How To Create Your Own Workout

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Shorter Version

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There is no one-size-fits-all workout plan, which makes it hard to figure out what exercise routine is right for you. Whether you are brand new to exercising or you are a frequent flyer at the local gym, understanding how to create your own workout routine is beneficial in many ways. Answer these simple questions to help you design your perfect workout. 

You can create your own workout routine to save money, because it limits the frequency you need a personal trainer, is individualized to your specific goals, and gives you the flexibility, challenge, and creativity of putting it all together.

What is your goal?

Do you want to build muscle? Are you training for a triathlon or half marathon? Trying to touch your toes? While a specific fitness component might speak louder to you than others, it’s important to incorporate cardiorespiratory training, muscular strength, and flexibility into your routine to create physical balance and ensure a safe program. 

What activities do you enjoy?

Finding exercises that you actually like is key to sticking with a new workout plan. If you don’t like to run, find other types of cardio activities like cycling, rowing, or swimming. But keep in mind, if you don’t like an exercise because it’s tough, you may just need to keep working on it to build the strength and stamina.

What equipment do you have access to?

Are you a gym member? Do you have equipment in your home or at the apartment complex gym? Maybe you prefer the great outdoors, bodyweight exercises, or fitness videos you can do at home. The type of equipment and workouts you enjoy will determine how to structure the components of your workout.

How much time do you have?

Are you crunched for time squeezing in a 20-minute workout or are you able to fill an hour of free time after work? Time determines the intensity and frequency of your workouts.

Putting it all together to create your own workout

Consider how you answered these questions, then put it into a plan using the FITT formula – frequency, intensity, time, and type.

  • FREQUENCY is how often an exercise should be performed. Cardio is recommended 3-5 days per week with at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise. Strength training should be included 2-3 days per week per muscle group, allowing at least one rest day before working the same muscles again. Flexibility training is important in improving the range of motion of muscles and joints, so it’s best to work on flexibility daily but research recommends at least 3 days per week.
  • INTENSITY is the level of difficulty of an exercise. Cardio intensity works toward a target heart rate zone (calculate your HR zone here). Strength training is determined by the amount of resistance (most commonly the weight) and the number of sets and repetitions. Increasing intensity is done by increasing the resistance, changing the speed of repetitions, and increasing the range of motion. The intensity of flexibility exercises is only to point of tension. Pain during stretching could be a sign of too much intensity.
  • TIME is highly variable for all fitness components. For the average fitness junkie just looking to stay healthy, cardio exercise is recommended in 20 to 60-minute durations. The time of strength training depends on the number of muscle groups being worked and the number of repetitions and sets. Refer back to your specific strength goals and days of the week you’re able to train. Stretching for flexibility, at a minimum, should include all the muscles worked in the latest workout. Hold stretches for at least 15 seconds and repeat 2-4 times.
  • TYPE of exercise goes back to what you enjoy and your goals but also depends on your current physical fitness level. Cardio ranges from low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, and cycling to high-impact exercises like running and plyometrics (think box jumps). When choosing strength exercises, be sure to include all major muscle groups. Try free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, suspension training straps, or calisthenics. Types of flexibility include options like dynamic stretches before a workout, static stretching after workouts, and yoga on recovery days.

Ready to get your sweat on? Keep reading more about building the best workout plan below and then follow our actionable steps for staying on track.

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Read the longer version

To learn more, read these articles reviewed by our professionals: How to Create Your Own Muscle-Building Workout Plan by the trainers at Shape, How to Create an Effective Fitness Plan by ACE Fitness, and How to Build A Workout Routine by the trainers at Men’s Health.


Write down your workout plan

Go old school with paper and pencil, use an Excel spreadsheet, or try a fitness app. Choose which days of the week and what time of day you plan to workout (a.k.a the frequency). Be specific with the type, time, and intensity of each workout.


Monitor your progress

Use your notebook, spreadsheet, or app to track your progress. Running duration or mileage, cycling RPM, amount of weight, number of reps and sets, and duration of holding stretches are all important notes to document. This helps you determine when to increase the intensity to continue challenging yourself.


Incorporate rest days

Rest and recovery are just as important as the workout, so be sure to add these into your plan.


Get a trainer

If you’re struggling with putting it all together, try a session or two with a personal trainer to get started.

Trainer Tip: Most public gym’s offer a free fitness assessment and training session when you sign-up. Take advantage of it! Or try a credible workout plan like this 3-month routine by ACE Fitness.

Still need help? Ask the coaches!

About the Author

shannon costello

Shannon Costello

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

Shannon is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and Group Fitness Instructor with over 5 years of experience working in Corporate Wellness specializing in overall health, nutrition, and fitness. Throughout her journey to becoming an RDN, she grew her passion for culinary nutrition by teaching and developing hands-on cooking classes for all ages in the community.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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