Defining a workout schedule helps you stay on track, meet your goals and make fewer excuses for skipping workouts. Developing a workout schedule that you will stick with is 90 percent of the battle. Incorporate both strength and cardiovascular training in your workouts, and include rest days between working the same muscle groups to allow for tissue repair and recovery.
Define Your Goals
Setting clear, quantified goals can help you stick with your chosen exercise plan instead of forgetting about it once it's not shiny and new anymore. Of 100 adults, 70 percent stuck with an exercise routine when they set goals, versus only 26 percent who did not set goals, according to a study published in 2002 in the peer-reviewed journal "Perception and Motor Skills." Your goals might be as general as "work out three times per week" or as specific as "run a nine-minute mile in six weeks." The more specific and quantifiable your goal, the more clearly you will be able to track your progress toward it.
Examine Your Schedule
Budgeting your time is similar to budgeting your money -- you need to tell your time where to go instead of wondering where it went. This means that you will need to examine your schedule to figure out when you have an appropriate amount of time to work out. It might be between classes, during your lunch hour, before work, during the kids' soccer practice or between meetings. Some days you will have more time than others, and you should schedule longer workouts, like cardio or full-body, on those days. Some days you might literally not have more than 10 minutes of free time. It's OK to make those your rest days -- use the 10 minutes to take a brisk walk.
Write Out Your Workout Schedule
Whether you use a daily planner, a smartphone app or the back of a napkin, it's important to write out your workout schedule so that you always know what's coming. The websites Military.com and ExRx.net have training templates and examples of exercises you can incorporate for strength training, and they offer suggestions that include training on two or three days per week, every other day and every three days. Harvard Health Helpguide suggests walking, biking, running or swimming for cardiovascular training. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity for cardiovascular health.
Incorporate Rest Days
Including designated rest days in your workout schedule is important, particularly for weight training, because muscles only repair themselves and build strength during rest days. You can use your days off from strength training to engage in cardiovascular training, as long as you are not using the same muscle groups that you strength train the day before or after your cardiovascular workout. For example, you shouldn't go for a hard run the day after focusing on lower body at the gym, although a short, easy run can help pump blood to your sore muscles and encourage healing, as long as you give your legs a day off the following day.
- Harvard Health: Helpguide: What's the Best Exercise Plan for Me?
- Human Kinetics: The First 5 Steps to Creating the Perfect Core Workout Program
- ExRx.net: Workout Creation Instructions
- Military.com: Starting a Fitness Routine
- Perception and Motor Skills: Goal-Setting Protocol in Adherence to Exercise by Italian Adults
- American Heart Association: Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults
- Photo Credit Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images
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