Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Making Your Workout Plan and Staying Motivated

Before I start talking about motivation and planning, let’s address the word no one likes to hear - Procrastination. We all procrastinate - let’s just get that out in the open. There’s not a one of us who doesn’t, to some degree.  When you’re starting a new workout or any new good habit at all, just take Mr. Procrastination and punch him right in the face!

How many times have you had the following thoughts? “I’ll start exercising next Monday” -or- “I’ll start eating well after the holidays.” If you’ve had these thoughts, did you actually follow through? Chances are you did not and, unfortunately, Mr. Procrastination won yet again. There is no reason not to start these habits RIGHT NOW. If you want to start working out, go to the gym TODAY. If it’s too late, go ahead and get your workout clothes together for tomorrow. If you want to start eating well, throw out all of those bad foods TONIGHT and get a grocery list together for healthy food.


When I started lifting weights about 8 years ago, I would go the gym whenever I had spare time with a few exercises or body parts I wanted to work (usually abs, biceps, and chest like any teenager wanting a ‘beach body’). I had no real plan at all. I would do this for a month or two and hardly see any results. Without a plan, I was completely frustrated, tired of exercising, not to mention, totally wasting my time.

When you begin weight lifting, making a plan is essential. Just follow these 4 simple rules:

Make a 1-week schedule that works all muscle groups: You have to decide whether you want to lift weights 2, 3, or 4 days per week. Keep in mind that resting is very important because it gives your muscles much needed time to repair. Do not lift weights more than two days without taking a rest day (a lower intensity exercise is still ok). Make sure you work all muscle groups (shoulders, chest, back, biceps, triceps, legs, abs) within this week. You could split these groups into 2, 3, or 4 separate days.

Continue doing your 1-week schedule for 4 to 8 weeks: This 4 to 8 week routine gives you time to see progress. You’ll be able to do more weight each week. Your technique will improve and so will your body. The problem is, as you near the end of this routine, your muscles will start to get used to each of these exercises and you will begin to plateau.

Create another routine at least a week before your current routine ends: This new routine will keep you from plateauing! Plus, I always get bored doing the same thing for a long time, so I’m always excited about changing my workout.

Take a week off after your 4 to 8 week routine: By now you have probably not had a single day without being sore in some part of your body. It is very important that you take a break for both emotional and physical reasons. Some of you will be thinking “Thank goodness about time for a break,” but most of you will be excited about getting started the next week. Just know that when you work hard, you have to rest hard as well!


I’ve been lifting weights for the past 6 months with 5 different 4 to 8 week routines, but this past week I hit a wall. I took a two week break during the holidays and when I started back, I did not want to be in the gym. My current routine starts on Monday by working legs and I really hate leg days so that probably didn’t help. I didn’t like it, but I stayed in the gym and finished my workout anyways. That night, I couldn’t have been happier and more proud of myself. Now I’m more excited than ever about my plan.

Set goals. What kept me motivated when I hit that wall were my goals. 6 months ago, I made a somewhat long term (I say ‘somewhat’ because the ultimate long term goal should be lengthening your healthy life!) goal to lift weights for a year without skipping a single day of workouts. The fact that I have already been through 6 months without missing a day holds me accountable. I think to myself “I can’t give up now!” I also make weekly goals. I take a log sheet with me to the gym every day to record the weight I lift. Not everyone does this, but I highly recommend it. Recording my weight allows me to beat myself each time I go to the gym. If I don’t beat my weights from the previous week, I’m losing and no one likes losing! Think about how much you could progress if you continue to beat your past weights for 6 consecutive weeks. I’ve seen more than 30% strength gains in my 6-week routines before!

Workout with a partner. If you have a partner in crime, you will always have someone to spot you for one, but, more importantly, you will have someone who can pick you up when your down. It is unlikely that you will both lack motivation on the same day. I always thought I needed a partner to hold me accountable each week, but not everyone needs one. I haven’t been able to keep a steady partner  since I started 6 months ago, but I’ve learned to stay motivated by other means (above).

Look back in time.  Sometimes looking at old photos of how you were before you began training, losing weight, and building muscle are more than enough to keep you motivated. This also works with recorded weights and numbers.  

Tell people about your goals. Just vocalizing your goals can make it a lot easier for you to stick to them. They suddenly feel more real and tangible. Plus, you do not want to fail in front of your friends and family or let them down. I’ve seen people that post their goals on Facebook. The people (men and women both) who I’ve seen post their weights and weight goals on Facebook have all obliterated their goals and have all been more excited doing so. I’m sure the same would definitely work for guys with strength goals or guys trying to put on muscle mass.

Let us know! What are your fitness goals? Weight loss? Gaining strength? Gaining muscle mass? Try writing them all down and use your new planning skills to make a plan to achieve them!

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