Successful Exercise Plans
This section focuses on helping you succeed.
Learn tips for conquering your worst enemy. Yourself.
Choose realistic short and long term goals.
Evaluate your fitness plan to determine if it is working for you.
Schedule both cardio and weight training - ensure you aren't neglecting one aspect of fitness.
"I don't have enough time."
This is a popular one. Fortunately, most people do have the time. They just need to find it. Write down what you do all day long for a few days to see where your time is going. If you watch TV, cut back, or get an elliptical so that you can do cardio in front of the TV. If you take care of small children, include them in your physical activity (play a sport, hike trails, ride bikes, or even run around!). Take the stairs at work, or park further away, for a little extra exercise.
"I mean to work out but I never get around to it."
If your problem is that you have the intent, but you don't get around to it, remove barriers to working out. Put your workout clothes on right away in the morning, or when you get home from work, so you don't have to change. Get special toys/games for your young children that they only play with when you exercise, and soon they will be saying "mom, you have to exercise, remember!". For some people simply scheduling it works. If you can find a friend to exercise with you, then someone is relying on you to show up.
"I tried to exercise before and didn't lose weight so I gave up. What is going to be different this time?"
You need to get other motivations for exercise. For example, having more energy to play with your kids, and sleeping better will help you too! Weight loss is as simple as eating fewer calories than you burn, so make sure your nutrition is on point.
"I don't have enough energy."
Exercising regularly will increase your energy levels and make you feel less sluggish. You may have to force yourself to do the activity when you are first starting out. A good tactic is to say "I will just do 10 minutes." Often once you get started, that 10 minutes easily becomes 30. You can also choose a lower intensity workout for days when you are more tired. For example, do yoga or pilates instead of going for a run. That way you don't get out of the habit of working out. Just make sure you don't make the lighter workouts a habit.
"I am already skinny."
Skinny people also need to exercise. Your heart needs the workout. Exercise reduces intra-abdominal fat which is often high in skinny people who don't exercise. Weightlifting can build stronger muscles and help you in everyday life (functional health), as well as reduce your risk of bone loss as you age.
"Exercise is boring."
Find an exercise you love. Not every exercise involves a treadmill and dumbbells. Try new things to get yourself moving - bootcamps, kickboxing (cardio or regular), trail running, bicycling, Zumba (or other dance cardio), indoor climbing, pop-pilates at Blogilates, etc. Listen to energetic music while you exercise or bring a friend. Lately, I've been enjoying Spotify music.
"Weight lifting will make me bulky."
The "bulky" look is caused by having fat over top of muscle. Someone with a good amount of muscle who is lean will still appear tiny. Occasionally a woman will be genetically predisposed to gaining muscle easily BUT it still does not happen overnight. Once you gain the amount of muscle that makes you happy, you can move to maintenance and/or strength training (very low repetitions).
Set Realistic Goals
The first step to making an exercise plan is to decide what your main goal is. I'd like you to think about both short and long term goals. Examples of short term goals are:
- I want to lose 10 pounds in 2 months
- I want to be able to run 5k (3 miles) in 2 months
- I want to add 20 pounds to my squat weight
Examples of long term goals are
- I can only squat 45 pounds right now, but I would like to squat my bodyweight
- I want to lose 50 pounds in the next year.
- I just finished Couch to 5k, and I would like to run a half marathon.
- I would like to compete in a fitness competition.
Short term goals are little stepping stones toward our larger long term goals. Always start with a set of goals you can reach in the next 2-3 months. This will help you to stay motivated.
Track Your Progress
If your goal is to run a half marathon, you should be tracking how far you have been running and how fast you run. If your goal is to lose weight, you should be tracking your measurements and your scale weight to ensure you are successful. If your goal is to gain muscle, you need to track your workouts so you can make sure you are lifting more (heavier or more reps) each time you go in the gym. You also should take measurements to see progress that way.
If you have a plateau, you will need to find ways to break through the plateau. If it is a running plateau, try sprints. If it is a weight lifting plateau, try using microloading weights (homemade 1 or 1.5 lb weights), or lift higher reps. If it is a weight loss plateau, make sure your cardio intensity is high enough, and make sure your calories are low enough.
Make a Workout Schedule
If you have a desk-job, or a low-energy expenditure job, you should add in cardio sessions in order to meet the recommended 30 minutes per day of physical activity. For example,
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday - Weight training, 30-45 minutes
Wednesday, Saturday - cardio, 45 minutes
Monday, Wednesday, Friday - Weight training, 30 minutes. Cardio 20-30 minutes.
Tuesday, Thursday - Cardio 30 minutes
Some people prefer to separate their cardio sessions from weights, especially on leg days. It may be helpful to do cardio when you wake up, and weights later in the day.
If you do weights and cardio in the same session, do cardio after your weights so you don't pre-fatigue the muscles, which would make your weight lifting workout less effective.
If you are a parent, take every opportunity to actively play with your kids!
Sticking to your schedule
To really tell if something is working, make sure that you are consistent. If your plan is to do cardio or weight training 3 times a week, you should not be missing more than 1 session every two weeks. You can't blame the plan if you go off plan too often. So stick with your plan for at least 2 weeks (for weight loss), or 1 month (for muscle gain).