Many of us love to sing songs — belting them out in the shower, in our cars, and for the really musically inclined, in front of a crowd. We don’t all sing the same songs in exactly the same way. And so it is for exercise plans.
Exercise plans are unique. One size does not fit all. Despite this, I can’t tell you the number of times people come to me expecting an off-the-shelf exercise plan that fits their needs. Using a generic exercise plan is like mimicking the way someone else sings. Someone else’s exercise plan will never truly be yours.
That’s why I help people sing their exercise song.
The exercise industry helps provide guidance on how to develop the right exercise plan through a tool known as FITT, which stands for frequency, intensity, time and type.
FITT will help you sing exercise song in your own way. Here’s how to use FITT to develop an exercise plan:
How many days per week you can commit to fitness? Can you commit five or six sessions? Three sessions per week? There isn’t a right or wrong answer. It is important to be realistic, setting yourself up for long-term success.
How intense will you work out? The intensity of effort should be greater than your normal daily activities. Before selecting an intensity, keep in mind the following:
- How much rest have you had?
- How many calories are you ready to expend?
- Do you have any pain or illnesses that you’re working around?
- Use a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the lowest intensity level, and 10 the highest.
An intensity statement should read like this: I plan to exercise at an effort range of 5 – 7. Or: I did not sleep enough last night and will follow through on my exercise goal, exercising at an intensity of 3 – 5 today.
How much time will you work out during each session? Like frequency, you need to set a time per workout that’s practical for the busy daily life you live. Try setting a goal that reaches 150 minutes per week, the recommended exercise amount by the American College of Sports Medicine for maintaining health. If you can’t reach 150 minutes, then start with what you can do and set goals to increase in your next 28-day plan. Remember: Be realistic, and remember that the goal is long-term exercise.
Select types of exercises
What exercises will you do to support your fitness goals? With thousands to choose from, the choices are nearly endless. Draw four columns on a sheet of paper, and label them: cardio, strength, flexibility and balance. Then write in the exercises you will do as part of your plan. Make sure you search for exercises you know how to do or want to try.
Once you’ve determined frequency, chosen intensity, determined time and selected types of exercises, you can take each piece and put it together as your unique exercise plan—your exercise song.
Here’s a sample exercise plan:
- Exercise 2 to 3 times per week.
- Choose an intensity of 5 to 7.
- Exercise for 30 minutes per session.
- Select the following types of exercises: for heart health, walking and jogging on the treadmill for 20 minutes; for upper body and core strength, take 5 minutes to practice the plank-to-pushup pose; for flexibility, take 3 minutes to stretch my chest, arms, upper and lower legs to maintain good range of motion and wrap up my workout; for balance, when I’m home and brushing my teeth, I will safely practice standing on one leg.