How to Plan Workouts That Work

Posted on by Lindsay Dolak. This entry was posted in Being Active and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

For the most part, our weeks are pretty stacked schedule-wise. From important meetings and classes to various appointments and social engagements, every day can come with new obligations that we just can’t miss. If you’re looking to hit any fitness goals, you may need to make room in your calendar, too. Scheduling workouts can often be a deciding factor in whether or not you achieve your goals. Across the fitness board, results depend on consistency and frequency. Blocking off time for workouts every week the same way you do for other obligations can help you stay on top of both.

“When you schedule out time for yourself just like an important meeting, odds are you’ll stick with it,” says Aaptiv trainer Jaime McFaden. “You’re blocking off time to take care of yourself and you’re more likely to see results that will make you want to keep the habit going.”

Of course, any physical activity is beneficial, but for those focused on a specific goal (weight loss, strength gains, increased flexibility, etc.) scheduling workouts is key. “Anyone can train sporadically and break a sweat, but they won’t get optimal results,” says Aaptiv trainer Ackeem Emmons. “If you have a goal in mind, you need to plan those workouts.”

Not only are you more likely to achieve your goals and make your workouts, well, work, but you’ll also see other benefits that come from scheduling exercise:

Heads up

When you map out your workout plan, you give yourself and your body a heads up for what’s to come. This way, you are better able to mentally and physically prepare for workouts. “You know what to expect when you schedule your workouts,” says Aaptiv trainer Benjamin Green. “The intensity will—and should—change week to week and you need to be able to mentally prepare for it.” Whether it means eating more or different foods the night before a challenging strength workout or fitting in more time to warm up before a long run, you’ll be prepared for whatever challenge you face that day.


Having a set schedule gives you a record to reference when your body is acting up. “If you’re suddenly more tired than usual, you can look at your workouts and remember ‘oh yeah, I had a really hard exercise week last week,” Green says. “Or if you’re craving more food than usual, you’re better able to pinpoint if it’s due to increased activity.” Sometimes our bodies just act weirder than usual. With a physical schedule to look back on, it’s easy to put any worries to rest with some insight into what might be causing our fatigue, hunger, or other symptoms.


Scheduling your workouts helps hold you more accountable for your fitness, but it can also help you be more accountable with the other hours of your day. Setting exercise goals may help you prioritize certain things over others, which will ultimately trickle into other areas of your life. If you’re working towards a set goal in a set amount of time, you may schedule less social obligations for that short period.

“If I have a race coming up, my friends know that I’m not going to be available as much because I want to reach that goal,” says Green. But he emphasizes that you should never nix social outings all together. “Don’t stop seeing your family and friends, of course,” he says. “It’s just as important to interact with them for mental strength and support, but your schedule will keep you more accountable with your time.”

How To Schedule Workouts

If you’re wondering where to start, don’t worry. There are some easy ways to come up with a game plan for the weeks ahead. First, balance is key.

“Strength training and cardiovascular training should get the same amount of attention,” says Emmons. “Of the two, neither is more important than the other. What’s the point of being strong if you don’t have endurance? What’s the point of having endurance if you don’t have strength?”

Emmons suggests training three to five days, depending on your fitness level, and always incorporating two rest days into each week: “Training takes a toll on the body, so rest days are just as important in terms of rebuilding and recovery time.”

To maintain that balance, Emmons recommends planning three strength days and two cardio days one week. Then, the following week, try three cardio days and two strength days. He says alternating weeks helps create that balanced regimen.

Aaptiv trainer Kelly Chase agrees with prioritizing a balanced routine of strength and cardio and also encourages a daily yoga practice: “Even five to ten minutes of yoga helps restore muscle damage and helps create a true mind-body connection.

Her typical week of workouts looks something like this:

Monday: Upper Body (back and biceps) + 30 minutes of cardio and core

Tuesday: Leg Day (strength training)

Wednesday: Upper Body (chest, shoulders, and triceps) + 30 minutes of cardio and core

Thursday: Full body HIIT workout (strength and cardio)

Friday: Leg Day or HIIT cardio

Saturday: Cardio or a rest day

Sunday: Yoga or a rest day

“Scheduling your workouts creates a sort of checklist for you,” Chase says. “When you have your workouts written down, you can complete them and just check them off.”

Proud to partner with The Whole U for Dare to Do, Aaptiv is a fitness company that strives to the guesswork and the boredom out of exercise. Their audio-based workout classes combine the motivation of a personal trainer with the perfect playlists to turn your workouts into effective, music-driven experiences. With over 2,500 classes in-app and 50 new ones added weekly in a variety of categories, they’re committed to providing users the guidance and information they need to be successful on their fitness journey—and to actually look forward to working out.