Creating an Exercise Program (Exercise Program 1)

This is my second series on creating an exercise program.  The first was called the J2K Fitness Challenge, and it centered around the principles and organizational structure of an exercise routine.  It discussed dealing with previous exercise failures, setting goals, keeping records, and bumps in the road.  Take a few minutes and review them as we continue this series.

Now it’s time to get to the nuts and bolts of an exercise program.  Most likely this isn’t the first time you’ve ever attempted an exercise routine.  There is no shortage programs out there.  So this is my take on the essentials.  Please use the comment section below or email me to make this an ongoing discussion.  Conversation is good.

An exercise program should consist of the following:

  • strength training – lifting weights (machine or free weights)
  • cardiovascular training – “cardio” i.e. running, biking, walking, paddling
  • stretching – muscle recovery, injury prevention
  • core training – the bridge to the body

Today we are setting up the design of the program.  I want you to write down how much time you’ll spend on each component.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  You cannot do all components each day of the week.  Check that – you could, but you’ll burn out, injure yourself, or actually decrease your results.

As a personal trainer, I consult individually with each client to understand their history and goals for their exercise program.  I’m happy to consult with you if you comment or email me.  But 95% of the time, here’s what a typical exercise program looks like:

  • Cardio:  3-4 days per week
  • Strength:  2-3 days per week
  • Stretching:  after each cardio workout
  • Core:  3-5 days per week

I always start with cardio.  When push comes to shove, cardio must get done.  Cardio is what strengthens your heart and it’s too important to put anywhere but first.  So start there.  I suggest M,W,F and a weekend cardio workout.

Then strength training gets worked in.  If you can do this opposite cardio days, you may find it more productive.  Then you’re looking at T,R and maybe a weekend day.  This gets full on the schedule.  If you want to get two birds with one stone (trips to the gym) you can lift after a cardio workout.  More on the importance and details of a strength program on Friday.

Most of my clients are adults and none are getting younger.  Stretching is an essential component to a program and it is by far the most difficult one to remain faithful to.  As you begin your training, start with designating 5 minutes at the end of your cardio to stretch.  Five minutes will feel like an eternity, but it’s actually a minimum and will most likely increase with experience and age.

Finally, core training cannot be ignored.  Think about those you know who have lower back problems.  Maybe it’s you.  Core training is critical to maintain all the activities of daily living and to connect our cardio with our strength training.

Don’t be nervous.  I know it seems like a lot but it becomes second-nature after a couple weeks.  And as always – progression is key.  If you start for two weeks and do just cardio – GREAT!  I promise we can work up from there.  That’s really where the personal in personal training comes in, so for the third time, please feel free to contact me.

In review, go buy a 99-cent notebook and call it your Fitness Journal.  Take the first page and write down some thoughts of exercise programs of yester-year.  Then write your current situation and goals.  Then on page two make a calendar for yourself and plan out cardio, strength, stretching and core training.  Figure the following time-frames:

  • cardio – 20-30 minutes
  • strength:  15 minutes
  • stretching: 5 minutes
  • core: 10 minutes

Happy Training!  See you in the comments section.  And please feel free to share this post and series with your friends via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

2 thoughts on “Creating an Exercise Program (Exercise Program 1)

  1. Michelle

    Very interested read, Hans. Thanks for the info. I've never read anything in this area before. I am still a bit confused about the core training. What exercises is this? Do I cover it w/back and stomach exercises on the fixed weight machines? Thanks

  2. _

    Michelle – core training will be discussed in a couple days. But as a preview, core training involves mostly abs and lower back. Some people even consider leg workouts (lunges and squats) to be core training.


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