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Setting up an exercise routine can seem a little daunting, especially if it’s your first stab at it. Many people hire personal trainers to help with this, but that’s not financially feasible for everyone. Don’t sweat it if you’re on your own in your quest for fitness. Creating a sound workout plan isn’t as difficult as you may think. With a little planning, you can craft a manageable exercise routine that will propel you toward your health and fitness goals.

Step 1

Write down your goals. Be as specific as possible. For example, if you want to lose weight, determine exactly how much weight you’d like to lose and create a deadline.

Step 2

Enumerate the resources available for your workout. Not everyone has access to a gym or special equipment. If all you have is a pair of sneakers and a running track, that’s fine. You’ll just need to build your workouts around running and body weight exercises.

Step 3

Map out exercises that will help you reach your goals. If your primary goal is to lose weight, you’ll need to include more exercises that will incinerate calories, such as cardio and high-intensity intervals. If you’re most interested in gaining muscle mass, your focus may be on low repetition, high weight-resistance training.

Step 4

Carve out dedicated time in your schedule for exercise. Decide how often and when you will work out. Don’t set yourself up for failure by overextending yourself. Try to find a time slot to train three or four days a week.

Step 5

Create your cardio component. For cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Depending on what’s available to you, you might consider including brisk walking, jogging, biking, rowing or any combination of cardiovascular machines available at your health club.

Step 6

Craft your resistance-training split. Resistance training is an important part of any exercise routine and your split will depend on how often you plan to do resistance training. For example, if you can only dedicate two days a week, you may do an upper body workout one day and a lower body workout the next. Alternatively, if you can commit five days a week, you can break your split down by specific muscle groups.

Step 7

Measure your progress and re-evaluate regularly. Keep yourself accountable with measurable tests such as weight, body mass index, body fat percentage, blood pressure, fitness evaluations and so on. If you find that you’re not moving in the right direction, it may be an indication that your program needs adjusting.

Tips & Warnings

  • One of the biggest challenges people face after creating a workout routine is dealing with unforeseen interruptions. The fact is, life will get in the way, and there will be times when you have to miss a workout. The key is to not let these events sideline you. Instead of getting discouraged and beating yourself up over it, commit to making your next workout extra intense. It’s also important to change your program. Routine is the enemy of progress when it comes to fitness. Keep your body guessing and your mind interested by varying your activities and intensities.
  • Always consult your doctor before beginning a new workout routine. During any type of exercise, make sure you use proper form to avoid injury. If you’re unsure about form or the correct use of any type of equipment, ask a fitness professional for help. Once you begin your workout routine, don’t be afraid to scale it back if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. It’s easy to get a little ambitious when you’re putting a workout on paper.

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