So how do I plan my own workouts? Here are the four things I do to keep my workouts on schedule and make them effective:
I Put My Workout on My Calendar – I’ve learned over time that if you’re going to accomplish anything in your busy life, you need to schedule it. My exercise time is booked on my calendar, and is (generally) non-negotiable. I once heard the illustration that if you had to have treatments 3 times per week for a serious illness, would you let anything get in the way of having those treatments? No, you would rearrange your schedule to make time for those treatments, because they have a direct impact on your life and longevity. The same is true for exercise 3+ times per week. There are mountains of research that show that regular, moderate exercise reduces your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other debilitating illnesses.
For my schedule, I’ve found that during the week, it’s best to get my workout in during lunch time. A one hour workout in the middle of the day boosts my energy, productivity and concentration for the rest of the day. If for some reason I can’t make the workout at lunch, I do my workout in the evening. If I know in advance I won’t be able to do the workout at lunch or in the evening, then I plan to get up early and get it done. On the weekends, early morning or late afternoon tend to work, depending on what I have planned that weekend. I make sure that I get my workout in before anything else can side track me. The point is, I have a schedule, and I stick to it.
I Have a Theme for Each Day – I’ve found that it’s important to know what each day’s workout is going to be, so that I don’t have to expend too much mental energy or time when I get to the gym trying to figure out what to do. At the same time, I don’t want to just repetitively do the same workouts each week. To help with these obstacles, I give each day has a “theme”, so I know what to focus on, but have flexibility to mix up my routine. Here’s what I mean:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Push Movements Cardio Pull Movements Cardio HIIT Cardio Active Rest Bend and Lift Single Leg Movements Twist Bend and Lift
What types of exercises fit into these movement patterns? Here’s a quick list.
Push Movements Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Leg Extensions, Squats Pull Movements pull ups, lateral shoulder raises, bicep curls Bend and Lift Squats, Deadlifts Single Leg Lunges, Single Leg straight leg Deadlifts Twist Woodchop, Haybailer, Russian Twists Cardio Running, biking, elliptical, swimming
With these movement themes, I have a lot of variety with the exercise that I do. For example, there are tons of variations on a push movement like the bench press: dumb bell bench press, an incline bench press, push ups, etc. For a sample workout for beginners using these movement patterns, take a look at my Beginner’s Guide to Strength Training.
Friday is HIIT day, where I do high intensity workouts in about 30 minutes, giving me a chance to try new ideas for my HIIT class before I teach it. Sunday is usually an active rest day, where I might go for a walk, or play a short round of golf. Working off a theme lets me know exactly what I’m going to be doing in the gym that day, while giving me the ability to try different exercises.
I Log My Workouts – I’ve found it’s helpful to log my workouts so I can track what moves I’ve been doing and how I’m progressing. I keep a little pocket notebook with me (like this super durable Field Notes notebook that is waterproof) or if I forget it, I will log my workout in an app like Evernote. This gives me a record I can refer back to to find exercises I liked and would want to incorporate in the workout plans I use for my clients.
I Like to Keep Things Fresh – While I find a lot of comfort form my routines, it’s easy to get bored with your workout if you do the same things all the time. It can also hinder your progress. That’s why I will draw inspiration for new workouts from others on Instagram and Pinterest. Onnit Academy, Blogilates, and Ace Fitness are all great follows. If there is a new exercise or Tabata routine I haven’t done before, I’ll note it and fit it into one of my theme days. This keeps me mentally engaged with my workout as well as challenges me physically.