5 Ways to Find Your Perfect Workout Routine

By , Dr. Thomas J. Kleeman, MD
I hate working out! There, I said it. We all have reasons for exercising, but for many of us, it’s not because we genuinely love it. Working out has a slew of health benefits, makes us feel and look better, and can even slow down the aging process and help boost our immune systems. But sometimes, those reasons alone aren't motivating enough to get us up off the couch if exercise isn't already an established part of our routines.

So, how do we go from being sedentary to making fitness a regular part of our daily lives? Honestly, the hardest part is getting started—and these five steps will help give you the motivation you need to make that first step (literally and figuratively). 

Step 1: Find Your Reason

Before you can get started, you have to have a reason for working out. Maybe you gained a little more weight than you thought at your last doctor's appointment, or maybe diabetes runs in your family. Or maybe, you simply looked in the mirror and didn’t like what you saw. Once you have established your reason, don’t let it go. Hold on to it and keep it in your thoughts every day. 

Step 2: Set a Goal.

This is where a lot of people set themselves up to fail. All of your goals should be easily broken down into smaller goals. If you are trying to lose weight, start with a five-pound benchmark and go from there. If you want to run a marathon, start with a 5K race instead of the half marathon. If you are just trying to look better and become fitter, post an inspirational quote or image in a place where you will see it every day. It is extremely important to visualize your goals. Envision yourself looking and feeling the way you want--and then strive to become that person!

Step 3: Make a Plan

Now that you have set a fitness goal to change your life, you have to figure out the best way to obtain it. Finding the right exercise program that works for your life might take some trial and error. Remember, what works for one person might not necessarily work for you, and you may need to do a little research. Look for programs that seem sustainable for the long haul and remember: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. A good program should incorporate both cardio and strength training, and should allow you to evolve over time, starting from a beginner level and taking you all the way to a more advanced level as you progress. Start slowly and work your way up—you'll get there!

Step 4: Find Your "When" and "Where"

This might seem like the easy part, but it can be surprisingly challenging to find a place and time to exercise that works with your schedule. What is most realistic for you? Can you work out at home? Do you need to join a gym? Which gym? Once you have done your research and made your choice, schedule your workouts in writing the same way you would write in a business meeting or dentist appointment. Then, make a deal with yourself that you won't change it no matter what comes up. If you wake up in the morning and tell yourself that you are going to work out at some time during that day, the odds are that you won’t make the time. On the other hand, if it is in the book as an integrated part of the schedule for the day, you have a much better chance of not skipping.

Step 5: Form a Habit

Ever heard of the 21-day rule? It's been said that it takes 21 days to create a habit. In reality, it takes some people more and others less, but the concept is the same. Habits are patterns of behavior that, when repeated over and over in the same sequence, create synaptic pathways in the brain. As the synaptic pathways become established, the habit becomes more natural and easier to repeat. For example, on days that I am seeing patients in the office, my lunch routine is to eat a sandwich, grab a bottle of water, and hit the elliptical for 30 minutes. On weekends, the routine is to wake up, make coffee, and do your preferred workout. By linking several established habits to the workout, it becomes a habit, as well.

So don’t worry if you don’t like to work out. Neither do I. But think about this: There are many things in life that we don’t necessarily like, but need to do because they are essential to our health and well-being. Remember the feeling you had after you finished a good workout? It was priceless and it stayed with you for hours. Compare that to the feeling you had when you skipped a workout. That one also stayed with you for hours (for all the wrong reasons). Ditch the excuses and follow the five-step program. It will change your life--and may even save it.

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_CYNDY55_ 6/21/2021
Thanks Report
CD26750174 5/16/2021
It didn't tell me how to find the "Perfect Workout Routine"? It gave how and why to find motivation, but didn't address the ROUTINE. You have to like what you do to even do it. Report
USMAWIFE 3/30/2021
thank you Report
LOSER05 1/6/2021
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CATNAP6291 12/20/2020
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SIC812 11/7/2020
Thanks! Report
REDROBIN47 11/7/2020
Thanks for the good article. Good suggestions. Report
CD3802882 11/7/2020
Great! Report
ROBBIEY 11/7/2020
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CECELW 11/7/2020
hello Report
NEPTUNE1939 11/7/2020
ty Report
Sounds doable. Report
AZMOMXTWO 11/7/2020
thank you Report
CECTARR 11/7/2020
Thanks Report
LEANJEAN6 11/7/2020
good ideas-- Report
MAREE1953 11/7/2020
I love my "adult recess"!!!! Report
Great tips. Report
RO2BENT 11/7/2020
Whoop whoop Report
FERRETLOVER1 11/7/2020
Thank you. Report
LIS193 11/7/2020
Great article Report
JANIEWWJD 11/7/2020
This was a very good article!!! Report
Great information. Thanks! Report
JUDY1676 10/13/2020
Thanks Report
Don't forget to find several exercises and workouts to mix it up Report
Great suggestions. Report
Thanks Report
I agree to ditch the excuses and just Hop to it! Report
Great advice. Thank you. Also, thanks to the ones that have commented, you have helped to motivate me. I'm turning 69 this month and do a daily walk but feel I need to up the pace. Report
It takes work to figure out likes and dislikes Report
Great article. Report
This is an excellent article becaise the steps are broken down and very doable. Report
Great advice. Thank you. Report
My motivation has been to treat working out like I do brushing my teeth or bathing: It's something I don't have to enjoy, but what I need to do to be healthy. I'm a grownup now and grownups do the things that they're supposed to do, even when it's not always easy or fun. Looking at it that way helped me stop whining about how it wasn't any fun (it will NEVER be fun to me), and get on with it. Report
i love these ideas. I don't actually have a preference when I work out. As long as I get it done, that's all I care about Report
Great Ideas! Thanks! Report
Another great article! Thanks for sharing! Report
Great information. Thanks for sharing. Report
Gotta find what works for you Report
Great ideas Report
fantasic Report
Great workout Report
I also like to workout late in the morning!
I like my coffee time! Report
Its always difficult to start my exercise routine, but its always worth doing. My schedule has me exercising pretty much first thing in the morning. It may only be 20 minutes of walk away the pounds, it may be an hour plus with 20 minutes of kettle ball or weight training and 20 minutes of yoga. Regardless of how I feel when I start the music, by the time I'm 5 or 10 minutes into it, I'm awake, moving with the beat, and getting my heart rate up. The results are slow, but steady, and that gets me back into position the next morning. Report
I have walked for years, but summer in the south makes it difficult - above 90 almost every day! Started circuit training because it's something to do inside. Have lost weight, but need to lose about 5 more pounds to get past obese BMI to overweight. I also just turned 60, but at my physical last month, cholesterol, sugar, and all other blood tests were in the normal range thanks to daily exercise and healthy eating... and no medication! Report
I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to working out. I hate to get started but love when I have accomplished the task at hand. Report
I prefer to work out in the mornings, but the cold dark winter days often counter my best intentions. When I do make it to the gym in the AM, I stop to appreciate how GREAT I feel post-workout. I then recall that feeling the next morning as I'm still snuggled under the comforter -- it gives me the motivation to get up and get moving. Report