For those of you who don’t know, I’ve recently started posting my workouts on Instagram Stories. I know, I know, I’m not a fitness blogger, what right do I have to post cringe-worthy workout videos on Instagram? Well TOO BAD. One of my friends requested that I post my workouts and once I did, a bunch of people have reached out to me to tell me to keep doing them, or that they’ve used my exercises as inspiration for their own gym routines.
However, one question I keep getting from people is “How do I create my own workout?”
I confess, I have never thought about this too hard because I spent most of my childhood involved in fitness and consequently I am comfortable training myself. But when I looked at it from the perspective of someone who hasn’t had these experiences, I realized putting together a workout plan can seem ridiculously overwhelming.
First of all, there are about a million activities you can do as a workout, and within each activity, there are a million different ways to do it. There are different sets in cycling, swimming, or running, and there are so many weight and bodyweight exercises you could do in the gym, so how do you choose which ones? How do you choose how hard to go in the gym? And how do you structure a workout plan?
Keep in mind, I am not an authority on these subjects and if you want professional input, send me a message and I can put you in touch with personal trainers I trust on the subject. However, what I CAN do is provide a place to start.
Step 1: Decide what your goals are. Do you want to get stronger? Do you want to have more energy? Do you want to be able to do an activity without feeling out of breath? It’s fine to have more than one goal, but just make sure you know what you’re working towards.
Step 2: Decide how many times a week you can commit. I recommend 4-6 times a week but for those just starting out, try to aim for at least 3 sessions.
Step 3: Decide where you want to train. If you prefer workout classes, then look up what is offered in your area. Almost all studios offer first timer promotions and have classes that suit all skill levels. If you want extra help, then ask the instructor for extra advice to improve your experience. However, if you prefer to workout alone, or in a gym, then keep reading.
Step 4: Structure your week. Once you know your goals and how many days you can commit, you can start to structure a week. If you want to be able to run five miles, spend more days running. If you want to be able to do a push-up, spend more time with the weights. Many people break up their workouts by muscle group and some people do a whole body workout each time. If you choose a different muscle group each day, you should be sure to not train the same muscle group two days in a row. Personally, I split my weeks as follows: Sunday-rest, Monday-Cardio/Abs, Tuesday-Legs, Wednesday-Upper body, Thursday-Cardio/Abs, Friday-Full Body, Saturday-Yoga or other activity.
Step 5: Structure each workout. This is arguably the hardest part. You’ve decided to go to the gym, you’re gonna do a leg workout and you get there and have no idea what exercises to do. This is the part that will require the most work for you. Once you know how you want to train, you should look up different exercises you can do and pick a few that you like. It takes awhile to feel comfortable with all the different kinds of movements, but to start, make sure you know at least 6 exercises per muscle group/activity that you can fall back on. And remember, if you don’t have a gym, search for body weight exercises to do without weights. Some of them are even harder than weighted exercises. In a typical workout, I recommend doing 4 sets of 8 exercises for 12 reps each, and then you can build from there.
This logic goes for cardio too. It can be boring (and ineffective) to just run at the same pace for an hour so look for different running (cycling, dancing, whatever!) sets that you can do in a certain time frame to mix it up!
Step 6: How hard do you push? You have your workout plan in front of you, but how much do you lift, how far or how fast should you run? This is ultimately up to you, but I feel that more often than not, people are usually guilty of not pushing themselves hard enough rather than pushing too hard. You don’t want to get injured, but just remember that it is normal to sweat, or shake, or be tired and sore. With weights, you’re probably going too hard if you can’t do 6 reps of an exercise *, and with cardio, you’re probably going too hard if you feel like you’re about to throw up**. Don’t be afraid to test your limits, that is how you IMPROVE!
Last but not least, if all else fails, there are lots of trainers and fitness personalities that sell workout guides. These will cost you a bit of money but can be AMAZINGLY helpful to get started. I’ve gone through two of them myself and loved them. They will show you how to do each exercise and structure a workout for you. Once you’re done with the program, you’ll probably be able to put your own fitness plan together no problem!
Ultimately, putting together a workout plan will require some initial research up front. Everyone is different and it is worth your while to figure out what is best for your body and goals. I know the gym can be intimidating, but if you walk in with a plan, it becomes a lot easier. Also remember that being uncomfortable is part of the process, and each time you feel that way is also when you’re doing the most good for yourself. What’s that quote again? “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
So DO MORE, and GET MORE.
Personalities for Inspiration and/or workout guides: Kayla Itsines, Kelsey Wells, Cristina Capron, Katie Crewe, Sophie Gray, Michelle Lewin, Gilles Souteyrand
Resources: muscleandfitness.com, bodybuilding.com (don’t be intimidated by the name, they have great workouts for all levels).
*If you’re trying to gain a lot of muscle or strength than doing fewer reps makes sense, but for those who are just starting out, you need to be able to do at least 6-12 reps with that weight. When you can do 12 reps almost easily, then increase the difficulty with more weight or less stability.
**Feelings of nausea are common when doing high-intensity cardio, but sometimes it can be from having an empty stomach or a too full stomach rather than going too hard. Listen to your body and try something new if you’re feeling nauseous each time.