24 August 2012

How to Create an Exercise Plan

Setting yourself the challenge to exercise regularly can seem like a daunting goal. Not knowing where to start or which exercises to do, and can be off-putting before you've even begun. A lot of people who exercise regularly will have faced this at the start and many of them have an exercise plan set in place to allow them to consistently get the exercise their body needs. For these people, their exercise plan is usually already in their heads as they've got into a routine, but for anyone who's just starting to exercise (maybe you who's reading this post), then an exercise plan would be a good thing to set in place.

1. Determine the amount of time available

It's no good setting yourself the goal of exercising an hour a day if you only have 20 minutes to spare. When you first start an exercise plan you'll want to determine straight away how much time you have to spare. Then once you've done that you can then decide what exercises to do.

You may have 20 minutes as a whole to spare a day but that's 10 minute sessions at two parts of the day, and that's fine. A workout plan doesn't need you to do your whole workout for the day in a single session, breaking it into chunks will make it more manageable anyway - especially when first starting out.

If you don't have enough time in the day to manage an exercise session then there are things you can do to make time. For example: you may decide to get up an hour earlier to allow yourself 30 minutes of exercise. Or, if you go to work, decide to cycle to work - which can count as your exercise for the day, depending upon how long it is for you to cycle. If it's only five minutes, you may want to consider finding time to do some more. Just look where you could spare some time - you may be surprised. 
If you want to know how you can get up earlier, here's a previous post of mine 'How to get up Early in the morning'.

2. Decide what exercises you're going to do

When creating an exercise plan you'll want the right kind of workout for you. If you're looking to lose weight, then cardiovascular exercises are the best things to go for. Doing cardio boosts your metabolism to help burn fat quicker and helps to promote a healthy heart helping in the prevention of heart diseases and strokes.

If you're wanting to gain muscle then you would do a muscle workout. Muscle workouts also help to burn fat because increasing muscle will also help to speed up metabolism - not to the same extent that cardio does though. Although, having muscle does help burn fat quicker because there is less space for the fat to be - that's not to say that just doing muscle workouts will help you lose all the weight you want because it wont and that's where cardio is required.
You may decide to do a mixture of both cardio and muscle exercises.

If you're wanting to do cardio exercises then it's normally best to do them most days or everyday. It's alright if you can't do it everyday - it's your exercise routine. 

Examples of cardio exercises:
  • Running (probably the most popular cardio exercise)
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Skipping rope/Jump roping
  • Cycling
 Examples of muscle exercise:
  • Glutes and hamstrings - Knee to chest, hip raises, split squats, step-ups.
  • Triceps, chest and shoulders - push-ups, chair-dips, bench press,
  • Abdominals and lower back - Leg raises, cycles, crunches, mountain climbers, jumping knee tucks
  • Forearms and biceps - pull-ups, inverse body weight rows,
  • Quads - Squats, lunges, heel slides, wall slides, backward drag, alternate leg diagonal bound, frog hops, standing hip flexors.
There are many more cardio and muscle exercises that you can do, these are just some examples to give you an idea. If you decide to do muscle exercises then it's best to do them every 2-3 days (48-72 hours) to give your muscles time to expand and repair.

3. Consistency

Now when I'm talking about consistency I'm talking about two things. The first is how often you're going to exercise and the second is at what time.

If you don't have much time to spare during your busy week you may decide to do 30 minutes of exercise every other day or if you're really pushed for time maybe just once or twice a week. The main thing is the consistency of the exercise. Our bodies like routine and so by being consistent with your exercise will not only allow your body to adapt naturally, but also carve out a scheduled space in your life in which you set aside specifically for exercise. People who are consistent with their exercise are much more likely to stick to it than that of an inconsistent person.

Also applying a time of day is helpful to make a much more specific exercise time, and if consistent, will help you to stick to it even easier. For example: you may decide that every week-day you're going to jog for half an hour. The only thing is, not only do you have work during the day, but you also have family commitments afterwards. You may then decide that waking up an extra hour earlier in the mornings will give you time to go for a 20-30 minute jog and be back in time for when you would usually wake-up. So, the mornings at, let's say for example 6:30, you leave the house to go for your 30 minute jog.

A quote I mentioned in my 'don't break the chain' article was "consistency breeds momentum", and it really does.

4. Keep a record of what you do

When you're caught-up in your exercise sessions it can be easy to not keep track of what you do and how long for. Also, because strenuous exercise can get exhausting it can be easy to over-exaggerate or under-exaggerate the amount of time used up.

This is where keeping a record of what you do is useful. Make a mental note of when you start and when you finish write down how much time has passed. Over time you will be able to compare these workouts with each other and will be able to make slight adjustments.

Try to record how much you do in terms of exercise as well, distances or repetitions. For example: I ran to the park and back today, I did 50 push-ups, I cycled a mile, etc.    

Conclusion

When first creating an exercise plan it may seem like an alien concept, and you may find it challenging - this is normal. Don't start off too ambitious. Create a manageable plan, and if it is too easy and not challenging enough for you, make the changes to it that will make it that bit harder. The best thing to do is to stick to it, and before you know it you'll have worked exercise into your daily life. Good luck. 

Update: If you have an iPhone, then you can get some useful apps to help your workout
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