How To Build Your Own Fitness Plan

How To Build Your Own Fitness Plan
Photo by Victor Freitas / Unsplash

Every day, we are bombarded with takes on fitness and lifestyle across social media. The challenge isn't finding information—it's choosing the right plan that works for you.

Developing your own fitness plan is a valuable life skill that can save you money, time, and the headache of sifting through endless online advice.

As we age, our fitness goals naturally evolve. In my early 20s, my focus was on training for marathons and Spartan Races. Now, as I've grown older, I've shifted towards functional fitness and long-distance running.

Fitness should make you feel good and be something you look forward to every day. This guide will help you identify and achieve your fitness goals.

Choose Your Goal

The concept of being a hybrid athlete—someone who builds muscle and excels in endurance events—has gained popularity recently. While appealing, this type of training is challenging and may not suit everyone. Hybrid athletes often achieve proficiency in multiple areas but may not reach elite levels in any single discipline. This approach can align well with general fitness goals of feeling and looking good, but it's not ideal for everyone.

For those aiming for specific achievements, like running a marathon within a particular time, a more focused training regimen is advisable. Spreading your efforts too thin across diverse training styles, as in the "jack of all trades, master of none" scenario, might hinder your progress in any single area.

Clearly define what you want to achieve: Is it completing a 5K or 10K, running a marathon, bench pressing a certain weight, building muscle, or slimming down? Tailor your fitness goals to your personal aspirations and commit to these objectives for at least 90 days. Constantly switching between different plans can lead to frustration and minimal progress in any specific area.

Assess Your Current Fitness Level

Understanding your current fitness level is crucial before diving into a new fitness plan. Simple tests like counting how many push-ups you can perform or timing how long it takes to run a mile can provide valuable baselines. For instance, if you run a mile in 7 minutes, it's unrealistic to expect to maintain a 7:10 pace for an entire 5K. Your training plan should reflect more attainable progressions based on your current capabilities.

There's no need for sophisticated equipment to gauge your fitness. Most people have a general sense of their physical condition. Establishing a clear baseline helps you determine a realistic starting point and sets the direction for your fitness journey.

Choosing Your Exercises

When designing your fitness routine, it's crucial to select exercises that address your specific goals and needs. For example, my personal regimen focuses on strengthening areas that enhance my running performance. It's common to gravitate towards major lifts or popular exercises, but these can sometimes lead to muscle imbalances if not balanced carefully.

Consider what's more important for your fitness objectives: Is it lifting three times your body weight or mastering a single-leg squat? Each has its benefits depending on your goals.

I've opted to prioritize functional exercises over heavy lifting to better support my running. Your fitness goals might differ, and that's perfectly fine. Identify exercises that will help you achieve your specific aims. Once you have chosen these exercises, commit to them for at least a month. Consistency is key to seeing progress and making adjustments based on your experiences and results.

Creating Your Routine

When it comes to developing a fitness routine, I find it helpful to use a simple pen and paper. Dedicate around 30 minutes to write down every exercise you know that targets the muscle groups you aim to improve. This "brain dump" method allows you to gather a comprehensive list of potential exercises without the distraction of technology.

Once you have your list, begin organizing these exercises into coherent groups. I typically combine upper body and lower body exercises into one session. However, many prefer to structure their workouts around different models, such as push, pull, and leg days. Choose a grouping that will help you maintain consistency—this is crucial for building a habit and seeing results.

Plan for Progression

When developing your fitness plan, it's not necessary to chart out an entire year's worth of goals. Instead, focus on planning the immediate next steps. Determine what you want to achieve in the short term, and once you reach that milestone, evaluate what comes next. Setting overly ambitious, long-term goals from the start can often lead to frustration and burnout.

Concentrate on the immediate objectives before you and tackle them one at a time. This approach not only keeps your goals achievable but also maintains your motivation by celebrating frequent, smaller victories along your fitness journey.

Protein Intake

Adequate protein intake is vital for any fitness regimen. It not only enhances recovery but also accelerates your progress by helping to repair and build muscle tissue.

However, it's essential to focus on the quality of your diet. This advice isn’t about following the latest dietary trends; rather, it's about understanding fundamental nutrition principles. While foods like fried chicken and cheeseburgers do contain protein, they also come with high levels of unhealthy fats and calories that can undermine your fitness goals.

Trying to out-exercise a poor diet is not only challenging but also inefficient. Integrating healthy eating habits will complement your workout efforts and simplify your fitness journey.

Plan Your Recovery Time

Integrating rest days into your fitness routine is essential for sustainability and preventing burnout. Personally, I designate Wednesdays as my rest days, accommodating my more intense weekend workouts and a regular running group on Mondays.

It’s crucial to ease into any fitness plan, especially if you're returning to exercise after a break. Jumping straight back into old lifting routines or previous intensity levels can lead to injury or prolonged muscle soreness. Gradually increasing intensity allows your body to adapt safely, making your fitness journey both effective and enjoyable.

Tracking Progress

Keeping a record of your fitness progress is a key component of any successful fitness plan. Whether you use a simple note on your phone or a specialized workout app, tracking your achievements helps you see how far you've come and plan your next steps accordingly. Witnessing your own progress can be highly motivating and reinforce your commitment to your fitness goals.

However, it's crucial to maintain a healthy perspective on tracking. Becoming overly fixated on metrics can lead to perfectionism, where you might feel compelled to have the perfect conditions, gear, or equipment to exercise. This all-or-nothing mentality can actually hinder your progress by creating unnecessary barriers to regular exercise. Aim for consistency rather than perfection, and allow some flexibility in your fitness routine to accommodate real-life situations.

Maintain Flexibility

Mastering the ability to work out anytime and anywhere is a game-changer in maintaining your fitness routine. This flexibility instills confidence that you can stay fit regardless of your location—whether you're traveling, at home, or have limited access to traditional workout spaces.

Being adaptable with your fitness plan is key to long-term success. It helps you overcome unexpected challenges and maintain consistency, ensuring that you can keep up with your fitness goals under various circumstances. Learning to be flexible means you're never too far from engaging in some form of exercise, which is crucial for staying in shape and keeping your routine fresh and engaging.


Consistency is the cornerstone of any successful fitness plan. The key is to remain flexible and adaptable, understanding that even small amounts of exercise are valuable. It's easy to fall into an all-or-nothing mindset, where you might think that if you can't complete your usual hour-long workout, you shouldn't bother at all. However, this approach can hinder your long-term fitness goals.

To combat this, it's helpful to have a variety of routines prepared. For instance, I use the Strong App to manage about 25 different routines. Some of these are designed for situations where no equipment is available, allowing me to maintain my fitness regime regardless of my location or time constraints. It's not always about finding time for fitness; sometimes, it's about making time.

This approach ensures that you can stay active and keep progressing, no matter what life throws your way. By building and diversifying your own routines, you ensure that you never have an excuse to skip a workout.