How to Build Your Own Workout Routine
For the workout aficionados, former gym rats, and highly motivated at home athletes, this post will hopefully entertain because it’s about exercise, and you love that. For everyone else who continues to struggle in placing exercise into their psyche and permanent calendar, let’s see if we can find enough tools to inspire and tips to help even the most determined couch savant get their daily sweat on. Understanding specific movements, muscle groups, and what to do with that giant yoga ball are all essential. Not to mention the whole reps, sets, and days conundrum. Don’t forget aerobic, anaerobic, warm-up, cool-down, leg day, and clearing out that junk corner to put together your home gym. Do you know your maximum heart rate? Are you meeting the minimum 150 minutes a week? Are you about to stop reading due to heart palpitations that have nothing to do with pumping iron?
That’s exactly why you want to continue reading. Building your own workout routine is so much more than understanding exercise. It’s about understanding yourself. Now that’s something you can do!
Let’s start with the basics. Why do you want to exercise? To build muscle? Lung capacity? Lose weight? Endurance in life? Avoid chronic disease? Those feel good endorphins? Your mother told you to? The answer to this question will be the foundation of your first workout routine. Let’s keep it simple to avoid anymore workout anxiety. Muscle requires resistance. This can be lifting a set of dumbbells or using your own body in push-ups or crunches. Weight loss requires aerobic movement, a.k.a. get that heart rate up, lungs pumping, and limbs moving. Endurance can be built through either by pushing yourself longer and harder with every move. Think long and slow, like holding a plank or pacing a run.
For general health, it’s good to mix it up. Play with resistance training, weight lifting, and aerobic activities like running, cycling, or even skipping rope.
This is most likely the number one reason people don’t exercise regularly. Finding the time in a schedule that is already full to the brim can feel daunting all on its own. Luckily, we now know that exercise doesn’t have to be done all at once to get those same benefits! The bare minimum is 150 minutes a week; that’s about 22 minutes per day. For some of us parents, CEOs, and professional sitters, that may be a dedication that will take some effort to actually build up to, but that's ok. You don’t have to do all 22 minutes at one time. Studies show that doing two sets of eleven minutes will also give you those amazing healthy benefits. By splitting up your workouts, it’s not only easier to find the time during your day, it can also feel less overwhelming. Choosing to do eleven minutes of something is simply more accessible than 22, and you can even choose to split it further. Two six-minute sessions and two five-minute sessions can allow you to push for higher intensity workouts than aiming for longer workouts when just beginning.
Another common reason at home workouts can trigger anxiety or even cause physical problems is not starting out with an honest assessment of what your body is capable of right now. If exercise is as foreign as a trip to the moon, starting out with a 30 minute HIIT workout may not be the most rewarding or safe way to get your groove on.
If only one piece of information stands out, let it be this:
No matter your current health, age, or any other factor, there is never a wrong time to get moving again. There are only wrong movements. Start slow. Take it a step at a time. If a walk to the end of your street is all you can do, then start with that. If a half-hour of Zumba dance barely worked up a sweat, then it’s time to kick it up a notch. Whatever you choose, be consistent and follow through each day. A great way to judge is to continue until your mind wants to stop and then push it a bit further. Keep it at that level until you can do more. ALWAYS STOP IF YOU FEEL PAIN!
If you want to build muscle but do not have access to any weight building equipment, then get creative and don’t let it stop you! Tin cans? Large books? Your dog? Lift what you have and use your body. Resistance training builds muscles too. Check out calisthenics, Pilates, yoga, or TRX training with ropes in your garage. Waiting to exercise for the day you can afford the Peloton? Perhaps start with a used bike from a rummage sale or even a used stationary bike. As you’re pedaling it out, daydream about how you are going to rock that Peloton course when the day comes!
This point is very similar to the idea above. We must know what level our bodies are at as well as our accessibility to the exercise we want most. If you can’t start with where or what you want, then start where you can and feed your drive and motivation with what you want.
As humans, we need to be recognized, even if it’s self-recognition. Celebrate day one in a way that makes you excited for day two. That may mean posting on social media that you’ve begun. It may mean putting a dollar in a jar or five until you get to treat yourself to something you really want like those new jeans three sizes smaller! Never underestimate the power of small wins. To really learn to celebrate yourself, your body, and reaching your goals, check out this free e-book written by iWon founder Mark Samuel: Small Wins, Big Victories.
Exercise is a science, and we simply can’t explain it all in one article, but we want to give you a small foundation to build your own workout routine.
For weight loss, try three to four days of cardio you enjoy like running, biking, swimming, dancing, or rapid continuous movement, ideally for thirty minutes. You can work up to that or surpass it; you’re choice! Then add in two days of strength training. This can be resistance training with your own body weight or using weight lifting equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, or spaghetti jars.
For strength training and weight building, do the opposite of the above. Focus on muscle building three to four days a week and add in some cardio the other two days.
Planning out your sets and reps. First, understand that a set is a certain number of reps, repetitions, like 3 sets of 10, for a total of 30 of any movement. Where should you start? That depends on your goals. More weight and less reps means building muscle. Less weight with more reps is building endurance. Any muscle gain assists with weight loss. For building muscle, start with three sets using a weight that you can do six to eight reps before becoming completely fatigued. For endurance training you can do as little as one and up to three sets using a weight that fatigues you at 12 to 16 reps. As for the rest time between sets, that depends on the intensity of the set. If you are wiped out, take a longer breather. If you only need 30-45 seconds to catch your breath and shake it out, then do so.
Final pro tip, switch it up! The body adapts to just about anything, not to mention boredom can set in. So try to keep things exciting and varied by changing out your movements, training methods, and continue to create new routines as you body grows stronger, healthier, and fitter!