The Fitness Zone

Making Fitness Stick: Strategies for Building a Sustainable Workout Plan

Mar 30, 2023 | by Brodie Hicks

Are you tired of starting a new fitness routine with zeal only to lose steam after a week or two? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Many people face the same difficulty when attempting to knock over a fitness goal. The cycle of starting and stopping frequently means having to start from scratch every few weeks, which causes frustration and disappointment. But what if you could break the cycle and create a workout plan that you actually enjoy and can stick to in the long run?

In this article, we’ll go over some effective strategies and mindsets for developing a workout routine that you’ll enjoy and, as a result, achieve your health and fitness goals. Setting goals, finding an activity you enjoy, developing a plan, starting small, prioritising recovery, and overcoming setbacks are all topics we’ll cover. By the end, you’ll have a better idea of how to create a workout routine that works for you and that you can stick with over time.

Set Your Goals

Setting fitness goals is an important step in developing a long-term workout routine. It can be difficult to stay motivated and track progress when there are no clear objectives. Goal setting helps you to define your desired outcomes, identify potential obstacles, and develop a plan for achieving your goals.

The SMART framework is an effective method for setting fitness goals [1]. The SMART acronym stands for: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals. This means that each goal should be well-defined, have a measurable outcome, be attainable within a reasonable timeframe, and be consistent with your overall goals. Instead of a vague goal like “get in shape,” a SMART goal might be “to lose 5kg in the next three months by jogging for 30 minutes every day.”

In addition to selecting SMART goals, it is recommended that you set a range of physical and performance based goals. Many people lose motivation when they don’t see movement on the scales, and while weight loss may be the ultimate goal, having other goals to work towards can help you stay on track. Consider your objectives in terms of increasing strength, mobility, or cardiovascular fitness. All of these performance objectives will also help the individual stay on track with their physical objectives.

Find an Activity You Enjoy

Finding an activity that you enjoy is essential for developing a sustainable workout plan because it increases the likelihood that you will stick with it in the long run [2]. Doing something you dislike or find boring will lead to burnout and make it difficult to stick to your routine. Engaging in a workout that you look forwards to and enjoy can, on the other hand, be energising and help you maintain consistency over time.

Experimenting with various types of workouts is a great way to discover what works best for you [3]. There are numerous options available, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. If you like high-intensity workouts, you might like boxing, CrossFit, or boot camp classes. If you prefer something less strenuous, yoga, Pilates, or swimming may be more your speed. There are numerous other options available, such as dance classes, cycling, hiking, and more. The most important thing to remember is to keep an open mind when trying new workout routines until you find what you like.

While finding a new work out that “speaks to your soul” is exciting, it is crucial to remember that when attempting new workouts you should begin slowly and gradually increase your intensity. Jumping in too soon or attempting to do too much too soon can result in injury or burnout, which can be demotivating [4]. Allow yourself time to adapt and learn when trying a new workout. It takes time to develop skills and see results, so be patient and persistent. Remember that finding something you enjoy, that aligns with your goals, and that you can see yourself doing consistently over time is the key to developing a sustainable workout plan.

Create a Plan

It can be difficult to stay motivated and make progress towards your fitness goals without a plan, commonly referred to as a program. A plan can help you stay organised and accountable, as well as track your progress over time. It’s critical to start your workout plan with your fitness goals in mind. Whether you want to increase your strength, improve your cardiovascular health, or simply maintain your current fitness level, your plan should be tailored to your specific goals and fitness level.

Begin by deciding how many days per week you want to exercise and what types of workouts you want to include in your workout plan. It’s also critical to consider your schedule, access to equipment or facilities, and any physical limitations or injuries you may have. Programming options can include alternating between strength-training and cardiovascular workouts, or focussing on different muscle groups on different days of the week. Once you’ve created a plan, keep track of your progress and adjust it as needed based on your results and feedback from your body.

