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Program your purpose

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Where do you keep your exercise program?

On the fridge door? In your gym bag? Stuck to the bathroom mirror?

Or do you not have a plan?

If you do have a plan, does it excite and inspire you? Is it highlighted, on coloured paper, and placed somewhere visible?

Having a plan is the most important thing you need to do in order to achieve your consistent exercise/movement goals. My last article talked about the art of “whyercise” – your purpose, that inspires you to sweat it up 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity every week.

Yes. Every week.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into sustaining your purpose. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail (thank you, Benjamin Franklin). Write down your exercise plan, monitor it, adapt it and stick it on your fridge.


It’s really not as difficult as you might believe. Think about what you want out of the program and plan according to your purpose. Which fitness component are you targeting? Is itpower, strength, agility, balance, endurance, speed, or something else entirely? Or, are you wanting to improve your sleep quality? Perhaps you have a busy monkey mind and you find a walking/running/aerobic exercise program calms your nervous system and allows you to think better.

Once you have found what it is that you want out of your program, go and see a professional (Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist with an exercise programming background, or experienced personal trainer), to help design your next week, next month, next three months and next year. It’s good to have a short-term term goal (one week), a medium term goal (three months), and a long term goal (one year).  Having a short term plan allows you to focus on the present, and not get too caught up in the “I’ll do it tomorrow” mind-set. Sounds familiar? Make every day count and remember to mindfully move every day!


Monitoring your functional progress is essential to keep you on track and it helps you to measure your purpose. It doesn’t have to be a regular beep test.  Try recording your heart rate before and after exercise; having a regular block that you time yourself to run or walk around; seeing how many squats and push-ups you can do in 20 seconds, or timing yourself every week to see if you’re improving. Planking is always a great test, as you can plank anywhere and anytime (just watch your spinal form and consider planking on your knees if you need). Alternatively, you could do Park Run (it’s a free community event), get a Fitbit and measure how many steps you do a day, or time yourself in front of your computer desk to see how long you can sit with controlled posture.

The purpose of monitoring an exercise program is to systematically stress the body so it improves it’s tolerance to the specific movement. You want the monitoring to be sustainable, easy, accurate, regular. It’s essential that you write it down or track it digitally, so you can SEE your improvement.


A successful exercise program is an adaptive process, and will consider progressive overload, specificity, reversibility and individual differences. You need to know where you are struggling and what is working for you.  The beauty of measuring your progress (or even non-progress), is to allow you to adapt the program according to how you are feeling. This is where a professional can help you. If you have sore inflamed joints, and you’re forcing load at the gym four days a week  – then you need to reassess your program. Be kind to yourself – you only have one chance with this body. Or, if your shins are sore and you’ve been running on the pavement, maybe it’s time for a “ralking” program (run/walking) on the grass or consider walking or swimming at the pool. Rest and recovery days are a big part of the adaptive process.


Printing out your program allows you to visualize your purpose.  In face, why not print four copies: one for the fridge, one for your car, one for your work station and one for the bathroom. Choose your favourite colour – make it fun! Laminate it, or stick it in a clear folder.

Remember, the best way to create and follow a program is to:

  • “plan your purpose”
  • “measure your purpose”
  • “adapt your purpose”
  • “visualise your purpose”

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