I am insanely schedule-driven. I love my calendars and my annotated lists and spreadsheets and just in general filling up my time productively. I know that internal motivation is where it’s at in the psychology research these days, but hot damn if I don’t get a real thrill out of crossing off to-dos one by one.
One of the areas of my life that I’ve significantly cut down on the time I spend planning for was my fitness regimen. I used to hodge-podge it together daily, which took about as long as the workout itself. Over time I’ve figured out the way to minimize my time spent planning while maximizing my health and happiness from getting a good sweat session in.
I know that for some people this kind of thing is like pulling teeth, so I tried to simplify my process as much as possible. As always, fitness is highly individualized and your needs or constraints will be different from anyone else’s.
Step 1: Plan the other parts of your week first
Unsurprisingly, it helps to know what you need to plan around every week. For me this means knowing when I’ll be going to the gym in the mornings, when I might be having an evening glass of wine, when I need to work early or on the weekend, and occasionally even what the weather might be outside.
Step 2: Have a general schedule idea
Some examples of this are:
- Run/swim 4x a week according to a race plan
- Rotate between upper body, lower body, core work, HIIT & cardio each day
- Alternate types of higher & lower intensity cardio each day
- Follow a designated workout plan
I personally do the last one of those for the most part. Tone It Up (TIU) has a weekly schedule that incorporates cardio and a variety of high- and low- intensity toning workouts. Since much of their content is free, you can either try out the workouts before buying their longer workouts OR you can get by very comfortably only using their freely available workouts.
Two other paid options are Bikini Body Guide (BBG) and Lauren Gleisberg (LG). I’ve tried and enjoyed both of them, and LG also has free content. Tone It Up just always keeps me more motivated over time. All of these also come with a paid Nutrition Plan option, but that’s for another post.
If you’re training for a race, triathlon or other competition, there are some great free plans available too. This is the one I used to train for my first half marathon in January of this year, it was phenomenal.
Step 3: Liberal use of spreadsheets!
Do I sound excited? Eerily peppy about my love of Google Sheets? Yeah, it’s not the first time these babies have made an appearance on my blog, and I can promise it won’t be the last.
Look friend, I don’t know how else to convince you how convenient it is to have all your stuff in one place that is accessible from any phone or computer or tablet if you don’t already believe me on this one. It’s magical and wonderful and IT EVEN MADE ME THROW OUT MY BEAUTIFUL HARD COPY PLANNERS.
Look at this glorious cube (alright, rectangle) of information! Also of note is that I usually take a rest day Saturday, but I’ll be taking ones the next Monday and Tuesday instead.
I can’t tell you how many times I planned a long run after a happy hour the night before (lol no) or a home workout video on a morning when we’re actually going to the gym. With this I easily compare the day or week’s big events and my workouts to see if they mesh, which leads me to…
Step 4: Be flexible where necessary
There are any number of reasons you can’t follow a training or workout plan 100%. Maybe you have too many other commitments during the week, or you want to add a few things, or you have an injury, or you’d rather gain muscle than lose fat, the list goes on.
Instead of setting yourself up for failure and subsequent disappointment, have attainable goals and hit them to build up good positive momentum. Faith in my abilities goes a whole lot further than a super tough schedule I just look look at with dread.
Speaking of dread, you know what sucks for motivation? Constantly dreading your workouts. Do you really hate running? Maybe check out a stairmill or a stationary bike. Are you frustrated in group classes? Maybe just plug in your headphones and do your own thing. If you’re following a program that has something you can’t or won’t do, know in advance what your go-to substitute is so you’re not constantly scrambling to think of an alternative.
Step 5: Be willing to adjust as you go
I could go on about how life happens and things come up, but I hope you already know that (and that it’s okay to ditch your plan if it becomes unsustainable). An extra perk of flexibility throughout the week is that you’re less likely to hem and haw over every detail of your plan while you’re making it if you recognize that it’s not set in stone. Giving yourself flexibility later means you can be okay with a plan that might not be perfect but is perfect for right now.