Daily a number of our clients ask how to design an exercise program schedule that will work for them taking into consideration all of their scheduling needs while experiencing the health and fitness results they are seeking. It does take some deep thought and time to design an effective schedule and, as life changes, which it will, going through this process each time is well worth the effort to ensure you continue to meet and exceed your health/fitness goals.
There are a few guidelines to follow when beginning this process or even if you are currently working within a schedule, you may benefit from some of these guidelines, if not now, in the future when your schedule changes. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
FITT (frequency, intensity, type and time) plus periodization
Frequency: How many days per week are you prepared to dedicate to your exercise program? Knowing this information is critical. In my experience, those clients who are productively busy, tend to be the ones that adhere to their exercise programs regularly. Committing to three/four days/week is a good approach and then, if you can manage a fifth or sixth day, that is great. The main element is to create structure within your week and then stick with it.
Frequency: You also want to keep in mind the type of exercise and how frequently it may be performed. For example, heavy weight training for the total body should be performed on non-consecutive days to give the body time to recover, build and repair. You certainly may perform some weight training several days a week, but you will want to structure your program so that each muscle group has adequate recovery time. This applies to HIIT as well — you cannot go hard all of the time.
Intensity and Mode (type): What will you do on those days you have scheduled for your program? You have to know exactly what you intend to perform that day or you are unlikely to succeed. For example, perhaps Mondays and Wednesdays you decide to participate in indoor group cycling classes. Mondays dedicated to all cycling and Wednesdays a cycling circuit format wherein you are performing HIIT as well as muscular strength training. Tuesdays or Thursdays you determine are excellent days for Zumba or interval step and Fridays for a large weight training circuit format. Whatever you decide will work most effectively, determine the schedule and then record your results for that schedule daily/weekly/monthly.
Time: Determine how much time each day you will commit to as well. If you are attending large group exercise classes or with a personal trainer, each class/session has a specific beginning and ending time, so that will dictate your timing. However, if you are working out on your own on the fitness floor or at home, you will have a better chance of succeeding if you schedule in your day timer or planner, exactly what time frame you will commit to and then, unless there is an emergency, adhere to it.
Periodization: Vary your workouts periodically. This also helps to prevent overuse injuries and boredom as well as promoting the stress-adaptation principle (i.e. principle of overload) which is an essential component of all successful exercise programs.