The key to a successful fitness plan is preparation and flexibility. Consistency is necessary, but it’s important to understand when breaks are needed and when you should push through.

Whether it’s work, school, childcare or exhaustion, there will always be excuses that could derail your progress. The key is to be flexible with your fitness plan and be prepared for things to change.

Below are 5 steps to create and stick to a fitness plan.

Step 1: Set your goals

The type of fitness plan you need depends entirely on your goals. So before you begin creating your plan, you need to determine what you are trying to achieve and when you want to achieve it.

Do you want to pack on muscle, lose weight, increase your aerobic capacity or become more flexible? If you’re looking to simply increase your fitness level, you may want a well-rounded plan that incorporates a mixture of strength, cardio and flexibility training.

Step 2: Realistically determine how many days you can dedicate to your fitness goals

Be realistic about how many days you can dedicate to your fitness plan. Take into account your other priorities and your work schedule.

If you need to make changes in your routine to allot more training time, try to do so gradually — adopting big changes all at once may shock your system and lead to burnout.

Ideally, you will want to schedule in at least three to four workouts a week with at least one active rest day.

Step 3: Create your workouts and cardio based on what you actually enjoy

Choosing workouts and activities that you actually enjoy will help you stick to your plan. If you feel like going for a long hike instead of your planned leg workout, don’t sweat it. Instead, incorporate it into your routine.

Targeted workouts focus on specific muscle groups and are great for building muscle mass and allowing for more recovery between workouts. Total-body workouts are a great way for beginners to make progress faster, while engaging the major muscle groups.

If you choose a total-body workout, you want to briefly hit all the areas outlined below during each workout. If you are choosing to do one targeted weight training workout per day, you want to work these areas at least once a week.

  • Quads: front of your legs
  • Butt and hamstrings: back of your legs
  • Chest, shoulders and triceps: “push” muscles
  • Back, biceps and grip: “pull” muscles
  • Core: abdominals and lower back

Make sure to progress your workouts every 3-4 weeks when they get easier to continue seeing results. This could be by making the exercise itself more difficult by adding weight, more reps, less rest or longer time under tension. 

Step 4: Set up a reward system for yourself

Professional athletes are always working towards their goals which involve rewards like medals or trophies – so why shouldn’t you?

Setting small rewards for yourself creates a positive response and helps to build better habits. Set rewards for when you start to meet your goals like hitting PRs, running your longest distance or losing 5 pounds.

Some example rewards could include; a dinner out, a trip, some new workout gear, or a purchase you have been wanting to make. Whatever the reward, make sure it is catered to you and helps you stay motivated to crush your goals.

Step 5: Remember rest days

When putting together a workout plan, be sure to account for rest days. Rest days allow your body to properly recover and help prevent overuse injuries that can occur when you push your body too hard.

Try to make your rest day an active recovery day. Active recovery workouts are low-intensity activities that help you take care of yourself and move as freely as possible. Active recovery exercises include low-intensity workouts focusing on movement and self-care techniques. These activities and exercises could be foam rolling and stretching, Tai Chi, Yoga, walking or swimming, and bodyweight work to improve core, hip, back strength and mobility (such as Pilates and core training).

It is recommended that you take at least one rest/active recovery day per week.