Maybe you see an advertisement, a flyer from the local gym or overhear chatter about Cross fit, weights and squats and think, “Huh… I can do that!” However the idea forms, it forms and you’re ready to try something new. You run out and buy expensive running shoes, new workout gear, a gym bag, wrist bands, a head band, water bottle and all sorts of supplements and protein. You are nervous but excited as you pull into the gym parking lot, thinking to yourself, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life”, or something equally as cheesy. You walk inside, look around….
and get that deer in the headlight stare. There you are, all decked out in your new gear, mouth agape, staring at the row of machines and sweaty hard bodies milling around and lifting what could pass for a small car. You try and gather your wits, walk up to a machine and jump on, pretending you know how to use it. In reality, you’re on it backwards. You try other machines, wander around, nervously trying not to appear “new” to the workout scene but failing miserably. You start to sweat, not from the workout, but from fear and anxiety that you’ve made a mistake. After an eternity of this (really, it’s only been 10 minutes), you decide that you put in a good effort your first day and don’t want to over-do it, so you hop in your car and shoot off a quick Facebook post about how you’re leaving the gym and blah blah blah. That way your non-gym friends will think you’re Hercules! Truth is, for some people, that will be the first and last day they step foot in the gym.
What happened? You had the gear, you had the goal, you showed up?! What happened is that you didn’t have a plan of action. A step-by-step guide to helping you create a workout plan that actually WORKS FOR YOU. There is not just one plan that everyone follows, no set routine that works for every one person. You need to create a workout plan that fits you and your lifestyle. That’s the key to helping anyone stick with their new plan.
Here are tips to help you create a workout plan that works for you. Be warned, there is thinking and planning involved. There will also be revisions, as you find along the way what actually works for you and what you need to change.
1. Find Your Motivation/Support: Motivation and support are extremely important for success. Motivation can be losing 10 lbs, swim suit season, a class reunion, wedding, wanting to feel and/or look better, etc. Anything! The important thing is find the reason you WANT to make this change and use that as motivation for staying on track and focused. A strong support system is also important. We’ve all heard stories or had experiences where, once people find out that you want to be healthy, they try and sabotage your efforts or make you feel bad for wanting to change. This is their problem, not yours. Any one who has started a new meal plan, workout routine or just wanting a healthy meal has heard the comments from friends and family: “Just have a piece of cake already” or “Doesn’t this smell soooooo good? Too bad you can’t have any” or “You trying to make the rest of us look bad” are some examples. Sometimes your partner doesn’t want to make the same changes, and that’s perfectly fine, but they should still support your efforts and encourage you. If they don’t, this means you’ll just have to work that much harder and find support from other outlets. There are also online support groups (hello Face book!) and you’ve got to have some friends and/or family who are like-minded. If not, give me a shout and I’ll be your cheerleader! 😀
2. Be a Tourist: Don’t bust out the tall black socks and Bermuda shorts. I mean, be a tourist at the gym or training facility where you’ll be doing your workouts. Ask for a tour of the facility before AND after you sign up. By getting the tour beforehand, you’ll be able to see what equipment is available and what vibe you get from the place and people. After you sign up, ask or hire a personal trainer to walk you around and show you how to use ALL of the machines and equipment. This will help alleviate stress when starting out. Plus, you don’t want to end up on youtube or my new “Do You Even Lift, Bro? Gym Fail#…” adventures. If you have questions about how to use something, ASK. The gym “regulars” may seem scary but, really, we’re all just itching to show the newbies how to perform an exercise properly and give advise 🙂
3. Check Your Schedule: You can do this weekly or monthly but check your calendar and determine what days of the week you can dedicate to working out. To start, weekly might be the best way to go, as things may come up (that’s called life…). Look at the upcoming week. Maybe you have a standing commitment every Wednesday night or bowling league on Thursday nights. Right off the bat, you know those nights won’t work for you. The key is, realistically, looking at what days you can workout that week.
4. Check Your Times: Now that you have your days picked out, it’s time to pick a time! Each day might be different and that’s okay. Look at each day and determine what time of the day, again, realistically, you can dedicate to working out. Maybe some days you can only do mornings, or lunch time or after work.
