What Makes a Good Workout Routine?

March 16, 2020
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What does your workout routine look like? Whether you’re a reluctant runner, a dedicated weightlifter or an occasional yogi, there’s a good chance that your exercise routine is out of balance — and an imbalanced routine can lead to injuries and other health problems.

To get started on a great fitness plan, all you’ll need is yourself, exactly as you are right now. 

We’ll walk you through the must-haves so that you can make sure you’re checking all the right boxes. With a well-rounded fitness routine, you’ll be able to transform your body into a well-oiled machine that feels good for good.

A Good Workout Routine is Individualized Just For You

A doctor handing over a prescription note like a personal trainer prescribes an individualized fitness plan

Before you get physical, you need to get personal — because your plan should be individualized to you and you only. Just as no two people respond the exact same way to identical diets or medical prescriptions, each person has different abilities, needs, and responses when it comes to physical exertion.

The suggestions below will guide you through some important self-exploration. By taking a full inventory of your goals and needs, you’ll be on your way towards developing a custom-fit fitness routine.

Find Your Why: What’s Your Underlying Motivation to Get Fit?

Building a well-balanced workout routine begins with some self-reflection. Start by thinking about your core motivation to exercise: your “why.” Your why can be simple. Maybe you want to sleep better, worry less, or improve your daily energy and focus. If you need some inspiration, here are 18 ideas from Psychology Today. Your why should make you feel revved up and motivated to get going on your journey.

Set Realistic Fitness Goals

Three women sprinting toward a finish line to illustrate that fitness goals should be realistic and achievable

Once you’ve got your “why,” it’s time to get specific about the goals you want to accomplish. Research suggests that your fitness goal should be tough to achieve, but not unrealistic. Follow James Clear’s “Goldilocks Rule”: Choose exercise goals that are “Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.” 

Set concrete goals, and if you’re just starting out, begin with micro goals like jogging around the block or doing 5 push-ups. Check out this Self article for tips on setting a realistic fitness goal.

Reflect on What Got in the Way of Consistent Exercise in the Past

Have you tried and failed to establish a good fitness routine in the past? If so, think about why you struggled. By identifying past obstacles, you can work on getting past them this time around. Some examples of common obstacles include fear of failure, lack of a game plan, boredom, or lack of an ever-present place to work out. 

Consider These Factors

Your fitness level, objectives, and environment will determine the frequency, duration, and types of exercise you choose. There’s a lot to consider when designing a fitness plan, so it’s best to have the help of a personal trainer (PT). If you decide to go solo, make sure you consider the same elements that a PT would, including:

  • Your fitness and life goal(s)
  • Your current fitness level
  • Your schedule
  • Workout environment
  • Available exercise equipment
  • Prior injuries and health problems
  • Your preferred sports, physical activities, or exercises

Take some time to think about each of the items above and how they might affect your plan.

Need help creating a personalized plan? Trainiac pairs you with a certified personal trainer who will create a customized workout plan — one that meets you where you are and evolves as you progress. Your plan will take into account your goals, fitness level, past injuries, preferred exercise methods, and more. The best part? You can do the workouts anywhere, anytime — with or without a gym membership or any exercise equipment.

A Good Workout Routine is Practical and Convenient

A woman sitting on the her living room floor with dumbbells getting ready to follow a convenient workout on her phone

If your workout routine is practical, you’ll be more likely to come back to it again and again. This is important, since consistency trumps intensity when you’re establishing a fitness habit you can stick to. Try to cut down on logistics and make your workout easy to do in every way.

Choose a Convenient Location

Make sure that your workout setting is convenient to access. Create an exercise-friendly environment at home by establishing a workout zone and making any exercise equipment easily accessible.

Set a Sensible Workout Schedule

Be realistic when you set your workout schedule. If you spend your mornings shuttling your kids to the bus stop or grabbing coffee for your boss, then morning workouts are probably a no-go. Choose a block of time when you know you’re consistently available, and try to stick to a steady workout schedule: Some research has suggested that working out at the same time every day is best to turn exercise into a habit.

