Basic Components of an Effective, but Simple Workout Plan

by Janet Luhrs
Basic Components of an Effective, but Simple Workout Plan

By Janet Luhrs,

You already know this, but creating a workout plan can be really confusing. You look around at what other people are doing or you read stuff online, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s also easy to feel like you’re not doing enough.

When I try to compare myself to others or grab too much information online, it’s easy to feel defeated even before I start. 

So I simplify my approach, and that frees me up to do what matters and do it well.  All you have to remember are three basic components that you need to incorporate into your simple workout plan throughout the week: cardio, strength training, and flexibility. Anything after that is icing on the cake.

·       Cardio: By definition, cardiovascular fitness is the ability of your heart, lungs and organs to consume, transport and utilize oxygen. As you perform cardio exercises (you should be doing cardio an average of three times each week), you are forcing your body to use oxygen to burn fat cells and stimulate your metabolism. This means partaking in any sustained physical activity that causes the heart to pump blood and oxygen at higher rates than it does during normal daily activities. Examples include running, cycling, lap swimming, jazzercise, hiking, kickboxing, jumping rope, and even trampolining. Various resistance machines such as treadmills, stair climbers, ellipticals, and stationary bikes, are also a great way to get a cardio workout. Even weight lifting can be a form of cardio if you lighten the weights and do more repetitions at a faster rate. Various sports can be an excellent cardio workout such as basketball, soccer, and rugby. A cardio workout can be any activity where your heart rate is elevated over a sustained period of time and where talking starts getting difficult. 

·       Strength Training: Physical exercise that uses resistance to contract your muscles and builds strength is considered strength training or weight training. Free weights, resistance machines, exercise/resistance bands, kettle balls, and even your own body weight are ways that you can conduct strength training. Incorporate a basic strength training workout 2-3 days a week, taking care not to work the same muscle groups two days in a row since weight training is essentially tearing down your muscle as you build it back up again. A simple plan is to alternate upper body-lower body if you strength train two days in a row.

·       Flexibility: Good flexibility is needed to perform every day activities that require bending, lifting, squatting, pushing, and pulling. As you improve your flexibility, your cardio and tone will also respond and improve. People often get injured when they put more emphasis on cardio and strength training and ignore flexibility. Flexibility is so important that virtually all college and professional coaches stress flexibility as a necessary part of athletic training. So think of flexibility as the third leg on the three legged stool of good fitness – you should do flexibility training in each and every workout session (3-5 times per week). Examples of flexibility training are yoga, barre, Pilates classes and tai chi. There are countless videos on YouTube on flexibility workouts and they can be done just about anywhere with very little or no equipment. A good flexibility workout will work on all the major muscle groups in the upper and lower body and also the spine.

So get rid of complex expectations and make sure your workout incorporates the three areas above and you will see results before you know it!

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