Here’s an example of what your week might look like
Sunday – Rest day
Monday – Workout, 5:30-6:30am
Tuesday – Workout, 5:30-6:30pm
Wednesday – Busy
Thursday – Bowling League
Friday – Workout, 12-1pm lunch time
Saturday – Errands
5. Make a schedule and get prepared: Now that you’re armed with your ready-to-workout dates/times and have your support crew, you’re ready to create some workout plans. Using the example schedule, above, you have 3 days and 3 hours to workout. You want to create a realistic plan that you can accomplish during that time. Try different methods when it comes to working out to find what works best for you. Some people prefer to work a 1-2 body parts each gym session, others prefer to do fully body movements each time. Both are good to do, just find what works best for you. If you’re looking at a workout schedule like the example, where you only have 3 hours per week to workout, it might be more beneficial to do the following:
– full body movements each workout, combining upper and lower body training
– active rests (jumping jacks, mountain climbers, jump rope, etc. between your supersets or movements)
– interval cardio or HIIT (high intensity interval training, like a walk/sprint combo)
By using the above movements in your short workout time, you’re able to get a full body workout and still get a great, effective workout. To find some great full body movements, check out magazines like Fitness, Self, Muscle & Fitness, Oxygen, Men’s Fitness, Women’s Health, etc. Bodybuilding.com is also an amazing site full of free workouts, workout moves and tips. They also have videos so you can use the proper form.
KISS: Keep it simple, silly. There are several different ways to structure your workout. I suggest keeping it simple, especially if you’re new to working out.
– Do 3-4 sets for each exercise, with 8-12 repetitions each set. The heavier the weight, the lower the number of repetitions. The lighter the weight, the higher the number of repetitions. The last 2 reps of each set should be challenging, without sacrificing proper form, but doable.
If you want to change things up, add in the following:
– Supersets (doing 2 different movements back to back with no rest). For example, do a bicep movement followed by a tricep movement.
– Drop sets. For example, with no rest in between:
Perform 8 bicep curls with 15 lb dumbbells
Drop the weight to 10 lb dumbbells and immediately do another 8 bicep curls
Drop the weight again to 5 or 8 lb dumbbells and immediately do another 8 bicep curls
6. Get in Gear: You have the plan and the motivation. Now you need the gear! Just like I don’t recommend going “gung-ho” with your new workouts, I don’t recommend going gung-ho with your workout gear. Start small and invest in simple pieces before you buy $500 worth of new workout clothes because they seem “trendy”. Here are some basic items to get you started:
– A water bottle (shaker bottles are only $8 normally or you can grab whatever is on hand, you don’t need a $35 water bottle). Or just use the drinking fountain at the gym.
– You’ll need 2-3 tank tops or t-shirts, depending on how many days you plan on working out (Old Navy and Walmart usually have great items for great prices or dig some old t-shirts out of your closet), a pair of gym shorts and/or yoga pants and some gym socks.
– You can bring your own towel if you’d prefer but most gyms offer free towel service (towel is optional).
– Good workout shoes. This is the only item I would recommend investing some money into, even if you’re a beginner. Stores like Shopko, Kohls or Big Five have good/basic running or walking shoes for around $35+. If you have previous injuries or are performing specific activities (ie. running, walking, weight lifting, etc.), you’ll want shoes designed for those activities. If you’re not going to run, walking shoes are fine for weight lifting and walking. If you’re going to start running, you want to invest in a good running shoe that can also be used for weight training. If you’re undecided or have previous injuries, Striders is awesome because they have consultations and can recommend the best shoes for your body, activities and budget. Striders is a little more pricey than regular stores but they do have sale items and help get you the right fit.
– A POSITIVE ATTITUDE!!! You can’t walk (or run) into this new program with the feeling that you’re going to fail. Or you’re going to fail. Keep an open mind and do the best you can.
7. Stick with it: This one seems simple but is often the hardest. It takes the average person 30 days to really make a new habit part of your every day routine. This new routine is not just “adding” something else to your day. This new routine is a lifestyle change. Healthy people don’t eat healthy for just a few months or go to the gym here and there. They commit to a healthy lifestyle and that means making good, healthy meal choices about 80% of the time. They also commit to MAKING TIME for workouts and prepping healthy meals (meal prep is a whole other topic but a great one!). Commitment to making the time for a healthier lifestyle is what this is all about.
Now… Sometimes, life happens and you’ll have to skip a day. If you know in advance, you can plan ahead and alter your workouts accordingly or decide which workouts you prefer to do that week. If you’re unable to plan ahead, that’s okay, too. If there’s a crisis, deal with it and pick up your normal routine the next day. Just don’t start the negative thoughts, “I knew I wouldn’t stick with it”, “I’m so lazy, this will never work”, “See, I knew this wouldn’t work” and blah blah blah. Get over it! We’ve all skipped workouts for some reason, whether it’s an emergency, not feeling well or even a last minute invite to dinner with friends. Make the best decision you can at the time and start again tomorrow. Remember, this isn’t something you’re doing for a few days, weeks or months. This is a commitment to a healthier lifestyle and improved YOU! Stick with it!