The key to a successful fitness plan is preparation and flexibility. If you want to achieve your fitness goals, you have to be dedicated and adaptable.

Whether it’s work, childcare, sickness or exhaustion, there will always be something that could potentially derail your workout plans. The key is to quickly adapt your fitness plan to any given situation and keep going.

Below are 6 steps to help you create your own effective 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 are you 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: Decide 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 for more training time, try to do so gradually—as adopting big changes all at once may shock your system.

Ideally, you will want to schedule in at least five or six workouts a week with at least one active rest day.

Step 3: Figure out what equipment you’ll need

There are some great workouts that you can do in to comfort of your own home that require minimal equipment and will improve your flexibility and level of overall fitness. However, there are some fitness goals that require larger weights and specific equipment. So, if you’re looking to bulk up but you don’t have weights at home, you’re going to need to schedule some of your workouts at the gym.

Jump rope, jogging, swimming and cycling are all great ways to get in your cardio while enjoying the great outdoors. If you’re someone who prefers to do their cardio indoors, but you don’t have an elliptical, stationary bike or treadmill at home, you may want to schedule your cardio on the days you’ll be at the gym.

Step 4: Choose your cardio

Cardio is an important part of many fitness and workout plan. Regular cardio can increase your aerobic capacity, burn calories and improve your endurance.

Cardio can come in many forms, so you have a bit of flexibility when deciding the type of activity you would like to do. If the weather is hot, you may want to swap out a run for a swim. Low impact cardio like cycling is great for people with joint issues. If you don’t have a stationary bike at home, be sure to schedule your cardio on the days when you plan on heading to the gym.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to decide on just one method of cardio. Feel free to switch it up whenever possible, as it helps challenge the body and keep your workouts interesting.

Step 5: Create your daily workouts

Targeted workouts focus on a 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 each workout. If you are choosing to do one targeted weight training workout per day, you want to hit 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

Here are some basic exercises that work each of the muscle groups outlined above.

  • Quads: squats, lunges, one legged squats, box jumps
  • Butt and Hamstrings: deadlifts, hip raises, straight leg deadlifts, good mornings, step ups
  • Chest, shoulders and triceps: overhead press, bench press, incline dumbbell press, push ups, dips
  • Back, biceps and forearm: chin ups, pull ups, bodyweight rows, bent-over rows
  • Core: planks, side planks, exercise ball crunches, mountain climbers, jumping knee tucks, hanging leg raises

Step 6: 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 often 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 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.

Example workout plan

Monday: At home
30-minute jog or fast paced walk outside
The machine alternative workout

Tuesday: Gym
20-minute rowing workout
20-minute core, lower back and hip shred

Wednesday: At home active rest day 
6 yoga poses to improve flexibility

Thursday: At home
No jump cardio workout
Full-body single station workout

Friday: Gym
15-minute stretching routine
Calorie scorching weighted cardio routine

Saturday: At home
30-minute swim or bike ride outside
Quick HIIT workout

Sunday: Gym
Warm up with these 4 yoga poses
The Stairmaster shred
Full-body strength training workout