Updated: Feb 26
The key to staying consistent with your fitness goals is to plan; you need to know what you're doing, how you'll do it and when you'll fit it in. As the old saying goes: failing to prepare is preparing to fail. But how do you make a fitness plan? Here are five key steps to get you started.
1. Choose an area of the body
Are you working the upper body, lower body or full body? Depending on your fitness goals, you might want to train one area of the body more than others but I would never recommend neglecting a set of muscles completely as you'll only end up overcompensating with others, which will likely lead to injury in the long run.
A great starting point if you're new to fitness could be a variation on the following workout schedule:
Monday: Full body
Tuesday: Upper body
Wednesday: Lower body
Friday: Full body
Saturday: Cardio and core
2. Pick your exercises
Now you know which area of the body you're focusing on, it's important to choose relevant exercises. Ask yourself if you'll be working out in a gym, outdoors or at home? You'll also want to consider if you have any equipment or if body-weight be best? From here, you can find inspiration from workout videos, articles and directory lists. Take a look at my YouTube videos for inspiration.
When picking your exercises, it's helpful to consider your ability. You want something that will challenge you but won't break you after one set. Almost all exercises have progressions and regressions, so choose a variation that feels good for you right now.
Remember, it's not about doing the most advanced movement; your focus should be on maintaining good form throughout to prevent injury and build the target muscles.
3. Put them in order
Now you have a list of relevant exercises you need to put them in an order that will get the most out of the muscles. You want to focus on large muscle groups first, as these are likely to be warmer and already activated from your everyday activities. Exercises that use multiple muscles such as squats, burpees and lat-pull downs are great examples of these.
Start big and work your way down to smaller and more isolated movements, such as bicep curls and glute bridge raises. Not only will these smaller muscles be warmed up by the time you focus on them, but they'll be less prone to injury.
As a fitness instructor, I understand just how important it is to space out exercises on certain muscle groups. After all, we want to be able to lift things and walk after the class is done!
4. Break it up
Your list of exercises might look a little intimidating, so it's a great idea to add some structure by breaking things up into sets.
My golden rule is: aim for 8-12 reps per exercise, 4-6 exercises in each set and 2-3 sets per workout.
If you imagine your heart rate in a graph, your first set wants to raise your heart rate to warm your muscles and get oxygen pumping, the following sets should maintain a steady rate, working at around 70% max heart rate.
This article from Mayo Clinic is really useful when it comes to measuring how intense your workout should be.
5. Warm-ups, cool-downs and stretches
Don't forget to plan in time to warm up, cool down and stretch both before and after your workout to avoid injury and prevent DOMS.
It's easy to skip this step, especially if you're not a fitness fanatic, but you'll see better results if you incorporate them. Muscles that are properly warmed up mean they can take more load during your workout. Likewise returning them to their natural state after exercise helps them to recover quicker.
It's a good habit to get into, but you can also choose exercises that naturally warm you up, such as 15 minutes on the cross trainer, and cool you down, like body-weight mat-based exercises.
Stretches should begin and end every workout for the reasons mentioned above. While whole-body stretches are advised, focussing on stretching the muscles used in your workout is really what counts.
That's why you'll find my wellness workouts begin and end with a full body stretch. Not only is it great physically for our bodies, but as a holistic health coach, I really value the mental clarity and connection it provides before and after exercise. Think of it as movement-based meditation.