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How to create an effective workout plan (and tips to actually be consistent!)

group workout

New Year’s resolutions very often include health-related goals. In fact, a recent survey from Forbes Health found that 48% of people making resolutions have improved fitness at the top of their lists (see link below).

Although goal setting is great, a frequent problem with New Year’s resolutions is that we sometimes tend to create unrealistic expectations for ourselves that are not feasible to maintain long-term. Sure, you might be meeting those lofty goals for the first month or two, but come February or March those goals have gone by the wayside and we are back into our old habits.

If you are interested in improving your fitness in 2024 but don’t know where to start, this blog post is for you! In this post I’ll take you through both how to CREATE an effective workout plan as well as discuss tips on how to ADHERE to your plan so you can stay consistent throughout the year (and maybe even have fun in the process!)

First things first, let’s talk guidelines. How much exercise should you aim for?

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity (or 60 minutes of vigorous intensity) aerobic activity per week as well as at least 2 days a week of strength training that targets all the major muscle groups.

What is the difference between moderate and vigorous aerobic activity? 

There are several different ways to differentiate moderate and vigorous activity levels; let’s discuss two of them. The first way to scale activity intensity is to use a rating of perceived exertion scale (RPE), where 0 is at rest and 10 is maximal effort. Moderate intensity would be a RPE of 3-4/10; vigorous intensity would be 5-7/10. Another way to differentiate the two would be the talk test: if you can maintain a steady conversation while exercising, you are most likely working out at a mild to moderate level. If you’re only able to say a few words, your workout is most likely vigorous.

What are the major muscle groups I should focus on for strength training? How many reps/sets should I aim for?


The major muscle groups include: core, glutes, hamstrings, quads, chest, back, and calves. There are also a couple of smaller stabilizer muscle groups that are important to strengthen: your inner and outer hips as well as your rotator cuff muscles. In terms of how many reps/sets for generalized strength training, aim to complete 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps for each muscle group. The resistance should be heavy enough that by the end of each set the movement is challenging to complete but not impossible.

What are examples of aerobic and strength training exercises?

Aerobic exercises: There are a variety of aerobic/cardiovascular exercises, but common examples include: walking, running, cycling, swimming, tennis, etc.


Strength training exercises: Strength/resistance training can be done via dumbbells, resistance bands, weight machines, or even just by using your body weight.

strength training

So we’ve talked about the recommended parameters of a workout plan, but how do we implement this plan into our day to day lives so that we are consistent long-term?

  1. Make it fun! You are more likely to stay consistent with an exercise program if you actually enjoy it and it’s in a fun environment. Maybe for you that means playing a sport or going to a group workout class, or maybe you prefer exercising in the comfort of your home. Whatever/wherever you choose to work out, make it enjoyable!

  2. Grace/rest days (be flexible). Incorporating rest days helps your body recover and it also gives you some flexibility to your workout routine. There are going to be some days where you are either sick or too busy to work out, and that’s okay! Remember, your goal is to create a fitness plan that works with your life, not the other way around. If you are consistent with working out the majority of the time, having occasional grace days will not only give you some breathing room but can optimize your workouts because you are allowing adequate time for your body to rest and adapt.

  3. A little goes a long way. Instead of trying to accomplish all of your fitness goals at once, pick one or two aspects to focus on. You will be more likely to be consistent long-term if you make small changes gradually vs. making multiple major changes all at once.

resting after workout

We hope this post gave you some clarity and ideas for creating and maintaining a workout plan. It’s important to note that the plan stated above is a general guideline and is not appropriate for everyone. Always consult with your local healthcare provider prior to beginning a new exercise regimen.

If you are interested in creating an individualized workout program, we would love to help you! Click on the link below to contact us today.


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