Depending on your goals and fitness level, there are numerous workout plans to choose from. A beginner’s workout plan, for example, might consist of two or three days of strength training and two or three days of cardiovascular exercise, whereas an advanced plan might consist of four or five days of strength training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) [5]. Yoga, Pilates, and CrossFit are also popular workout plans that many people choose to perform multiple times a week. Finally, as previously mentioned, the most important factor in developing a workout plan is to select exercises and activities that you enjoy and are long-term sustainable for you.

Start Small

People frequently make the mistake of diving headfirst into a demanding workout regime, only to become discouraged when they are unable to keep up. Starting small allows the body to gradually adapt to the demands of exercise, lowering the risk of injury, while also aiding in the development of confidence and motivation by setting achievable goals that can be gradually increased over time.

To begin, select exercises that are appropriate for your fitness level and gradually increase intensity as your body adapts. This can be accomplished by incorporating low-intensity exercises, such as walking or light stretching, into your routine and gradually increasing the duration and intensity of these activities over time. Short breaks between sets or intervals of exercise can also help reduce overall intensity and gradually build endurance. As discussed within the SMART goal section, setting realistic goals and tracking progress to celebrate small victories along the way is also part of starting small.

Walking for 10-15 minutes a day, performing a few basic bodyweight exercises, or beginning with lighter weights in the gym are all examples of starting small. Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of these activities over time can help lay the groundwork for a long-term, sustainable workout plan.

Get an Accountability Partner

Having an accountability partner can be a great way to increase your chances of developing a long-term workout plan. Having someone to walk alongside you on your journey can provide motivation, encouragement, and support when you need it the most. An accountability partner can also help you stay accountable and on track with your goals.

Consider asking a friend, family member, or coworker who shares your fitness goals to be your accountability partner. You could also join a fitness group or class to meet like-minded individuals who can encourage and support you. Once you’ve found an accountability partner, make a plan to check in with each other on a regular basis, whether through text messages, phone calls, or in-person meetings.

There are so many great advantages to having an accountability partner. Individuals who have an accountability partner are more likely to stick to their workout routines, achieve their fitness goals, and have greater overall success, according to research [6]. Having an accountability partner can also help reduce stress, boost motivation, and improve overall well-being, making it easier to stick to a consistent workout routine over time. If you only remember one thing from this article, it should be that having someone to share your struggles, pain, wins, and successes is often more important than devising the perfect workout.

Prioritise Recovery

When people build their exercise plan typically the majority of focus goes into the exercises themselves, however, prioritising recovery is just as important as the physical exercise selection when developing a sustainable workout plan. Recovery is essential for avoiding injury, reducing soreness, and allowing the body to heal and grow stronger [7]. Without adequate recovery, the body may not have enough time to fully adapt to the workout, resulting in burnout, decreased performance, and an increased risk of injury. Prioritising recovery can also help to reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and promote general well-being.

Rest days should be included in your workout plan to prioritise recovery. Rest days allow the body to recover and rebuild, lowering the risk of overuse injuries and allowing for more effective workouts over time [7]. In addition, recovery techniques like stretching, foam rolling, and massage can help reduce muscle soreness and promote relaxation. On top of physical recovery, adequate nutrition and hydration are also extremely important as they supply the body with the nutrients and energy it needs to repair and rebuild muscle tissue.

In addition to rest, activities such as yoga, meditation, and hot/cold therapy are other great examples of recovery techniques. Yoga and meditation can help you relax and reduce stress while also improving your flexibility and mobility. Hot/cold therapy, such as taking a hot bath or applying an ice pack, can aid in the reduction of inflammation and the promotion of recovery [7]. Finally, including recovery as part of your workout plan can help you stay healthy and injury-free while reaching your fitness goals.

Overcome Setbacks

When developing a sustainable workout plan, there will inevitably be setbacks. It’s important to recognise that setbacks are a normal part of the process and that they can be overcome. Identifying the source of a setback is one of the keys to overcoming it. A setback could be caused by an injury, illness, stress, a lack of motivation, or a combination of these and other factors. Once the root cause has been identified, it is critical to address it. If the setback is caused by an injury, for example, it is critical to seek medical advice and modify the workout plan accordingly. If the setback is due to stress or a lack of motivation, taking a break from the workout routine and focusing on self-care activities such as meditation, yoga, or getting enough sleep may help. The most important thing, however, is to not let the setback completely derail your hard earned progress.

