How to Plan a Workout Routine You Can Stick To

April 15, 2021  Adriana Lee Avatar
How to Plan a Workout Routine You Can Stick To

If hiring a trainer isn’t in your budget, it might seem daunting to create a workout routine that you can actually stick to. Most people start working out with good intentions in mind, but quickly fizzle out as their motivation fades.

A good trainer will put together a program designed for you that increases in intensity as you grow stronger. But the average person CAN create their own program.

Below are some tips to help you make a plan that you can stick to – AND common pitfalls to avoid.

Use the below tips as a guide to create your own workout routine and take that first step toward hitting your goals!


Schedule Your Workouts, Rest Days & Active Recovery

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they start working out is they quickly burn themselves out. They get to the gym and workout every muscle in their body to their maximum capacity on day one and are then too sore the next few days to get back to the gym.

Instead, before you step foot in a gym or start working out at home, write out a plan for yourself with realistic goals.

In a planner, journal or just on a sheet of paper write out the days of the week. Decide what days make the most sense for you as rest days. I recommend starting with 4-5 workout days and 2-3 rest days.

Of the 2-3 rest days, make one or two of them active recovery days. On these days, plan some light activity like a walk outside, gentle yoga, a light bike ride or an easy hike. Some other examples of active recovery days are taking a stretch class (in-studio or virtually), swimming or doing a myofascial release. 

This could look like this:

Sunday Rest
Monday Workout
Tuesday Workout
Wednesday Active Recovery
Thursday Workout
Friday Workout
Saturday Active Recovery

Then schedule times for each of these activities. This is important. Keep these commitments to yourself the same way you would commit to an important meeting or picking your kids up from school. Put them in your calendar. Add reminders into your phone – whatever you need to do to stay consistent. 

A blend of workout days, active recovery days and rest days are important to avoid burnout and reach your goals. 

Add Variety to Your Workouts

Eating the exact same meal three times a day, seven days a week is not only boring – it’ll also leave you deficient in certain nutrients. 

The same goes for your workouts. 

Not only will you get bored, but you may also end up with some muscles overdeveloped and others underdeveloped.

Adding variety doesn’t just keep things interesting. It also challenges your body and mind and helps you avoid imbalances. 

Some examples of workouts to add to your routine include:

  • Weight lifting
  • Pilates
  • Moderate to high intensity yoga
  • Running
  • Barre
  • TRX
  • Mobility training
  • Kickboxing
  • Bootcamp classes

Schedule in varied workouts and active recovery exercises so that you don’t end up doing the same thing day after day, week after week.

In your planner or journal, write in what type of workout you’ll be doing.

Sunday Rest
Monday Workout Weight Lifting
Tuesday Workout Pilates
Wednesday Active Recovery Light Yoga
Thursday Workout Barre
Friday Workout Weight Lifting
Saturday Active Recovery Hike

That could look something like this:

Another factor to consider when adding variety to your workouts is what your goals are and what body part(s) will be your focus that day.

If you plan to weight train and focus on legs on Monday, you’ll probably be too sore for a run on Tuesday.

You also want to make sure you target each of the main muscle groups every week. 

These can be divided into:

  • Legs (can be further divided into anterior and posterior chain – front (quads)and back of the legs (glutes & hamstrings)
  • Chest, shoulders, & triceps (push muscles)
  • Back, & biceps (pull muscles)
  • Core

In your planner, this might look something like this:

Sunday Rest
Monday Workout Weight Lifting Push Muscles
Tuesday Workout Pilates Core
Wednesday Active Recovery Light Yoga Full Body
Thursday Workout Barre Legs
Friday Workout Weight Lifting Pull Muscles
Saturday Active Recovery Hike Legs

Slowly Increase Intensity

After a month or so, you may be ready to increase the intensity of your workouts. However, adding too much intensity too quickly will make you too sore to workout the next day. It takes time and discipline to start and stick to a routine, and missing a workout even once can really mess you up. It’s much easier to stay the course than it is to start back up again after a setback.

Not adding intensity can also make you plateau and lose motivation when you don’t see yourself hitting your goals. 

Increasing intensity is a very personal journey. Listen to your body above all else. There’s no need to max out every single workout. But you do want to feel challenged. 

Intensity can be added by making your workouts longer (if you have time), increasing your weight or reps or the general intensity of a workout – this is more specific to yoga, Pilates and Barre.

This is an example of how you might do that over the course of four months. 

