Your guide to a well-rounded workout

America is fitness crazy. We’re flooded with fitness magazines, commercials for exercise videos and social media personalities giving advice on achieving six-pack abs.


With all the noise generated from marketing and social media, it can be easy to lose sight of what makes a well-rounded workout routine and how we can make it a part of our daily lives. To clear up the confusion, HealthySteps to Wellness sat down with Daralisa Kelley, associate director of recreation programs at Stanford Recreation & Wellness, to outline key strategies for achieving a balanced fitness regimen.

“It’s important to remember that fitness ebbs and flows according to your life circumstances. Give yourself a break and be kind and gentle to yourself.”

Cardiovascular exercise

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends:

  • Five days per week of moderate exercise (lasting 30-60 minutes per session);


  • Three days of vigorous exercise (20-60 minutes per session).

You can also do a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise three-to-five days per week. Moderate exercise elevates your heart rate, but you’re still able to hold a conversation; vigorous exercise leaves you unable to talk.

However, do not feel discouraged if you are unable to complete an entire workout. “Exercise isn’t an all or nothing task,” Kelley says. Doing whatever you have time and energy for is always better than not doing anything.

Strength training

For strong muscles and bones, you need to work all muscle groups:

  • Two or three days per week


  • Two or three exercises per muscle group.

Do 8-12 reps if you want to increase muscular power and 15-25 reps to increase muscular endurance. Stick to 8-15 reps if you are new to strength training.

How much weight you lift depends on how you feel at the end of the set. The last few reps should feel strenuous, but you should still be able to maintain good form.

You can focus on different muscle groups on different days or do full-body workouts. If you opt for full-body workouts, alternate them every other day (with a day of rest in between).

Set realistic goals

Your personal fitness goal(s) should be weighed against your other priorities. When setting your goal, consider your work and family obligations, how and when you commute, and any other factors regarding fitting exercise into your day.

Start with a modest goal and reassess as you progress. For example, if you are just beginning to work out and would like to exercise four days a week, set your initial goal to one day a week and increase it later. This realistic plan will help you be successful and stick to a routine.

Find time to exercise

Fitting exercise into your day can be a challenge. Kelley advises the following tips for making it easier:

  • Schedule exercise on your calendar. Block off the time and hold yourself accountable. Be flexible with your goals on busy days and opt for a less time-intensive workout.
  • Prepare for your workout. Have whatever you need packed and ready, such as a gym bag and a lunch, so that you can maximize your time each day.
  • Break up your workout throughout the day. For example, if you’d like to get in 30 minutes of exercise that day, do 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. When breaking up cardio exercise, make sure each bout is at least 10 minutes in duration.
  • Consider circuit training. Because this option involves selecting a combination of both cardio and strength training exercises, circuit training is a more efficient and effective workout.

Defy low motivation

Low motivation is something we all deal with from time to time. To challenge this feeling, identify why you don’t want to work out and be flexible with your goals. If you don’t want to do the workout you have planned, pick another fitness activity that you’d rather do instead. If you’re tired, then it’s OK to do a lower-intensity workout.

One strategy for revving up your motivation: put on your workout clothes, choose an exercise you like doing (whether at the gym, office, home or outside) and commit to it for five minutes. Most often you’ll keep going past the five-minute mark.

Kelley also recommends setting rewards — such as buying new running shoes or tickets to the movies or a concert, or taking a trip — to help you stay motivated on your fitness journey.

Finally, enlist support: share your goals and workout plans with a friend or find a workout buddy to help you stay accountable and encouraged.

Be honest with yourself

Exercise isn’t a panacea. If you feel you are not making progress, your diet could be to blame. Exercise isn’t enough to help you manage your weight and health if you eat a lot of high-fat, high-calorie food.

You also may not be working out as intensely as you think. Be objective about your workout and what you are and aren’t  doing. For example, spending significant time on your phone, watching TV or socializing at the gym may detract from the intensity of your workout.

Know when to change your routine

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, you can keep refining your routine — such as incorporating flexibility exercises, balance training, or mind-body exercises for stress management. Include recovery days to reduce your injury risk and improve performance on higher-intensity training days.

Try something new if you feel stuck in a rut.

By Katie Shumake
January 2018