When I first started exercising there was a lot of guess work. I joined a gym and they gave me a plan to try, but it was pretty boring and I got fed up of it quickly. Once I started reading about fitness I just felt overwhelmed! There seemed to be so many things to consider when keeping your body fit and injury free I felt like I would need to be working out twice a day every day just to fit it all in!
Fast forward a few years I had started to realise that I didn’t have to work out quite so much to stay fit and healthy, and although I’m certainly no personal trainer, developing your own plan doesn’t have to be rocket science. Of course it can be useful to consult a professional if you can. I’ve had fellow blogger, certified PT and good friend Tamzin from Salad and Sequins check this post over to make sure I’m getting my facts right!
So how can you develop your own practical, achievable and well balanced fitness plan that will give you results? Here are my top tips…
Define your goals
Whether you want to run a half marathon, build strength and muscle or just keep yourself well, it’s a good idea to identify your goals as these will have a significant impact on the most effect way to exercise in order to meet them. For well rounded good health, I feel that a fitness plan should include some cardiovascular activity, i.e. anything that gets your heart rate up such as running, cycling and rowing. It should also incorporate some strength or resistance training like body weight exercises, body pump or lifting weights and also stretching and flexibility work like yoga or pilates. You could possibly also add core stability into that equation. The amount you do of each of those adjusts according to your goals. If you are aiming to run a race, you’ll be doing a lot more cardio and hopefully stretching and flexibility than perhaps specific strength training.
How do you want your body to change?
If in fact you do want your body to change in some way! This could be being able to run faster, have more muscle, lose body fat, be more flexible or simply be fitter in general. If you want to build muscle and be a fast long distance runner, realistically you might find those two goals aren’t complementary as they largely involve two different forms of training, one of which would need to be the focus to excel. For most people (and I know there’s a lot of unique cases out there that buck this trend!) I think it’s simpler and more effective to have one or two main goals that complement each other and work towards them. For example if my goals were to lose body fat and improve my stamina, not completely complementary but workable, I would do more high intensity cardio with a little longer cardio sessions thrown in, at least one flexibility based workout and one strength training workout.
Do what you love
I firmly believe there’s no point in trying to do exercise you just hate. Everything is worth a try as after a few goes you might start to like it, but after that if you still don’t enjoy it then what’s the point? You do have to weigh this up against your goals, if you really want to run that half marathon then running when you don’t particularly enjoy it might be worth it for the end result, that’s something only you can decide upon. There’s lots of different ways to move your body and help you reach your goals. Hate yoga? Try a different form of stretching. Can’t stand the gym? Look for an outdoors bootcamp. Exercising should test you and be challenging at times, but you shouldn’t have to hate it.
Be realistic about your time
I definitely believe you can have a fit and healthy body even if you don’t have a lot of time, but you do need to adjust your goals accordingly. If a strength training plan suggests three 40 minute workouts a week and your 10K training plan is suggesting three runs and you work full time and have two kids, that might just be too much. Look in your diary and highlight the time slots when you could realistically and without any added stress fit in workouts and plan accordingly. If you can only workout for 30 minutes once a week do it! Something is better than nothing, just think about how you can make the most of that 30 minutes with a form of exercise that covers lots of different areas. The 30 Day Shred DVD is a good example of this!
Listen to your body and don’t be afraid to change
There’s a whole lot of rhetoric on the internet about what form of exercise is best. Some people say that too much steady state cardio i.e. long distance running will make you fat, some say that running is the best exercise for you and works every part of the body. Ultimately I believe that each of us is different and my experience will be different from yours. Listen to your body and watch the results you are getting and don’t be afraid to change your fitness plan accordingly. One of the scariest things I ever did was give up running as I honestly felt I would gain a tonne of weight. I didn’t, and I now believe that a lot of long distance running doesn’t suit my body type, but that could be completely different for you!
Watch your stress levels
I have fallen victim of stress from over exercising and it’s really something to keep an eye on particularly if you read a lot of blogs. I’m not criticising bloggers here at all, but when you read blogs it can lead to an altered perspective. At one point I was working out for over an hour a day 6 days a week, sometimes twice. Other bloggers also worked out like this so I thought it was normal. It is not. If you are an athlete in training, great. But for most of us this is just unsustainable and does more damage to our bodies than good. There is a complementary level of exercise stress and then something completely the opposite. You shouldn’t feel utterly knackered all the time, yes after a hard workout you should feel tired, but there’s a difference between tiredness and exhaustion. Danger signs for women are any kind of hormonal imbalance especially with your periods.
So to sum that up…
- Define 1 or 2 complementary goals and focus on the form of exercise that will help you reach them
- Look at how much time you have and fit workouts into that schedule
- Add in some of the other forms of exercise to make sure you are getting a well rounded plan (cardio / strength / flexibility and possibly also core stability) – remember that many forms of exercise will give you two or three of these together, for example some forms of yoga will improve strength and flexibility and even cardiovascular fitness
- Listen to your body, monitor your results, do what you enjoy and make adjustments
Consult a professional for advice if needed, don’t exercise if you are injured and if you workout a lot, use a foam roller and get a sports massage every so often! If you are looking for short and effective workouts check out my 30 in under 30 minutes post.
Have you ever developed your own fitness plan? Do you find it challenging to fit in everything you feel you need to?