Once you’ve decided that you will start making exercise a priority it is time to take a look at designing a workout program. Your program should be specific to your health and fitness goals and take into consideration your likes and dislikes regarding activity. By taking some time to ask yourself a few questions and creating a plan, you will be able to design an effective program specific to your individual exercise needs.
1. Determine how many days you plan to work out each week. Be honest in your estimate. If you can only commit to 3 days that is fine; if you are ready for more that is great too.
2. Evaluate your personal goals. What is your primary purpose for exercising and what do you most want to accomplish? Do you want to lose weight, tone up, reduce cholesterol, reduce stress or perhaps run your first 5K?
3. Plan your program around your primary goal. For example, if you want to lose weight concentrate on high calorie burn interval training and cardiovascular exercise. If you want to tone up be sure to fit in strength training. This goal may change over time and that is fine. Your exercise should progress and change with your goals.
4. Assign a type of physical activity or combination of activities to each day you plan to exercise. It is ideal to include cardiovascular exercise, strength training, mind/body exercise and stretching each week. Your goals will determine which type of activity you concentrate on the most.
5. Plan to do at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three or more times per week. If you wish to lose weight consider increasing the intensity of this activity, the number of days you perform it or the time of sessions to 45 or 60 minutes. Some choices include walking, jogging, elliptical machines, group cycling or step classes.
6. Incorporate strength training in the form of weight lifting, muscle conditioning classes or videos at least two times per week. Skip one day in between full body workouts to allow the muscles to recover.
7. Enjoy a mind/body class such as yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or a fusion class at least once per week. If this is the type of exercise you most enjoy increase the frequency and adjust your other forms of activity accordingly based on the amount of time you can devote to exercise each week.
8. Stretch each major muscle group after a workout. You may also stretch before, but be sure you have warmed the muscles up by doing activity for at least 5 minutes before stretching.
9. Stick with your weekly program for 4 to 6 weeks, and then consider adding new classes or exercises to increase variety and challenge your muscles in different ways.