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How to create a fitness plan you actually like for 2021

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Photo: @offlinemandy

Have you ever tried setting fitness new year resolutions and goals in utmost determination — only to lose steam and abandon all fitness plans by the second month?

We all know that exercise is good for our bodies and minds. Working out is a necessary part of living a healthy life. We know this for a fact and we all aspire to be healthy, but a lot of times our actions don’t match up.

We get lazy. We create excuses. And we prioritize other things.

But what’s worse is, we dread it. Maybe our workout plan involves running three times a week. All good, except we actually hate running. We’d have to force ourselves when the time comes to go for a jog. We start slacking off because it’s just too hard, and then we guilt-trip ourselves when we don’t actually do what we said we would do.

When your workout plan isn’t working out for you, we fall behind. We give up. But creating a fitness plan you can get excited about is possible — and here are four steps to create a workout plan for YOU to become the fittest you’ve ever been in 2021.

1. Start with why.

Photo: @offlinemandy

As Simon Sinek says, start with why. What are your fitness goals? What do you hope to achieve — are you working out to lose weight, build muscle or tone up a specific part of your body? Or is it to look good in that pair of jeans you’ve just bought? With that in mind, you can shape your fitness plan accordingly.

Be open and honest with yourself on your why — no B.S. answers allowed. Schedule in a block of time to really dig deep and write down the reasons why you’d like to improve your fitness for 2021. One important thing to note: there are absolutely no stupid answers. We’re all human, with all our flaws, doubts and insecurities.

An example of why you want to create a fitness plan: I want to get stronger because I’m tired of feeling weak all the time; I want to be in control of my life and my body and gain self-confidence in the process.

Ask any fitness enthusiast and they’d chime in unison: building muscles and growing stronger involves more mental power than actual physical strength. If you’re clear on your why, you’d be able to hold on to that when you’re breaking a sweat and the going gets tough. Because it will.

2. Explore options and do what you love.

Photo: @offlinemandy

I get it, the words do what you love is so commonly flung about that its meaning cease to exist. But when it comes to something hard like working out, this advice is gold. After all, you’re not bumming around in your oversized PJs, watching Netflix and eating cookies with your feet propped up, are you? You’re moving and sweating and werking your butt off.

It really helps to find a way to move that you actually like. Maybe you hate running, like I do. Why not try switching it out for other workouts, like yoga, HIIT or even mixed martial arts? That stuff will also get you moving and working up a sweat in no time. Or if you dig hiphop and dance, get your butt into a class and do it regularly.

There are so many ways to move. Other than the above, we can think of more off the cuff: pilates, barre, aerobics, spin, tabata, weight-lifting, cross-training, calisthenics, swimming, biking, hiking… or even buddy up and play an active game, like tennis, badminton, squash, etc. Team sports like soccer, hockey, basketball, rugby will also get you the exercise you need.

To know what you actually like, you’ll first have to get out of your comfort zone to explore and try something new. Ask yourself, what type of movement do I gravitate towards? Give yourself time to explore a variety of ways to move to find the answer.

Class Pass (free trial for 14 days!) is a good option, or just buy trial classes directly from individual fitness studios. Taking a class may give you the extra push that you need to get started.

3. Create your weekly fitness plan, then schedule it in your calendar.

Photo: @offlinemandy
Photo: @offlinemandy

Using your why, what you want to improve on (#1) and what you like (#2), you can now begin to create your fitness plan.

“Make sure to include tough exercises that you’d like to work on so that you will improve,” fitness enthusiast Mandy says. “But remember to add exercises you are already good at for a confidence boost.” That’s how she got stronger and also started shooting workout videos via her Instagram account @offlinemandy.

Also, take note of these 3 essentials when creating your fitness plan:

  • Cardio: This helps to raise your heart rate, improves the function of your heart. Aim for 3 to 4 cardio workouts per week. Examples: HIIT, running, swimming, circuit training, dancing, sports etc.
  • Strengthening and toning: Strength training builds muscles and endurance, and helps you become stronger overall. This in turn helps to reduce stress on the joints as you build more muscles around it. Stronger muscles result in stronger bones, i.e. increase in bone density, helping to offset age-related declines in bone mass. Examples: Weight lifting, pilates, yoga, barre, bodyweight trainings, etc.
  • Flexibility and mobility: Flexibility is the ability of a muscle to stretch and mobility is the ability of a joint to move freely. Both are extremely important to prevent muscular problems such as osteoporosis and prevent injury. Well-stretched muscles and mobile joints can help you achieve better balance and a wider range of motion — not just in sports, but also in daily functions such as bending, reaching, stooping, etc. Examples: yoga, stretching.

Next, decide the schedule: how many times you can realistically commit, and the specific days of the week. Once you’ve created your fitness plan, don’t wait — schedule it in your calendar directly so that your mind knows that this is important.

4. How to make your fitness plan stick

Photo: @offlinemandy

It’s definitely hard to get something going or create a new habit — we get it. That’s why you’d feel incredibly proud of yourself when you are living your life with your newly created habit. Good things don’t come easy.

Photo: @offlinemandy

3 useful tips to make it stick:

  • Get painfully specific: the what, where and when. “I will do a 20-min YouTube HIIT workout at home every Monday at 8 a.m. before work starts.” 
  • Stack it with an existing habit, according to James Clear. “After I brush my teeth daily in the morning, I will do my 15-min strength-training workout that I created to strengthen my core in the living room.” Brushing your teeth when you wake is an existing habit here (assuming this is for everyone! Yes? Yes.) Overtime, once you brush your teeth in the morning, your brain is conditioned to auto-pilot to doing your strength-training routine, because that’s what you’ve taught it to.
  • Reward yourself after working out! Think of a quick but enticing reward you could give yourself after completing every workout. For example, after my daily morning workout and bath, I like to take some time and enjoy my morning cup of coffee. It warms me up from inside out. Overtime, I associate this as a treat for making time to exercise.

Read more about goal-setting in this article we wrote here.

Photo: @offlinemandy

That’s it – the four-step process to create a fitness routine you’d actually love. If you stick with it, it’ll get easier and you may quickly find yourself getting more active — on route to becoming the fittest you’ve ever been.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Murakami.

“Sometimes I run fast when I feel like it, but if I increase the pace I shorten the amount of time I run, the point being to let the exhilaration I feel at the end of each run carry over to the next day. To keep going, you have to keep up the rhythm. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow.”

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