Plan It Out

As you’ll find out in the following sections, an ideal workout has a number of components and each of those components should be catered to your skill level. If you don’t have a trainer to tell you which exercises to do, planning workouts can become a big obstacle. Try to alleviate this by sticking with a consistent routine or finding a pre-set workout plan that works for you (we’ll give you some suggestions at the end of this article).

Skip the homework by getting started with Trainiac. A Trainiac certified trainer will design an individualized fitness plan for you and send you balanced workouts using any equipment you have available. Every recommended exercise has an instructional follow-along video to guide you so you know exactly what to do while having the flexibility to work out whenever and wherever your schedule allows.

A Good Workout Routine is Balanced With These 4 Essential Exercise Modalities

The ideal workout plan will be comprehensive to work all of the muscle groups in your body and include four essential components: mobility, strength, cardio, and rest. In this section, we’ll dive into each of these components and let you know how much time you should be spending on each element. By incorporating all of these components into a well-balanced fitness routine, you’ll keep your heart strong, avoid tight and overworked muscles, and enhance your overall physical well-being.

A balanced workout also includes a warm-up (to prevent injury, improve flexibility, and reduce soreness) and a cool-down (to help your body return to its normal state).

When you work with a certified personal trainer through Trainiac, your personalized plan will incorporate cardio, strength, and mobility programming, but it will be balanced according to your individual needs and goals.

1) Mobility Training

A woman incorporates mobility into her workout routine by doing downward facing dog with her pug

Mobility refers to the ability to voluntarily move a limb through its complete range of motion. It’s essential because it helps to balance your body, reduce risk of injury, move more effectively, and amplify the benefits of exercise overall.

According to Men’s Journal, “Just 15 minutes of mobility warmup work every day can prevent a devastating injury — torn rotator cuff, slipped disc — that’ll keep you out of the gym (and in a lot of pain) for months.”

How Much is Enough?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends spending time on mobility training at least 2 times per week, while Men’s Journal recommends doing some mobility work prior to every workout. 

What Should It Look Like?

Mobility training should be … well, mobile. Holding a stretch and staying in one place is much less beneficial than dynamic stretches, which move joints through their full range of motion. Later in the article we’ll provide some helpful links to mobility exercises you can try.

2) Strength Training

A woman doing kettlebell swings for strength training as part of her well-rounded workout routin

Strength training is, of course, essential for getting and staying strong — but it also helps with injury prevention and maintaining healthy muscles, bones, and joints as you age.

How Much is Enough?

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) recommends at least two days a week of strength training with at least one day of rest in between.

What Should It Look Like?

You don’t need weights to improve your strength. Bodyweight exercises can be a great starting point. Here are some great tips from Routine Excellence:

  • Prioritize compound exercises. It’s best to spend the majority of strength training time on compound exercises, which activate multiple muscle groups and involve moving two joints at once. These exercises are more productive and will translate into functional strength in your everyday life. Isolation exercises, on the other hand, place a focus on toning and building strength in specific muscles.
  • Practice progressive overload. We know — it sounds intimidating. But “progressive overload” simply means slowly increasing the load on your muscles as you advance in your training. It’s important to challenge your muscles so that they grow. This could mean adding weight or resistance bands, doing faster reps, trying more difficult exercises, or resting less between sets. The most straightforward method is to add weight.

Check out the “Creating Your Plan” section at the end of this article for some links to strength training exercises.

3) Cardio Training

A man in sprint position ready to do cardio training as part of his balanced workout routine

Also known as aerobic or endurance exercise, cardio training involves periods of continuous movement. When you’re in the midst of cardio training, your breathing and heart rate both speed up. This increases the oxygen in your blood and improves blood flow. Over time, cardio exercise improves heart and lung function. This will improve your overall health, and you’ll find it easier to cope with a broken elevator or dance the night away at a wedding.

How Much is Enough?

