Beginner to Advanced Workout Schedule Basics

Sample Workout Routines
Sample Workout Routines.

Here are two simple training routines you can use to craft a basic weekly workout that meets you where you are, and then challenges you to steadily improve your fitness. This simple plan can work for anyone and is a basic outline that any athlete can use to build a basic fitness program.

Sample Beginner Workout Routine

Beginning exercisers can plan their week so that they are exercising a bit harder (either increased time or intensity) for three nonconsecutive days a week. The four days between the hard efforts are used for easy, low-intensity active recovery exercise or rest and stretching days. If you still feel fatigued or sore on a day that should be a hard day, take another active recovery day and alter your schedule going forward.

Don't ignore the warning signs of injury your body may be sending, and never exercise with pain. Most injuries occur when people justify some little aches and pains and push through a nagging issue. If you feel any pain or ache, stop doing anything that aggravates it and do something else.

1. Hard Days

The hard days are your work days. They can be either short and high intensity or long and moderate intensity, but they are the days you work hard and build strength and fitness.

For the shorter, high-intensity days, start slowly and get a good warm up, and then begin picking up the pace. Find a high-intensity effort that you can keep going. When you start to feel like you are going to give up, slow down your pace and recovery a bit, but keep going. You should be just on the edge of the point of fatigue. Continue with this sustained effort for your intended time (20 minutes is a good goal) or until you feel fatigue that doesn't ease up. Then quit for the day. That's a hard day.

If you want to make it an interval training day, you can simply add a few 30-second bursts of all-out effort two or three times during your sustained effort.

A second type of hard effort day could focus on longer time and distance exercise that builds sustained endurance. 

2. Easy Days

Easy days are just that. You should move around at a comfortable pace and not have any discomfort or fatigue. This is the day that you repair and refresh so the next hard workout can be a full effort. Don't make the mistake of doing too much on an easy day, because it will limit your effort on the hard day. Exercise casually. Go for a walk, spin the bike while reading. Do some stretching and use a foam roller. Just don't push yourself.

Pay attention to how your body feels on your easy day, and attend to any soreness or tightness before it develops into an injury.

3. Progression

To make gradual improvements in your fitness, simply increase the intensity and time of your hard days. Don't change your easy days; they are meant to be easy.

Sample Advanced Workout Routine

For the more advanced and serious exerciser, a fairly simple exercise training routine may include:

  • Two harder interval training days.
  • One harder sustained effort day.
  • Four active recovery days.
  • Note: The hard days should not be back to back, but be separated by at least one recovery day.

One sample schedule would be to do a short interval workout on Tuesdays, a long interval workout on Thursday, and sustained hard workouts on the weekend. This is a good schedule for the recreational athlete who competes on the weekends. In between the training days are your active recovery days that let your muscles rest, recovery and refuel. As with the beginner workout routine, you should be fully recovered before doing a harder workout and if you aren't, add another easy day until you are ready for the hard days.

No matter what your level of fitness or your experience with exercise, following these basic principles, and setting up your workouts to alternate between easy and hard days, will help you get the most out of the time you put into your workout. In general, you will gain more health benefits from those more intense days when you follow them up with active recovery days.

To take it all to the next level, you can begin to add in a variety of types of exercise and do a bit of cross-training. This will help you avoid overtraining specific muscle groups or developing overuse injuries.

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