Especially if you have any health, orthopedic or chronic pain concerns, you know you stand to gain so much from movement but it is even more complicated to navigate the maze of information. Clients often come to me after stumbling upon enough dead ends to be worn down to the point of inactivity.
As you can imagine, there is no one great exercise plan. There are, however key ingredients to keep exercise time-efficient, highly effective, and stress-free. Use this checklist as a guide to help you craft the best exercise plan for you.
7 Keys to a Highly Effective Exercise Program:
Enjoyable: Exercise is supposed to be gratifying, recreational, rejuvenating! If it feels like work, its time for an update.
- I leave every exercise or movement session feeling great physically
- I leave every exercise or movement session feeling great mentally
- I know what types of exercise/movement I enjoy
- I know what environments I enjoy exercising in (i.e.: gym, home, outdoors)
- I know who I like exercising with (including just yourself)
Aligned with YOUR goals: The exercise training Principle of Specificity basically says: you get what you train for. Clarifying what you want from exercise helps us find the right plan to get you there, allowing motivation to soar.
- I have a clear picture of what I want from my exercise plan
- My exercise plan is designed for my goals for well-being
- I feel highly motivated because I am confident my exercise plan will help me reach my goal
Consistent: The body “forgets” relatively quickly what it gained from the last exercise sessions. Consistency leads to success. The catch is that life dynamic, isn’t it? “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change ”( Heraclitus) An exercise plan needs to be adaptable – as fluid as life itself. The good news is that it is possible when you know and use the many possible ways to reap the benefits of movement. This lowers the stress of sticking with a program and creates a more direct path to your wellness vision.
- I am consistent with my exercise plan
- I am confident that I can find ways to stay on track and keep moving most weeks of the year
- I have enough options for exercise and movement to help keep life from getting in the way of my goals
- Most of the time, it is not stressful to be consistent with my exercise plan
Lifestyle Activity – Research on the health hazards of inactivity is overwhelmingly supportive of moving as much as possible during the day. It has given us more options for achieving health benefits of movement without all the rules of exercise. This is good news! We now know that a strong foundation of health and well-being is found in simply avoiding prolonged inactivity and infusing your day with a variety healthy movement breaks.
- I am aware of how active/inactive I am during my non-exercise time
- I infuse my day with mini-movement sessions
- I avoid prolonged periods of inactivity
Cardiovascular Exercise – Extra benefits like improved stamina, a stronger heart, more blood vessels, reduced risk of heart disease, preventing another heart event, managing diabetes, hypertension, and depression are all to be found by regular cardiovascular exercise.
- I have a consistent cardiovascular exercise program
- 30 minutes continuous movement
- doing an activity I enjoy that uses major muscle groups (ie: walk, cycle, swim, dance, etc)
- at intensity that is comfortable / a comfortable challenge for my breathing
- at least three days a week consistently
Strength Training – Offering benefits that cardiovascular exercise does not provide – regular strength training is a unique health booster. With a multitude of approaches to strength training, it is essential to find the one that matches your goals, considers any health issues and orthopedic concerns, and has a gradual progression. Choosing exercises that are in line with the science of movement improves everyday function while reducing the risk of injury.
- I do a consistent strength training program 2-3 days a week
- I challenge my muscles during each exercise
- I do about 8-15 repetitions 1-3 sets of each exercise
- I am confident the exercises I do in my program are training me for my goal
- I am confident the exercises I do, and the way I do them are minimizing the risk of injury
Stretching – Often the forgotten component of exercise. Inconsistent research (mostly focused on athletic performance) and the lower calorie burning quality of stretching keeps it off the priority list for many. When I introduce quality stretching to clients, I witness a change in their entire being – the face softens, there is an audible “Hahh” as the body and mind relax. This relaxed state opens up a world of progress with motivation and health. Also, you can reap the many benefits of mindfulness by practicing it while stretching.
- I stretch several times a day in short bouts for 10-30 second holds
- I stretch for 30- 60 second holds after physical activity
- While stretching I am relaxing my mind and body and practicing mindfulness
If your current plan includes these keys, congratulations! – keep up the great work! If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, take breath. Incorporating these seven keys is a step by step progression. When clients gradually enhance their exercise plan with these keys, they state the journey itself is rewarding and enjoyable, and their exercise program is energizing and life-giving.
Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC