Have you ever showed up to the gym without a workout plan?
I know you have – we all have. In fact, I think that until about two years ago, I never even considered having a workout plan.
I figured that showing up and moving my body was enough.
So I’d show up, analyze the gym, and use whatever machines were available to me in the moment.
And honestly, I went super easy on myself and let myself be intimidate by weights. Plus, if there were what felt like a lot of people in the gym, I’d do a super easy and short cardio workout, then ditch.
Well, it is true that moving your body (with or without a plan) is better than nothing at all. But you’re really selling yourself short if you don’t show up to the gym without a workout plan.
I’m not saying that you need to have flashcards prepared, but it is smart to show up with some sort of workout plan. (Most of the time, mine is in my head.)
If you show up to the gym with a workout plan in mind, it will help boost your confidence and help you see results.
This does require a little bit of work, but trust me, it will help you!
What to Do When You Don’t Have a Workout Plan
1. Spend your warmup brainstorming.
If for some reason I show up to the gym without a plan in mind, I try to make my warmup multi-purpose. After stretching and SMR, I recommend walking on the treadmill or taking it easy on the elliptical for about ten minutes before adding in anything else. You can then spend this time taking a look around the gym and planning a workout. See what space or machines are available to you and brainstorm a few exercises. OR: Try one of these free workouts!
2. Pick a major muscle group to work on.
When I see people at the gym who are doing random exercises at odd intervals, it’s pretty obvious that they didn’t show up with a workout plan. Pick a major area (like legs or upper body) and focus on hitting those muscles. I like to do things in sets. I pick three exercises, do 10-12 reps and repeat. Then I pick three more exercises that work the same muscle group in a different way. Example: 10 Lat Rows, 10 Lat Pull-Downs, 10 Pushups, Repeat 2-3x. (I do a few different sets of 2-3 exercises to make a weight-training workout of about 45 minutes.) Focusing on one major muscle group will help you see muscle toning and you’ll really feel it the next day. Plus, it will help you come up with your “next” exercise since you’ve narrowed it down. (If you need help with exercises try BodyBuilding.com’s many articles and workouts!)
3. Set a goal.
If you’re going for cardio, this one is easy. Brainstorm and visualize an attainable goal. It can be anything. (30 minutes on the treadmill, shaving a minute off your mile, 10 sets of sprints, etc.) Just setting a goal will give you more purpose and leave you feeling more accomplished when you smash it. Just don’t get carried away when setting your goals – they should be challenging but not impossible. Also see: How to Set Realistic Goals After Having a Baby
4. Go easy.
This is pretty important. I’ve dreamt up some pretty intense workout plans, and guess what happened? I failed because I didn’t take into account what my body was currently capable of. Set your sights on a workout plan that you can do right NOW. Then modify it as you learn more and gain strength.
Working Towards a Great Workout Plan
It may take some time to develop a great workout plan. You may need a few test workouts first.
Until then here’s what you can do to work towards a plan that works for you:
- Pay attention to others and glean new exercise ideas. I love watching what other people do – it helps me get more creative come crunch time.
- Use trial and error for a few workouts. See what you like and don’t!
- Ask a gym employee to show you how to use machines you aren’t familiar with. Or, if you’re brave ask another gym-goer. This will help you meet new people and add to your exercise repertoire.
- Pay attention to how your body responds to a workout or specific exercise. I have tried new things at the gym only to be sore for a week. So sore, in fact, that it made me skip the gym for several days while recovering. If that happens to you, use lighter weights or try a different exercise.
- Keep a fitness journal. Always write down the things that made you feel great.
- Take a look at your overall goals. Focused on muscle mass? Weight-loss? You’ll want to plan more cardio if you’re only about losing weight and being lean. I am personally in love with weight training and toning, so I tend to go for weights. Still, I try to keep a good balance.
My biggest tip: if you love something, roll with it!
After trying a few different types of workouts, I found out that I don’t really love PiYo. Or running in the rain. But I do love free weights and PUMP (a weight lifting class set to music). I also found out that even though I find yoga slow and boring sometimes, it makes my body feel great and relieves lower back pain. I also know that angry rock music fuels me best (see my girl power rock playlist suggestions here).
What’s your go-to when you don’t have a workout plan? What advice would you share with others?