An important aspect of overcoming setbacks is to maintain a positive attitude and a growth mindset. Instead of viewing setbacks as failures, consider them opportunities for learning and growth. This can help you stay motivated and focused on your long-term goals. Setting realistic expectations and being patient with the process are also important. Building a sustainable workout routine takes time and effort, and setbacks are unavoidable. It is possible to overcome setbacks and achieve long-term success by remaining committed and persistent. As the saying goes – it’s a marathon, not a sprint!


Developing a sustainable workout routine can be a difficult process, but it is well worth the effort. Setting SMART goals, finding an activity you enjoy, making a plan, starting small, finding an accountability partner, prioritising recovery, and learning how to overcome setbacks can help you develop a long-term workout routine that will help you crush your health and fitness goals. Remember that the key to success is to stay motivated, and consistent, and to make necessary adjustments along the way.

It is important to keep in mind that developing a sustainable workout routine is not a one-size-fits-all process. It may take some trial and error to find the best approach for you. However, by following the strategies outlined in this article, you can develop a workout routine that meets your specific needs and goals in a more systematic and informed manner.

By committing to developing a sustainable workout routine, you can reap the numerous physical and mental health benefits that come with regular exercise. The keys to success are within your grasp, whether you want to improve your fitness, lose weight, reduce stress, or simply feel better. You can create a workout routine that will help you achieve your health and fitness goals now and in the future with dedication, hard work, and the right mindset.


  1. Mallette, L. A., & Rynne, S. B. (2019). Strengths-based goal setting and progress monitoring for improved physical health outcomes. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 90(3), 46-50.
  2. Scully, D., Kremer, J., Meade, M. M., Graham, R., & Dudgeon, K. (2012). Physical exercise and psychological well-being: A critical review. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 11(3), 354-365.
  3. American Council on Exercise. (n.d.). Finding the right workout for you. Retrieved from 
  4. American Heart Association. (2021). Starting an exercise program. Retrieved from 
  5. Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low- vs. high-load resistance training: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(12), 3508-3523.
  6. Kaplan, R. M., & Hartwell, S. L. (2014). Advances in the prevention and treatment of obesity: role of exercise in the treatment of obesity. Circulation, 126(22), 2749-2757.
  7. Peake, J. M., Neubauer, O., Della Gatta, P. A., & Nosaka, K. (2017). Muscle damage and inflammation during recovery from exercise. Journal of applied physiology, 122(3), 559-570.
Brodie Hicks

Brodie Hicks

With his background in Strength and Conditioning, Brodie Hicks has coached multiple semi-professional & professional athletes in Australia over the last 7+ years, whilst also working to improve training and vocational outcomes within the fitness industry in his role as General Manager of Training at the Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF). Brodie brings a raft of knowledge and experience to the health and fitness industry, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise and Movement Science, as well as a Masters Degree in High Performance Sport. Brodie is also a Level 2 ASCA Strength and Conditioning Coach with the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association. In addition to his work at the AIF, Brodie also manages a coaching business, Performance Evolved Australia, and is Master Coach and Program Director of an interstate boutique group training studio, bringing his extensive strength and conditioning knowledge to the group training world.

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Disclaimer: Where Certificate III in Fitness, Cert III/Cert 3, or Fitness Coach is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Fitness, Cert IV/Cert 4, or Personal Trainer is mentioned, it refers to SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Program™ is mentioned, it refers to Fitness Essentials and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Plus+ Program™ is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Massage or Cert IV/Cert 4 is mentioned, it refers to HLT42021 Certificate IV in Massage Therapy. Where Diploma of Remedial Massage is mentioned, it refers to HLT52021 Diploma of Remedial Massage.