Not everything in life operates on a schedule (hello, menstrual period), nor does everything need to. But certain activities actually fit better when locked into your calendar: work, for one. And fitness trainers believe that—especially when you’re beginners-level—creating a workout schedule (and sticking to it!) can be great for motivation.
Of course, working out in any capacity is going to be good for your health, and it is something you should be doing regularly. “Training regularly is important for your physical and mental health,” says Brianna Bernard, personal trainer and Isopure Ambassador. “Similarly to eating well, exercise needs to be consistent in order to achieve your desired results and see a real change in your body and mind.” On a physical level, working out does a lot of things for you, both long and short-term. “It decreases the risk of developing certain diseases, improves bone and muscle health, boosts energy levels and mental health, and improves your health overall,” says Blake Shutterly, creator of Base on Neou, a fitness streaming app.
The good news is that you don’t at all have to fit a workout into your everyday life—it’s just good to make sure that you’re doing it on a somewhat regular basis. And when you’re just starting off with your workout regimen, trainers recommend slotting your workout sesh into your calendar (much like a work meeting or a dentist appointment). “Sometimes beginners have the mindset that they need to be working out every day in order to make progress, but you have to give your body time to recuperate and heal from the work that you’re putting in,” says Shutterly, who stresses the importance of rest days. Keep scrolling for trainer-approved tips on creating a fitness schedule that works for you.
How to create a workout schedule for beginners
Even though just starting to work out can be intimidating, know that it’s tough for everyone—regardless of the level that they’re at. “Motivation is a funny thing—you’re not always going to want to work out,” says Bernard. “Even professional athletes have days where they don’t want to go to the gym. But [with a schedule], they’ve already decided that training is something that they are going to do that day. You can decide that for yourself.” Here are the top pieces of advice that trainers have for planning a workout schedule:
1. Start slow: As we’ve stated, don’t start by sweating every single day. “As a beginner, your muscle soreness is going to be pretty high, so it’s important not to push yourself on days where your body needs rest,” says Shutterly. “Try working out every other day to start, or two working days in a row before taking a rest day.” Bernard also recommends at least one day of rest between sessions.
2. Prioritize recovery: Rest days are important for every level of fitness devotee. “Take a rest day, and just stretch or do mobility work if you want to keep moving, but don’t go to 100-percent every day,” says Shutterly. You can also go for a walk to help with your body’s recovery process, which is something that Bernard recommends.
3. Find workouts that you like: You’re more likely to get your sweat on if you truly like the workout. “How you move your body is less important than moving consistently,” says Bernard. “Find workouts or activities that you enjoy so that you stick with it and look forward to exercising.”
4. Switch things up: Once you find some types of workouts that you like, trainers say that it’s wise to mix and match how you sweat throughout the week. “I would definitely include steady-state cardio and mobility into your workout routine,” says Shutterly, noting that the steady-state cardio (like running or spinning) will improve your aerobic fitness. Plus, the feel-good endorphins that you experience after getting your heart rate up will keep you wanting to do it more often. “Mobility is the best thing you can do to build strength, as it transfers into all aspects of life,” adds Shutterly, who also recommends incorporating functional fitness, which has real-life benefits, too.
5. Try weight training: One type of workout to at least try is weight training. “I recommend this to almost everyone, because it increases our muscle mass,” says Bernard. This means you truly get stronger when working with weights (though bodyweight training works effectively, too). Her favorite exercises to sweat through? Dumbbell squats, deadlifts, lunges with dumbbells, chest presses, shoulder presses, and bent-over rows. Play around with some of these staple exercises, and soon you’ll progress the weights that you work with, which gives you a boost of motivation as a reward.
6. Keep yourself motivated: Once you get into a groove of your workout schedule, it’s good to give yourself little rewards in order to stay motivated. Shutterly recommends treating yourself to a new pair of workout sneakers or a workout outfit, or maybe a new fitness tracker. “You can also have an accountability buddy or workout partner to help you stay on track,” she says.
7. Put together your own weekly schedule: Copy a basic workout schedule such as this: Go for a run or spin sesh on a Monday, then recover on Tuesday (bonus points for stretching or foam rolling). On Wednesday, do a strength training workout with or without weights (bodyweight counts!). Recover again on Thursday, then try something low-impact on Friday—think Pilates or yoga. Pick one day of the weekend to do a workout you enjoy, like dance cardio or jump rope, and then voila… you’ve worked out really well for an entire week.
Beginner workouts to try for every fitness modality
Try this 15-minute Pilates core workout—a low-impact option!—to get started
Try this full-body HIIT workout that uses weights… and only takes seven minutes
If you want to try running, here’s how to nail proper form
Give this beginner flow a try to see if yoga is your thing
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