9 Tips To Help You Build A Well-Rounded Workout Schedule
Whether you're a dedicated weight lifter, an avid runner, or an occasional yogi, there's a good chance your workout routine is out of balance. Many people plan their workouts the day of, but if you want to achieve the results you desire, having a plan is essential.
Building a well-rounded, effective workout plan will help you achieve your fitness goals in a safe and efficient way—here's how to get started.
What does it mean to have a well-rounded workout routine?
Whether you're a novice taking your first steps on your fitness journey or an exercise fiend hoping to optimize your results, a well-rounded fitness-training program is essential. But what exactly does that mean?
In my experience as a trainer, an effective exercise routine must include three components every week:
- Cardiovascular exercise
- Strength training
- Flexibility training
Each component of a well-rounded exercise plan offers specific health benefits. If you only do yoga, only go running, or only lift weights, you're missing out on some key benefits. Let's take a closer look at each so you can understand their individual importance.
Cardio (or aerobic exercise)1 is any activity that gets your heart rate up, such as walking, jogging, cycling, dancing, or exercising on an elliptical. Cardio strengthens your heart and can help prevent or manage high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. It also improves circulation, oxygen delivery to tissues, and the removal of cellular waste2.
Weight training is a type of strength training that uses weight for resistance. Using free weights, weight machines, bodyweight, or resistance bands, this type of training provides stress to the muscles, which causes them to adapt and become stronger. It also helps to maintain bone density, better manage weight, and improve the body's metabolism.
Flexibility exercises include those that lengthen and stretch muscles, such as stretching, yoga, and Pilates. This type of exercise can help prevent injuries and pain, improve your posture, balance, and mobility, and enhance your physical performance.
How to create your own balanced workout routine.
Developing a concrete, balanced plan can initially feel a bit overwhelming, but you'll get the hang of it. No single workout plan is going to fit everyone, but by following the tips below, you'll be able to create a well-rounded routine perfectly suited to you and your goals:
Start where you are, not where you want to be.
Everyone will be starting at a different fitness level, so it's very important to start low and slow with cardio, weight lifting, and flexibility. Overdoing it could increase your risk of injury or burnout.
Get your cardio in.
Aim for at least 150 minutes total per week of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes total of high-intensity cardio, if you're more advanced.
Learn how to monitor your exercise intensity.
If you're able, invest in a heart rate monitor to find out your target heart rate for moderate- and high-intensity exercise3. This helps ensure you're staying within a safe and effective range.
If that's not doable, you can also apply the "talk test." If you can carry on a somewhat breathy conversation while you're working out, that's usually moderate intensity. Here: a cheat sheet to determine your target heart rate.
Incorporate weight training.
Aim for two to three weight training sessions per week to hit the major muscle groups of your upper and lower body. That might sound like a lot, but that's where compound exercises come in. Moves like squats, lunges, rows, and chest presses work more than one muscle group at a time, so you get more bang for your buck.
You can do cardio and weight training on the same day, depending on your schedule. It doesn't matter which one you do first, so vary your routine and try different combinations to find the one that is right for you.
Stretch it out.
Aim to include flexibility work throughout your week as needed. It's always good to stretch after your cardio and weight training sessions to reduce the risk of injury, decrease muscle tension, and boost overall flexibility.
Mix up your workouts to keep things interesting.
Experiment with different forms of cardio, weight training, and flexibility exercises. Don’t be afraid to try new things to find exercises you enjoy.
Rest and recover.
It's crucial to give your body and mind adequate time to relax and repair. Allow yourself two rest days per week when you don't engage in any significant exercise.
Find an accountability partner.
To help you stay consistent in your fitness plan, lean on a friend, partner, or family member who can either do the workouts with you or supportively check in on your progress. If it's an option for you, consider hiring a personal trainer. Even with a general understanding of how to create a balanced fitness routine, you may not know the proper form for certain exercises—this is where a personal trainer may be more beneficial than an accountability partner.
Cover all the bases.
Whether you create your own workout program or enlist the help of a personal trainer, your overall exercise plan should include weekly cardio, weight training, and flexibility exercises. You don't have to fit each of these elements into every fitness session, but your overall plan should include all three for optimal results. Play around with your routine and find what works best for you—and don't forget to have fun with it!
Stephanie Thomas, CPT is a certified personal trainer, health coach, and yoga teacher living in Annapolis, Maryland. As the founder of Stephanie Thomas Fitness and creator of The Bridal Body Workout Guide, she helps brides develop healthy habits and a well-rounded workout routine they’re obsessed with. Her fitness philosophy is “You don’t have to work out, you get to work out. Take care of your body so it can take care of you!”
When she's not creating workouts for her clients, you can find Stephanie reading the latest health book, spending time in nature, or taking a walk with her two cavalier pups. You can grab her free Bridal Arms Mini Guide and sign up for her free wellness newsletter (featuring fun freebies!) at her website.