Walking, biking, swimming, hiking, running, lifting, boxing, crunching, and the list of exercise options goes on and on…and on. And that’s only a high level. Each option has options in the way of intervals, duration, intensity, course, and again, so on. The good news: You really have no excuse for ever getting bored with your exercise. The bad news: How do you choose what is right for you?
Like always, moving is the priority. Doing any form of exercise is better than no exercise (barring some extreme examples, of course). However, if you’re looking to shape your body and shed unwanted fat, you might require more of a game plan to get in a great workout.
We’ve told you before that scheduling your sweat sessions in advance–such as the Sunday before the work week begins–is a good way to stick with a routine. But just blocking off an hour to move might not be enough. You need to be more strategic in your approach if you want to see timely results. Not sure where to begin? These guidelines can get you started.
Know Your Goal: What you want to achieve is going to dictate the kind of workouts you plan. For example, if you want to run a faster mile time, jogging a slow pace over a long distance is probably not the most effective method. If your goal is less specific, such as you want to look better naked, then your options are more open, but you still need to understand how fat burning works within your body and the exercises that can accelerate it as well as tone up any saggy sections.
Break It Down: Break your goal down to the basics. If you want that faster mile time, you have to know what body improvements are required to do so. A little bit of research and common sense will lead you to look at the muscle tone in your legs. Lifting weights can help you build strength. Also, doing short sprints will help get your heart and lungs used to moving faster without burning you out, while helping the muscle fibers in your legs to respond to a quicker pace. For your own goal, peel the layers back like an onion to reveal all the ways your body can be developed.
Switch It Up: Do the same thing every day and you body will get used to it, which only leads to a plateau in results. It’s better to keep your body on its toes, and that requires adding a variety. Keeping with the mile time example, just because you want to run faster doesn’t mean you should only run. Sure, if you run for years, you might get faster, but why wait that long when you can do so in months, if not weeks? Other cardio activities, such as swimming, biking, and rowing, can bring different aerobic results that just running alone. Doing yoga or pilates can create a stronger core as well as strengthen stabilizer muscles to help you avoid injury. Weight lifting will build strength, making it easier for your legs to carry your bodyweight over long distances. Don’t forget to switch up your runs so that one day you’re doing hills, the next you’re doing wind sprints, and yet another you’re running long distance.
The Week Ahead: Once you understand the components, it’s time to build the plan. Try to break up your days so that your muscles have time to recover from one workout to the next. If your Monday workout is a strength-training leg day, complete with squats and deadlifts, you’re likely going to be pretty sore the next day. Instead of pounding the pavement on legs that are cashed, build up your cardio in the pool or on your bike. If you’re really sore, stretch it out in slow-paced yoga class. With this method of planning, you could work out every single day without sending your body into fatigue. Just remember that recovery is a must, whether you do that actively or instead take a day to sleep it off.
Be Flexible: Accept the fact that no amount of planning can make every workout perfect. There is a lot to take into consideration with your plan, and not everything is in your control. Don’t be surprised when you get tripped up by trying to balance your interests, with what your body needs, with how much energy you have, and what kind of time you have to do it in. There are a lot of factors, and they’re not always going to work in your favor. Have a few backup plans waiting in the wings so that when something falls through, it doesn’t have to be at the expense of exercise.
A plan will help, but don’t forget that you ultimately make your workout great by going into with good intentions and a great attitude.
What tips do you use for planning your workouts? Share with others in the comments!