Getting started with an exercise plan can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have much experience with workout equipment. Adding to that is the sheer amount of information out there about weights, reps, cardio, and how many days and minutes you need to spend working out in a given week. Still, it’s important to get a plan together that’s designed to help you achieve your fitness goals.
Speaking of goals, deciding what you want to accomplish by working out is the best place to start thinking about your exercise plan. Once you’ve identified what you hope to accomplish, you can narrow your focus and start seeking out advice on how to design your ideal workout plan.
Here are the top six fitness goals that shape exercise plans:
Endurance training is for people who want to work on heart health, increase stamina, and resist fatigue/stress. Endurance training not only improves your performance working out, it also increases your overall health by providing you with more energy, strengthening your heart, improving blood flow, and increasing metabolism. An exercise plan for endurance training will focus on cardio exercises of varying types and intensities.
Functional training involves training the body for specific activities performed in daily life. These targeted exercises will help the body perform certain activities more easily and with less risk of injury. Such training is appropriate for people looking to recover functionality/strength after an injury, to improve performance in a sport, or to prepare for a physically demanding job. Your exercise plan will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish, so consulting a trainer at your local gym would be a great place to start.
Toning is a popular goal among women looking to appear fit without building muscle bulk. Toning exercises will help give definition to muscles, but aren’t designed to greatly increase overall strength. A typical workout program for toning up involves a mix of cardio and strength training. These moves involve lower weights and higher reps and sets*.
*A rep is how many times in a row you do a particular move (i.e. 15 pushups). A set is one round of reps.
For those looking to increase strength and build muscle mass, the plan is similar to toning up, just with heavier weights and less sets and reps. With this type of strength program, you’re looking to consistently move up in weight over time, so it’s important to track your abilities week to week and recognize when it’s time to add weight. Intensity and nutrition are also imperative for promoting muscle growth, so be sure to seek out a program that includes both exercises and meal plans.
Exercising for weight loss is not just about creating a calorie deficit—it also involves exercising smartly so that you’re burning those calories efficiently and increasing your metabolism, allowing you to keep the weight from returning. It’s important to remember that weight loss is more about fat loss than actual pounds on the scale—a great workout routine will cause you to build some muscle over time, which will cause a weight gain on the scale even though you may look smaller.
A form of functional training, rehabilitation programs are designed to help people regain functionality and strength following an injury. These exercises are targeted to specific areas and do not necessarily have to involve weights or equipment. Equipment and exercises are chosen based on the patient’s needs. This type of program is usually carried out with the help of a specialist, like a physical therapist.
Most fitness goals cannot be achieved through exercise alone—diet also plays an important role. Having a plan in place will help you narrow your focus and achieve your fitness goals. Once you have an idea of your goal and the right program to help get you there, use the MyHealthKC exercise planner to record information about your workouts and keep track of your progress.