Month One:

  • Weights – Start with a manageable weight; 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Pilates – 20 minutes of beginner level
  • Yoga – 20 minutes of light yoga
  • Run – 1 mile, or 20 minutes whatever distance you can run

Month Two:

  • Weights – Add 5 pounds, or go from 10 reps to 12 reps
  • Pilates – 30 minutes, or 20 minutes of intermediate level
  • Yoga – 30 minutes of light yoga, or 20 minutes of moderate yoga
  • Run – 2 miles, or 30 minutes whatever distance you can run

Month Three:

  • Weights – Add 5 pounds, or go from 12 reps to 15 reps
  • Pilates – 40 minutes, or 30 minutes of intermediate level
  • Yoga – 40 minutes light yoga, or 30 minutes of moderate to intense yoga
  • Run – 3 miles, 40 minutes whatever distance you can run, or add in hill sprints

Month Four:

  • Weights – Add 5 pounds, or go from 10 reps to 12 reps
  • Pilates – 30 minutes, or 20 minutes of intermediate level
  • Yoga – 30 minutes of beginner level, or 20 minutes of moderate yoga
  • Run – 4 miles, or 50 minutes whatever distance you can run

Track Your Progress

Setting realistic goals for yourself is a great way to stay motivated. Write these goals into your planner, calendar, journal or anywhere else you know you’ll look at weekly or daily. 

If you don’t measure your progress, it’ll be difficult to see how far you’ve come. 

There are lots of methods of keeping track of your fitness goals, but here are a few:

  • Take weekly or monthly progress photos. I highly recommend doing this. To me, there are few things more motivating than visually seeing your body change. Take front, side, and back view photos and watch your muscles develop!
  • Write down each of your workouts. Journal on what you did, how many reps, how many sets, how much weight, how long you worked out for, how many miles you clocked. It can be really motivating to know that at month one you could only do 3 sets of 8 reps of bicep curls at 5 pounds – but at month four you could complete 3 sets of 12 reps at 10 pounds. It’s exciting to see how far you’ve come and how much stronger you’ve become!
  • Weigh yourself. If losing weight is your goal, set a day each week to weigh yourself before you’ve eaten anything and log your weight. Some people do this daily, but do your best not to obsess over the numbers. Seeing that you gained a pound after one day might just mean you didn’t get good quality sleep the night before – but by the end of the week, those numbers may change.
  • Take measurements. This is another amazing way to track your progress. If you think you want to lose weight, but what you actually hope to see is inches lost in your waistline, this is a great way to track that. You may weigh the exact same as you did when you started, but your clothes will fit very differently if you’ve lost fat and gained muscle. I’d recommend measuring your waist, hips, bust, biceps and thighs.

Consider Your Nutrition

Often when you hire a trainer, an added benefit you get is a meal plan. Creating a meal plan for yourself is a great way to reach your goals quickly, but may be time consuming.

A few things you can easily implement are increasing your water intake, swapping soda for unsweetened tea and adding in more vegetables. 

You don’t have to give up the foods you love. If all you do is add a daily green juice or smoothie, you’ll notice a difference in your energy levels. When we’re starved for nutrients, that’s when the cravings hit. 

When you start working out, you may need to start eating more. But do your best to eat the right foods that will fuel your body. A post-workout green smoothie with protein will help you stay full and satisfied.

Meal prepping your lunches or breakfasts makes this more manageable.

Below is an example of a workout plan with added meals.

SundayRest  8-10 glassesProtein PancakesSaladBurrito Bowl
MondayWorkoutWeight LiftingPush Muscles8-10 glassesOvernight OatsCauliflower TacosLean Protein & Vegetables
TuesdayWorkoutPilatesCore8-10 glassesOvernight OatsSoupBuddha Bowl
WednesdayActive RecoveryLight YogaFull Body8-10 glassesOvernight OatsBuddha BowlSalad
ThursdayWorkoutBarreLegs8-10 glassesSmoothieLean Protein & VeggiesVeggie Chili
FridayWorkoutWeight LiftingPull Muscles8-10 glassesSmoothieSalad & SandwichSoup & Salad
SaturdayActive RecoveryHikeLegs8-10 glassesGreen JuiceBurrito BowlCheat Meal

There are also apps you can download that help you track your macros if you’d like to get more specific with your meal plan. 


  1. Avoid making unrealistic goals for yourself. Trying to lose 20 pounds in one month? When you don’t hit these lofty goals, you’ll lose motivation. Set long term goals for yourself instead. If you want to lose 3 inches at your waistline in 3 months, you can create a plan that helps you achieve this.
  2. Avoid pushing to your max. It’s better to workout to 75% capacity than to push to your max and not be able to workout again the next day.
  3. Avoid getting stuck in a routine you don’t enjoy. Vary your workouts to stay engaged and interested.

The most important thing to remember when creating your own plan is to be flexible. Create a plan that fits into your life. Don’t overwhelm yourself with long, intense workouts if that doesn’t fit into your life. Consistency is key –  exercising consistently for 20 minutes a day will get you results faster than one hour long workout a week.

Adriana Lee

Adriana Lee

NeoraFit™ Ambassador Adriana Lee is a Las Vegas born yoga teacher and yoga teacher trainer. She is all about self-discovery and empowerment through yoga. She teaches her students how to breathe, how to feel and how to get reacquainted with their bodies. As a teacher, she breaks down big concepts and complicated poses into bite-sized pieces to make them more accessible. Her teaching is based in anatomy and biomechanics. Students leave the class feeling refreshed, connected to their bodies, and empowered — and now she brings her skill and experience exclusively to you.

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