How to Design Your Workout Schedule

How to Design Your Workout Schedule

Whether you want to build muscle, increase aerobic capacity or just get into those jeans again, the only way to achieve success is to set up a workout schedule that fits your needs. The rewards of a steady workout schedule are priceless: lower stress, stronger heart and lungs, increased strength and flexibility, a shrinking waistline, better sleep and improved self-confidence. Keep at it long enough and eventually you'll crave a good workout


1. Be realistic about your current fitness level and choose goals, classes and activities that are appropriate. If you can't remember the last time you put on those running shoes, start slowly to build both your strength and stamina without injuring yourself or burning out.

2. Invest in one or two sessions with a personal trainer. He or she can help you establish reasonable goals and present options that you may not have considered. See 16 Set Goals.

3. Start gradually. Do up to 30 minutes of cardiovascular work mixed with strength training three times per week or more. Also incorporate flexibility exercises into your workouts. Continually evaluate your progress and set new goals: As your general fitness improves, increase the length, frequency and intensity of your workouts.

4. Develop--with a qualified trainer's help--a weight-lifting program that meets your specific performance goals. Strength training is critical to athletic performance and osteoporosis prevention. Lifting is most effective done every other day so that fatigued muscles have time to rest and rebuild.

5. Be sure to work the entire body consistently and balance opposing muscle groups. For example, if you work your quadriceps, hit the less visible but equally important hamstrings, too. You'll gain overall strength and avoid injury.

6. Rotate your cardio work on the days you rest from weight lifting. Cross-train with a variety of activities instead of just one. You'll challenge different muscles, prevent injuries due to overuse and avoid burnout.

7. Aim for a heart rate within your training zone. Subtract your age from 220 and multiply it by 0.6 and 0.8 to determine the lower and upper limits of your training heart-rate zone (some formulas calculate slightly higher heart-rate limits for women). You will not achieve cardiovascular benefits unless your heart rate reaches that zone. Maintain this rate for a minimum 30 minutes at least three times a week.

8. Schedule time in your calendar to work out. If you've got it written down, you'll be more apt to keep the appointment.