Look at your goals
Are you working out to lose weight? Training for a marathon? Looking to build muscle? In all of these cases, you’d benefit from a training program tailored to those goals that helps you determine what exercises will maximize your results.
For the rest of this article, let’s just assume you’re an average person looking to work out to feel good (exercise does release endorphins!), to get healthier, and maybe to lose a little weight or at least exchange a little fat for muscle.
Vary your workouts
In building a workout plan, be sure to mix up your workouts. Exercise falls into two main categories: cardio and strength. Cardio is amazing for weight loss and builds cardiovascular endurance and stamina.
Strength training is great for building more lean muscle which, believe it or not, also can help you to lose weight, or at the very least improve your body composition and help you slim down (which is what you’re looking for when you say you want to ‘lose weight’ anyway, right?).
For a well-balanced workout plan, aim for two to three days of cardio and two to three days of strength training each week. Try to alternate days you do each, and vary the intensity as well. Be sure to listen to your body along the way and try to decrease overall intensity if you’re feeling fatigue or extreme soreness rather than skipping days altogether.
That said, ensure you also add two rest days into the plan. You don’t have to do absolutely nothing on a rest day—a relaxing walk, yoga, or stretching will help your body and brain recover.
So how many times a week should I work out?
If you’re just starting out, start (relatively) small. If you jump right in with hour-long workouts six days a week, you will burn out fast and might get injured along the way. Start with two days a week and build up from there. A good amount to aim for is four or five workouts a week with two or three days of rest.
Remember, rest days are just as important! They give your body time to recover, and recovery time is essential to muscle building and preventing injury.
It’s best to spread your workouts throughout the week. Don’t stack all your workouts at the beginning of the week, for example, and have all your rest days at the end of the week. If you do that, getting back into a workout routine after several days off will feel even harder.
And, we said it once but we’ll say it again (!), listen to your body. If you need an extra rest day after hitting the equipment a little too hard at the gym one day, that’s ok. Just try to keep your workout schedule as consistent as possible to build a habit.