How to Create a Fitness Plan you Enjoy
For many people, “working out” means bodybuilding, lifting weights or running. And, inadvertently, this ends up being a barrier to exercise if we don’t like to go to the gym, lift weights or run.
However, whatever your age or fitness level—even if you’ve never exercised a day in your life —there are steps you can take to make exercise less intimidating and painful and more fun and instinctive.There are a wide range of activities that help to strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular health—and, thus, overall health!
There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to be active—whether you enjoy dancing, rollerblading, or yoga, there are plenty of fun and enjoyable ways to stay active with physical activities you enjoy and find fulfilling.
Here are a few simple steps to creating a manageable fitness plan, based around activities you actually enjoy, and a schedule that actually works for your lifestyle:
[tip: It’s important to consult your healthcare provider and get a physical medical examination before starting any fitness routine/plan.]
Outline Your Goals
Scrolling through all the fitness posts on your Instagram feed, it can be easy to get discouraged– but remember, everyone starts somewhere. Your exercise routine is about you—it’s about your individual goals, your preferences, and your interests. It's important to know your goals, and build from there. Are you hoping to build muscle? Increase strength? Or simply just get your body moving? Start by getting in touch with why you want to work out—then, you can create a plan that helps you achieve those goals.
Incorporate the 4 Elements of any Essential Workout
While there are endless activities you could include in your fitness plan, based on your goals and fitness level, there are four main types of physical activity in any well-rounded workout plan. You don’t have to do each of them each day, but they should each be incorporated weekly.
1. Cardio– Cardio exercise raises your heart rate and breathing to improve the function of your heart and lungs. Cardio can be low- to moderate-intensity exercise (like jogging or cycling), or high intensity (“HIIT”).
Cardio exercise doesn’t have to take place in a gym. Many activities in our daily lives can provide cardio exercise, like taking the stairs, biking to work or mowing the lawn. Aim for at least 4-5 cardio workouts per week—a 20-minute high-intensity workout or an hourlong low-intensity activity.
2. Strength Training– Strength training helps build muscle and endurance, and is important in metabolism. Strength training exercises can be accomplished with simply your bodyweight, or can involve 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 include multiple muscle groups (like squats and pull-ups) rather than isolation exercises that emphasize just one muscle (like a bicep curl). It’s super important to use proper form while 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. Examples of strength training activities include weight lifting and CrossFit.
3. Flex/Mobility Training– Flexibility and mobility exercises focus on maintaining and improving passive range of motion (flexibility) and active range of motion during movement (mobility). These exercises work to reduce muscle tension, increase relaxation and your range of motion, while avoiding joint and muscle tension. Examples include yoga and foam rolling.
4. Recovery– The final and arguably most important element of your workout plan is rest. As muscles are broken down, they need time to heal and repair—which is how they grow stronger. You can still be active while recovering, though. Just aim for low-intensity activities you could easily talk while doing, such as walking, hiking, or light stretching.
Create a Schedule that Works for You
For many people, the hardest part of creating a new fitness routine is just getting out the door. Whether that’s going for a run, going to a yoga class or even setting aside an hour a day for an at-home exercise, the initiative it takes to get started is truly half the battle. To make it easier on yourself to stick to a new fitness plan, there are a few important scheduling tips to follow:
- Note the days and times in your typical schedule that you have time to do a workout. Some people enjoy being active first thing in the morning when they wake up, others feel more energy around midday and others prefer working out in the evening. Plan a workout into the time of day you most enjoy exercising, or the time of day you feel the most energy for it.
- Choose how many days per week you’d like to be active. While 6-7 days a week is certainly ideal, it’s fine if you don’t want to have a structures fitness schedule to follow each day of the week—aim to choose 4 or 5 days per week of structured activities.
- Try your best to stay consistent! While it’s ideal for consistency to keep the same schedule each week, it’s okay if your schedule changes weekly and you need to adjust your fitness schedule accordingly. One of the biggest aspects of establishing a consistent workout plan is to create a sense of accountability. Formally schedule your workouts in your calendar and honour them as you’d honour a client meeting or plans with a friend.