How to Effectively Plan Workouts (Even If You Don’t Know What You’re Doing)

Sep 2, 2018

You’re scrolling through Instagram and see transformation after transformation of people who’ve shed 80 pounds, are shredded now, & living their best life. You think, “Tomorrow is for sure the day. Tomorrow is my new Day 1. That’s gonna be me. My series of “before” pictures are finally going to have an “after”. Where do I start?”

You open Google and search, “30 day workout plan” and come across 10,000 pages of results of companies offering their life-changing, never-before-seen, look-like-a-supermodel-when-it’s-over plan that’ll only cost you $50 or $20 or three easy payments of $24.99. You’re weighing the pros and cons, thinking, “If I do a $30 plan that’s only $1 a day… I’m worth $1 a day. My future is worth $1 a day! But do I really need to spend money on this?”

If you’re like me, you’ve got a Pinterest board full of “6 workouts guaranteed to get you bikini ready by summer” and a gallery full of screenshots from Instagram of the same thing. But do you ever do them? Could you really do 50 sit-ups, 60 pushups, 70 leg lifts, and a two-minute plank every day for a month? Maybe you can but I never make it past day two before getting bored and quitting.

Finding a workout plan that works for you doesn’t have to cost you anything or be daunting and scary. I’ve found that coming up with a plan that’s easy to stick to can be broken down into three phases: Strategize, Organize, and Incentivize. Proper planning is the only way to keep yourself going when you hit inevitable speedbumps, but it doesn’t have to take you forever.

So try it! Take an hour out of your day to sit down, sift through those workout posts you’ve saved, and make a plan you can stick to. These are my best tips/guidelines for doing just that:

Strategize
  • Prioritize the workouts that look fun & doable for If you can’t do a pushup yet, find some arm workouts that will build up your strength so you eventually can. A good example of this would be bicep curls or chest flies with a lighter weight, or even a modified pushup – either on your knees or up against a wall. Going straight into a really difficult workout increases your likelihood of getting frustrated and giving up.
  • Sort workouts by regions of the body/type of workout. I like to sort into legs, arms & abs, back, booty, flexibility, and cardio. Including flexibility and cardio are important so you are not only building strength, but lengthening your muscles and increasing your endurance. If you see more well-rounded progress, you’re more likely to stick to it. When you make your plan, mix up these different categories of workouts throughout your week. If you decide to do 30-minute workouts 5 days a week, have a leg day, upper body day, booty day, flexibility day, and cardio day. Just because you don’t like your flabby arms doesn’t mean you should ONLY work your arms. Your entire body carries you throughout your day & you should give it all equal attention.
  • Create a realistic goal. If you never work out, it would be a good idea to start with doing a short (15-20 minute workout) three days a week. Start out at a rate that is challenging to you but isn’t so difficult that you can’t even complete the first workout. Consistency is key, so take some time to find the balance and increase your weights/time/difficulty as your level of fitness increases.
  • Pair your new workout plan with an eating goal. It’s important to obtain a healthy diet when trying to transform the way your body looks. Some say diet is 80% of the battle. For me, diet is certainly the most difficult part. What works best is, again, setting a realistic goal. My best example of this is one that I’ve great success with: eating a predominately whole-food, plant-based diet (placing focus on eating fruits, veggies, plant-based proteins, nuts/seeds, and whole grains.) Processed foods seem to have an adverse effect on my body, undoing the work that I’ve put into my workout. Whatever you decide, remember that perfection is never necessary. Do your best and put in a solid effort without making yourself miserable.
  • Don’t starve yourself. Sticking to 1200 calories doesn’t work for everyone and is WAY too few calories if you’re tall, weigh a little more, and/or are working out daily. Use an online Caloric Intake Calculator to find the best calorie range and macronutrient profile for you. It should give you a good idea of the amount of quality calories you should be taking in to lose weight at a healthy rate.
Organize
  • Utilize a source of organization you already use. If you use an online planner, add your workouts and a daily food goal so you get a reminder in the morning. If you write out to-do lists on a whiteboard, add your workouts there. If you rely solely on your memory, it might be a good idea to set reminders in your phone or find a way that will help you to stay on track. Creating a plan that you have to look at every time you stand in front of the fridge or look in your bathroom mirror is guaranteed to make you more likely to stick to it. If you put your workouts in a planner that you never otherwise look at, you’re likely to forget about them to use it as an excuse to not do them. Personally, I am highly motivated by having a box I need to check before the day is done, so I make myself a calendar with tasks I have to mark off. Holding yourself accountable is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome, so stack the odds in your favor.
  • When deciding what days to mark on your calendar, consider your typical daily activities. This may seem like an obvious one but I know I always get over-zealous when creating my original plan and allocate hour-long workouts six days a week, regardless of what I have going on, thinking, “I’m really motivated so I’m gonna go for it!” When you plan unrealistically, you’re likely to skip a day, which makes it tempting to skip two days, and you’ll end up giving up altogether.
Incentivize
  • You’re not always going to be able to “motivate” yourself, but you sure can keep yourself accountable. By having a preconceived plan, you have an incentive to keep moving forward. If you don’t check the box today, you’re gonna mess it up for yourself tomorrow so just get it over with. Many times you’ll find that getting off the couch is the most difficult part, but 5 minutes in you’ll forget you were dreading it for two hours.
  • Tell your roommate, your parents, your neighbor – someone you come into contact with frequently. Having to report to someone often encourages you to keep going when you don’t feel like it. If they ask you how your new plan is going and you have to break the news that you haven’t followed through for five days, it’s going to feel a lot differently than if you were telling them all of the progress you’ve made.

And that’s it! Create a realistic, doable plan, and do it! Taking some time to really think it out before getting started is a critical component of success, but it doesn’t have to be super difficult. Do what you feel is right for you, and don’t be so hard on yourself! We’re all on the way to better versions of ourselves. I believe in you. Get it done! X