4 Steps to Finding Your Perfect Fitness Plan

If you routinely join a gym and then let your membership lapse, or set your alarm clock with good intentions but end up hitting the snooze button more often than not, don't feel bad. It may be that you just haven't found the fitness routine that fits. Once you hit on it, you'll be less likely to hit snooze. Here's how to find the best exercise plan for you:

1. Start where you are.

Assess your fitness level right now. For instance:

  • How long does it take you to walk a mile?
  • Can you reach your toes if you bend forward while sitting with your legs out in front of you?
  • What is your waist measurement?
  • Can you do pushups?

If you're fairly out of shape, it can be discouraging to engage in activities that are too difficult for you. You may end up huffing and puffing through an aerobics class only to quit the gym altogether in disgust. Instead, find a class that goes at an easier pace. You'll get far more enjoyment out of it and be more likely to stick with it.

2. Clear room in your schedule.

But, consider your schedule. If you need to report to work at 7:00 am, perhaps trying to squeeze in a predawn workout is just too much. Look for a gym with afternoon or early evening classes. Is your lunch break the only time off you have during the day? Schedule your workout then, even if it's just a brisk walk outside your office building. If certain days are absolutely impossible for you, schedule longer exercise sessions on days that offer more flexibility. Exercise is cumulative. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. And that can be split up to fit your schedule.

3. Match the activity to your personality.

Just as important as what you're capable of doing and when you're capable of doing it is what you actually like to do. Find going to the gym intimidating? Channel your inner kid. Practice shooting baskets in the driveway, or hit a tennis ball around with your partner. Put on your old soul records and dance in the privacy of your living room. Forget technique—just have fun while you work up a sweat. If an activity doesn't seem like a chore, it will be much easier to stick with them over the long term.

4. Chart your progress.

Recording your achievements can be very satisfying and keeps you honest. And don't forget to reward yourself for every milestone reached, whether it's a certain number of hours exercised or number of pounds lost. (Think new walking sneakers or yoga pants, not food.) You deserve it.

Ben Greenfield, MA, reviewed this article.



"Sticking With Your Exercise Program." Harvard Health Publications." http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Sticking-with-your-exercise-program.htm. Accessed October 28, 2013

"Fitness: Create a Program That's Right For You." Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fitness/SM00025/NSECTIONGROUP=2. Accessed October 20, 2013.