The physical activity guidelines for Americans published by the Department of Health & Human Services recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. Your aerobic activity should ideally be spread throughout the week.

What Should It Look Like?

There are countless ways to get your heart rate up. Try hiking, running, biking, swimming, high intensity interval training (HIIT), dancing, or playing a sport. Choose an activity you enjoy so that you’ll look forward to it every week. Some tips for a great cardio routine:

  • Switch up your cardio routine occasionally to get better results and prevent stress injuries.
  • Build cardio into your daily life. Choose faraway parking spots, opt for the stairs over the escalator, schedule walking meetings with coworkers and set reminders to get up and move when you’re sitting for long periods of time.
  • Use the “talk test” to check the intensity of your cardio exercise. From the American College of Cardiology: “You're getting moderate aerobic activity if you can talk but can't sing while doing an activity. You're getting vigorous aerobic activity if you can only say a few words while doing your activity.”

With Trainiac, your trainer will send you customized workout plans complete with elements of mobility, strength, and cardio. Your plan will include or complement any fitness activities you already do. The result? You’ll gain strength, endurance, and mobility while your workouts stay fresh.

4) Rest

A woman relaxes on the couch on her rest day from her exercise routine

Muscle tissue gets broken down while you’re working out, and rest periods allow that tissue to rebuild and become stronger than before. For this reason, rest is a big part of a sustainable and effective fitness routine. A fitness plan without adequate rest can be harmful to your immune system and increase your probability of injury. Plus, you’ll just be plain tired.

The frequency of your rest periods will depend on your fitness level and goals. For a highly trained athlete, a “rest” day might include a half hour of light cardio. There are many options and there is no one golden rule. With that said, effective workout recovery generally includes plenty of hydration, a good night of sleep, and healthy meals. 

Keep in mind that rest is not just important between exercise sessions — it’s also essential to rest between exercise sets within a session. Adequate rest will result in greater repetitions, greater improvements in strength and more muscular power. Be sure to listen to your body during exercise; if you feel pain or discomfort, that’s a good signal to take a break. undefined

A certified personal trainer can help you plan out rest days and recommend strategies for productive rest. Every Trainiac trainer incorporates rest into the training plans that they provide.

Designing Your Own Balanced Fitness Routine

A woman planning out her balanced workout routine with strength, cardio, and mobility exercises

Taking a DIY approach to fitness can be tricky. Even if you use reputable sources to build a routine that incorporates all of the essential components mentioned above, you may not always be doing the right activities to safely and successfully reach your appropriate targets. Because your plan should be specific to your needs, generalized fitness plans and apps might leave you over-extended or bored.

So what’s the best way to build a great fitness plan? Have a professional do it for you. Certified personal trainers are experts at creating balanced, customized workout plans and holding you accountable to them. If you’re looking for high quality guidance along with maximum flexibility, online trainers are a great option.

If you decide to go the DIY route, Google can be your friend. Just be sure to choose resources that are specific to your fitness level and safe for you. With that in mind, here are some resources that we’ve hand-picked to help you build a balanced fitness routine:

Experiment With These Mobility Exercises

If you’re wondering how to get started with some effective mobility exercises, check out these dynamic stretches from Healthline or these 7 stability and mobility exercises from Shape.

Give These Well-Rounded Workouts a Try

  • If you’re just starting out, ACE has outlined a beginner-friendly 3-month exercise program with week-by-week instruction — no weights required.
  • Verywell Fit provides examples of well-rounded workout schedules for beginner, intermediate and advanced exercisers. Some of the exercises require weights.
  • If you have access to a gym, Routine Excellence provides a good overview of five popular beginner weightlifting programs.

At Trainiac, we believe that an effective workout routine must be individualized, practical, and comprehensive. When you connect with a certified personal trainer through Trainiac, your trainer will send you weekly training plans that are both balanced with strength, cardio, and mobility, and completely tailored to your needs and goals. Download the app from the App Store to start your FREE 14-day trial, and pause or cancel anytime.

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