It’s a new year. You’ve got goals. You know how to set them. You know what to do to make sure you don’t get injured. Now it’s time to create a plan that will help you stay on track, work smarter, and achieve those goals!
Working toward a goal without a plan is like trying to get somewhere you’ve never been without a map. You might get there eventually, but it will take a lot longer, you’ll take a lot of wrong turns, and you might give up before you even reach your destination. Here are some steps you can use to create your map to your goals, a training plan.
Define Your Goals
What exactly do you want? To lose weight? To build muscle? To workout more often? Whether it's weight loss, muscle gain, improved endurance, or overall health, having specific goals will help guide your training plan.
Remember, your goals should be S..M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound).
If your goals feel overwhelming, try breaking them down into smaller, more manageable milestones. Don’t forget to celebrate when you hit them!
Assess Your Current Level
Consider where you are before deciding how you will get to where you want to be and how long it will take you to get there. If you get winded going up a few flights of stairs, running a 5K in just a few months probably isn’t reasonable. If you’ve never lifted weights, trying to build muscle mass quickly might cause injuries.
Take a step back and take an honest look at your current fitness level. There are different assessments you can use to determine what your types of fitness goals might make the most sense for you and your body. You can also take your pulse before and after a long walk or measure your BMI to get an idea of how you want to track your progress.
From here you can start to build the workouts that make the most sense into your training plan.
Consider What You Like and Don’t Like
Your personal preferences are going to be very important when implementing your training plan. Yes, you’re going to do have to do things you don’t want to do when pushing beyond your limits but if you hate everything about your workout, you won’t do it. If you’re trying to get in more cardio but hate running, look for dancing workouts or Zumba classes. If you dread going to the gym, see if you can find a workout buddy.
Be sure to select a variety of exercises that align with your goals. Include a mix of cardiovascular exercises (e.g., running, cycling), strength training (e.g., weightlifting, bodyweight exercises), and flexibility work (e.g., stretching, yoga).
You might not love working out, but you should at least like it a little. If you look forward to it, you’re much more likely to find success.
Here are some things to consider when choosing your exercises:
- Balance: Ensure that your plan includes exercises targeting different muscle groups. For example, if you have a strength training day, incorporate exercises for both upper and lower body.
- Warm Up & Cool Down: Incorporate warm-up exercises at the beginning of each session to prepare your body for the workout. Include a cool-down with stretches to aid recovery and flexibility.
Think About your Schedule and Availability
If you have a busy schedule, it might be hard to get a workout in. Take a look at your calendar and figure out when you’re most likely to have the time to devote to your goals. If your kids come at 3:30 every day and need your attention for snacks and homework and activities and then dinner and bedtimes, you might need to try to workout in the morning. Trying to “squeeze” it in between evening activities is going to set you up for failure.
What day and time is most realistic for you and if there aren’t any, is there anyone you can ask for help? Can your spouse cook dinner two nights a week? Can you give up one TV show a night to work toward your fitness goals instead? You might need to make some sacrifices but remember to be realistic.
Decide how many days per week you can realistically dedicate to exercise. Beginners might start with 3-4 days per week and gradually increase as they become more comfortable. Remember not to go too hard too fast or may burn out and give up (or hurt yourself!).
Figure Out Your Why
The most important aspect of any plan (fitness or otherwise) is understanding why you’re putting into place and why it’s important for you to succeed. When things get hard, remembering your “why” will help you push forward. When you want to give up, thinking of your “why” will help you remember why you started in the first place.
Just like your goals, this should be specific. Instead of saying, “I want to get healthy,” try “I want to improve my health so I can feel better, do more in a day, and be around for my kids and grandkids.”
Whatever your “why” is, it should resonate with you. If you don't’ believe in it, you won’t push to achieve it.
So don’t just stand around wondering why you haven’t achieved your goals. Use these tips to start creating a fitness training plan that will help you feel better do more!