How to develop your own effective fitness plan

Self Care

How to develop your own effective fitness plan

Self Care

how-to-make-a-fitness-plan

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.

Treadmill morgue file

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. 

Weight morguefile

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? 

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19 Comments

  1. Lauren (@poweredbypb)

    This is a really sensible post. I’m still struggling to find the balance, as I want to fit everything in, but I’m finding more and more that I just can’t do everything! I’m not following a training plan for the Berlin marathon which has left me with a lot more freedom in my workouts, I run as far/fast as I want on any given day and if I don’t feel like it then I don’t run. I’m a big fan of strength/core work and try to balance that with the running- still trying to find the right mix though!

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Thanks Lauren, I felt the same way a while ago, I think it’s especially hard when you enjoy exercising which you clearly do! Sounds like you have a good flexible approach for the marathon :-)

      Reply
  2. snenny

    I’m usually a lurker rather than a commenter, but I just wanted to say what a great post this is. Lots of sensible, actually actionable advice. It’s this kind of thing which helps newbs like me find their confidence and what works for them!

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Thanks! I love it when people comment especially when it’s been a post I really liked writing! So glad that you found it helpful :-)

      Reply
  3. Lauren

    Awesome advice there. I totally agree that we should do what we love – no point slogging out running miles if you hate running! I have a guilty pleasure in that I LOVE zumba ha. It reminds me of my dancing days growing up! Also great point about comparing to other bloggers – we are all different!

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Thanks Lauren! Haha good for you, I know loads of people that love Zumba :-)

      Reply
  4. Rachel

    Hi, this is great advice – I hate those ‘one size fits all’ type advice articles! We are all so different and respond to different kinds of exercise. I do quite a bit of cardio & strength at the moment with Body Attack & gym sessions but would like to try something like Pilates for flexibility & posture. I agree with the goals thing – I’m not a goal-oriented person at all really but with exercise it definitely helps to know why you’re doing it, even if your goal is just the enjoyment, endorphins and knowing you’re keeping fit!

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Thanks Rachel, that’s totally my philosophy when it comes to everything, we are all different and I think it’s just that process of figuring out what works well for you. You are so right about the goals though, I think enjoyment should always be one of them!

      Reply
  5. Anna @AnnaTheApple

    It’s so tough to get everything in! Like running, strength, stretching, yoga (??)… there are only so many hours in a day!! I just tend to schedule it where I can. I’m following my marathon training plan and hoping for the best really! I squeeze cross training (mainly cycling) in where I can as well. I do love a good plan though, ticking things off as I go is so satisfying :)

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      I know exactly what you mean, when I was running it was so hard and I was doing yoga in the morning and body pump in the evening! There is definitely a satisfaction to be had with ticking things off a plan!

      Reply
  6. kezia

    I am always changing my approach to fitness. As I tend to try to listen to my body but i know what you mean about giving up running – i was terrified when i stopped but I am fitter now then i was then! I recently gave up high intensity cardio, even though i love it, to allow my body and hormones to heal and its again has been great for my body and am seeing great results.
    I think exercise comes in seasons – for me I have had running, pilates, yoga, gyming, weight lifting, swimming, mountain climbing and rock climbing seasons – so i figure our bodies are good at telling us what they need – its just a question of tuning in:)
    But it can be a struggle to fit it in though – I aim for 5 sessions of 30-40mins a week and ultimately i feel so good after so that makes it easy.

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      It’s fantastic that you are seeing good results, it’s always so hard to change something that you love doing especially, but when you see the results it makes it worth it. Definitely agree it’s about tuning in to what you body needs at different times, I can’t wait to see how I feel after I’ve given birth as I’m hoping to continue to be more intuitive with exercise!

      Reply
  7. Tamzin

    Fab post, its definitely all about finding the right exercise for you and once you know it you can enjoy it and reap the benefits x

    Reply
  8. Maria @ runningcupcake

    Taking into account stress levels is really important- this week work has got on top of me again and I have not been well, so going for a run has not been the right choice for me. I did feel a bit of guilt when I saw other people running, but I an run next week and hopefully make it to the weekend this week!

    Reply
    • Laura Agar Wilson

      Glad you were able to relax, I think running is one of the hardest things to cut back on when you see others out doing it. I was at a park last night, haven’t ran in ages but still felt some runners envy! Hope you are feeling better for the weekend x

      Reply
  9. Claire @ Flake and Cake

    Great tips as always Laura! My workouts have steadily decreased over the past few years, I’ve just had to listen to my body and go with it. If that means I can only do a few long walks in a week, well it’s better than nothing.

    Reply
  10. Emma @ Stripes and Snapshots

    Great tips! I’ve felt in such a rut with my eating and training the past two weeks, this is definitely what I needed to get myself back on track. Thanks!

    Reply

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