How to Create a Complete Personal Fitness Program
A complete personal fitness plan consists of activities you enjoy and exercises that will help you improve where you most need it. What the program specifically includes depends on your current physical fitness, including your body composition, weight, height, age, cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility.
By carefully developing your plan, you will increase your chances of success. Below is a step-by-step guide that will help you create an exercise program that is right for you.
1. Set Goals
"What do I want from my fitness program?"
This is the first thing you should ask yourself when developing your fitness plan. You have to set your goals—both general and specific, as well as long term and short term.
General or long-term goals might include lowering your risk of contracting chronic diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, and diabetes; improving your posture; having more energy; and fitting better in your clothes.
It is also a good idea to develop some specific short-term goals based on measurable factors. Specific goals might include reducing the time it takes you to jog a certain distance from 30 minutes to 25 minutes, increasing the number of push-ups you can do from 10 to 15, and lowering your BMI from 25.8 to 24.6.
As a preliminary step in setting your goals, you must determine the current state of your physical fitness. There are two necessary evaluations to conduct in determining this—the health component and athletic component.
The health assessment includes your BMI, muscular strength and endurance tests, flexibility tests, and physiological tests. The athletic assessment, on the other hand, involves anthropometric analysis and muscular strength analysis.
Health Assessment Example
A. Measurement of Body Composition
- Body Mass
B. Muscular Strength and Endurance Tests
- Partial Curl-Ups
- Trunk Lift
- 90-Degree Push-Ups
C. Flexibility Tests
- Shoulder Stretch
D. Cardiovascular Fitness Test
- 1-Kilometer Run/Walk
Athletic Assessment Example
A. Anthropometric Measurements
- Sitting Height
- Arm Span
B. Muscular Power Test
- Standing Long Jump
- Basketball Pass
- 50-Meter Sprint
The results of your physical fitness tests are essential to determine your goals. The results will help you decide which types of exercises you should focus on, and help you understand the relative difficulty of attaining those goals.
Having specific goals will allow you to track your progress and enjoy the measurable changes brought about by your fitness program. Even if you occasionally lose ground, you will be able to accomplish everything if you stick to your plan.
2. Choose Your Exercise Regimen
The next thing you need to consider in your fitness plan is what activities you're going to do. It is usually best to include different exercises that will help you improve each of the following fitness components:
Do at least three 15-minute bouts of continuous aerobic rhythmic exercises each week. Aerobic activities include walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, and jump rope.
A minimum of two 20-minute sessions per week that consist of exercises that engage all the major muscle groups. Lifting weights is the most effective way to increase strength.
At least three 30-minute sessions per week that include exercises such as calisthenics—such as push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups—and weight training for all the major muscle groups.
Take 10 to 12 minutes each day to stretch slowly, without bouncing into the movement. This can be done after your warm-up or during your cool-down.
Maintaining a Healthy Body
Combine a healthy diet with your regular exercise. Include both cardiovascular endurance exercises to burn calories and resistance training to build muscle mass.
What to Consider While Choosing Your Activity
Instead of turning exercise into a chore, select activities that support your commitment to the plan. Consider the following factors when making your choices:
Fun and Interest
Your fitness program plan is much more likely to be successful if you choose activities that you enjoy doing. Consider activities that you presently participate in and enjoy. Often, you can modify your current hobbies to suit your fitness regimen.
Your Current Ability and Fitness Level
Although many activities are appropriate for beginners, some sports require an intermediate level of skill to provide you with fitness benefits. The book Physical Fitness for Practically Everybody by Kusinitz and Fine has a summary of different sports and activities that suit different needs. This book will help you determine if you have the minimum level of fitness required to participate in the sports that you are considering.
Time and Convenience
Unless exercise fits into your daily schedule, you are unlikely to maintain your program over the long term. As you consider what activity to do, think about if you have to do it particular location or facility.
Some sports and activities require special equipment, membership fees, or another kind of expense. If you are on a tight budget, limit yourself to exercises that are inexpensive or free.
Special Health Needs
If you have special exercise needs due to a particular health problem, choose activities that suit your needs and accommodate your problem. If necessary, consult a doctor.
3. Set a FITT Target for Each Activity
FITT stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type. Apply the FITT principle and set a starting frequency, intensity, and duration for each type of activity you have chosen.
Type of Exercise
3 to 5 times a week
Depends on your target heart rate zone
20 to 60 minutes, depending on your skill level (20-30 minutes for beginners and 30-60 minutes for intermediate to advanced athletes)
Muscular Strength and Endurance
2 to 3 days per week
One or more sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of 8 to 10 exercises
30 seconds to 5 minutes
At least 2 to 3 days per week
4 repetitions per exercise
10 to 30 seconds
4. Set up a System of Mini Goals and Rewards
To keep your program on track, it is necessary to have goals and rewards. Break your specific goals into several steps and establish a target date for each.
For example, if one of your goals is to improve your upper body strength and endurance, you could use a push-up test to set your intermediate goals. If you currently perform ten push-ups, doing 12, 15, and then 20 push-ups can be your intermediate goals.
Meeting a small series of goals is more satisfying than working toward a single, more challenging goal that may take months to achieve. Realistic goals, broken into achievable mini goals, can boost your chances of success.
5. Engage in a Lifestyle Physical Activity
Your daily physical activity level plays a significant part in having a fit and healthy lifestyle. Think of ways you could be more active as you go about your daily routine.
6. Monitor Your Progress
A record that tracks your daily progress will help remind you of your ongoing commitment to your program and give you a sense of accomplishment.
If you have specific, measurable goals, you can graph your weekly or monthly progress toward your goal. To monitor the overall development of your fitness program, you may choose to reassess your cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition every three months or so.
Since the results of different tests vary, be sure to compare results for the same assessment over time. Here are some tools that can help you monitor the progress of your fitness program.
- Before-and-after pictures
- A workout log
- How clothes fit
- Keeping a food journal
- Physical measurements
- Performance assessments
- Routine health screenings
7. Make a Commitment
The final step in planning your program is making a commitment. Sign a contract with yourself. Find a witness for this, preferably someone who will be actively involved in your plan. Place your agreement in a visible area to remind you of your commitment.
Fitness is like a relationship. You can’t cheat and expect it to work.— Brinutrition
- FITT Principle for Cardiovascular Fitness
- Muscular Strength and Muscular Endurance and the FITT Principle
- Muscular Strength and Endurance | HealthLink BC
- Top 12 Physical Fitness Test Exercises | Military.com
- Physical Fitness Testing (PFT) - Testing (CA Dept of Education)
- Reference Guide to Strength Training | SparkPeople
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2018 Ray