your exercise plan. Then, while you are sticking to your plan, you can see your goals.
If you focus on your goals, you will stay at it. You will achieve your goals and be able to set new goals as you remain consistent.
Before You Begin Creating Your Plan
Only you know the types of exercises that you will most likely stick with. So, think about the exercises you like to do. Some people think that they don’t like any exercise. But that’s only because it’s been so long since they exercised.
Exercising is fun when you add music and when you challenge yourself while exercising. For example, you could jog for 3 minutes longer than how long you jogged the last time.
In the sample exercise schedule below, I included both strength training and cardio in each session. Combining the two into one session will give you maximum benefits.
Exercise becomes fun when you start seeing the benefits you are getting. This usually occurs after approximately 2-3 weeks. Everyone is different, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
Now is the time to decide what equipment you will need and get it. Do you have a place where you could do some fast walking or jogging? Could you set a path in your backyard? Or can you ride your bike somewhere? You may decide that you need a treadmill, elliptical machine, or a stationary bike. It is time to invest in one of them.
You will also want to get a mat. Amazon has a variety of mats. If you have enough floor space, then I recommend a large mat so that you could do a variety of cardio and weight training exercises on it. There is a great one here. They are thick and large enough. If you plan on working out while you are away from home, then get a simple exercise mat that rolls up and has a strap for you to carry over your shoulder.
While you are at it, decide if you are going to need some hand weights. If you are just starting, or if it has been a long time since you’ve exercised, Instead of hand weights, you could use resistance bands.
Figure out what equipment you want to work with and do what you can to get it. If you decide that you want to follow along with a YouTube video of a step routine, then you are going to need to purchase a step. Amazon has a great step that can be adjusted to three different levels. I taught step for many years. It is a fun and effective way to get your cardio in.
Investing in equipment will make you more likely to stick with your plan. Nobody wants to waste money. So, there you go…motivation.
How Often Will You Work out?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans which urges adults to engage in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. Or, to do 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. You could do both, moderate and vigorous exercises if you want. 10 minutes of vigorous exercise equals about 20 minutes of moderate exercise. If you split it up over 5 days, that would be 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week. Or 15 minutes of vigorous exercise 5 days a week. I do 1 hour of moderate exercise 6 days a week. If you are a beginner then start with 30 minutes.
The Physical Activity Guidelines also urge adults to include strength training exercises twice a week. For a beginner, this could be working every large muscle group by performing resistance exercises in repetitions.
For example, a beginner would use 3-5lb. weights to exercise the shoulders with 12-15 repetitions. That would be 1 set. If you can do that easily, then either increase the number of repetitions to 16-20 or add another set of 12-15 reps. Then, switch to the 5-8 lb. weights and do 12-15 bicep curls and tricep lifts. Add 12-15 bench presses (chest) and 12-15 butterfly lifts (back). The idea is to take your muscles out of their comfort zone, challenging them.
Make sure you are increasing the amount of weight, the number of reps, or/and the number of sets you do as the movements get easier.
For the lower body muscles, you could use your body weight as the resistance, or you can hold weights while performing squats and lunges. Follow the pattern I mentioned above. Do 12-15 repetitions on each muscle (quads, hamstrings, inner thigh, and outer thigh) and try to do 3 sets of each. Remember, even a few minutes of exercise is better than no exercise.
You need to give your muscles 48 hours to recover before working the same muscles again. When you work your muscles they develop tiny tears. Then, the muscles begin to repair themselves, growing stronger as they heal. The process takes 48 hours. If you don’t give your muscles time to recover, you are breaking the muscles down, not strengthening them.
You could work all of your major muscles (quads, hamstrings, inner thigh, outer thigh, gluteus maximum, chest, back, biceps, triceps, and shoulders) one day. Then allow the muscles to recover for at least 48 hours before working those same muscles again.
You could split your strength training sessions up. For example, you could work your upper body on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Then do lower body strength training on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
To create an exercise plan, we will go with moderate aerobic exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week. You can break the 30 minutes into 3-10 minute sessions a day, or 2-15 minute sessions a day.
Beginners can start with less than 30 minutes. Just do what you can do. As time goes by, you will be able to do more and more, for a longer period.
Create Your Exercise Plan
To create your exercise plan, first, start with the aerobic exercise you will do. Aerobic exercises include:
- low-impact aerobics
- jogging at a slow to moderate pace
- riding a bicycle or stationary bike
- walking on a treadmill using some incline
- exercising on an elliptical machine
If you want to do vigorous exercises, do an activity from the list, at a fast and powerful pace.
Take a sheet of paper and write the days of the week on it. Make a list of your fitness goals at the top of the paper.
Write down the time of exercise under each day. Then write down the amount of time you plan on exercising. Then write down the specific exercise you will do.
Include a 3-5 minute warm-up before the specific exercise. Add the strength training sessions with the specific muscles you will work. A sample schedule will look like this:
- Lose 1-2 lbs. per week for 6 months
- Exercise consistently for one hour, 5 days a week, for 6 months
- Make healthy food choices that include lean proteins, vegetables and whole grains, every day 7 days a week.
8:00 am- warm-up for 3-5 minutes, then, do 30 minutes of moderate exercise on a stationary bike.
8:35 am do 15-20 minutes of strength training exercise on my upper body (biceps, triceps, chest, back, shoulders). Do 5 minutes of crunches. If you can only do one set of 12-15 reps as a beginner, then do what you can.
9:00 am do some stretching and breathing exercises for 5-10 minutes
8:00 am warm-up for 3-5 minutes (march in place, go for a brisk walk), then follow along with an aerobics routine from a YouTube video (just go to YouTube and search for “30-minute aerobic workout routine”) for 30 minutes
8:35 am do 5 minutes of abdominal crunches
8:40 am do stretching and breathing exercises for 5-10 minutes
8:00 am warm-up for 3-5 minutes, then speed walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes.
8:35 am strength train lower body muscles for 15 minutes and do 5 minutes of abdominal crunches
8:55 am do some stretching and breathing exercises for 5-10 minutes
8:00 am warm-up for 3-5 minutes, then do 30 minutes on a stationary bike.
8:30 am cool down and stretch for 10 minutes
8:40 am do 5 minutes of abdominal crunches.
8:00 am warm-up for 3-5 minutes, then follow along with a YouTube aerobics video for 30 minutes
8:35 am do 15-20 minutes of strength training for both upper body and lower body. Don’t forget to include 5 minutes of abdominal crunches.
8:55 am do some stretching and breathing exercises for 5-10 minutes
anytime: go for a walk without any exertion.
As you can see, I am doing a variety of aerobics in a week. This keeps you motivated. Exercise can be boring. So, always listen to music while exercising.
If you are using a stationary bike or a treadmill, you can read or watch something while exercising.
I keep myself interested in working out by choosing to do Zumba or another dance fitness. I taught aerobics for almost 30 years. I learned that it is not just easy to work out when I’m doing something I like, but I look forward to working out each day.
Every American adult needs to exercise regularly. Not only will you feel better, but you will also lower your risk of premature death, cardiovascular disease, Type-2 Diabetes, and some cancers.
Exercise will help you to get to a healthy weight and to stay at a healthy weight. You will be stronger and have more stamina as long as you stick to your plan.
Remember that once you can do all the exercises you are doing, easily, it’s time to add some weight or intensity to your workouts. Keep switching aerobic exercises to stay interested.
Now that you have created your exercise plan, implement it. Your body will thank you for it soon.
If you have any questions or want me to talk about a specific topic, let me know in the comments section.