The When, What and How of successful workouts

By Paul Lundgren, MS, CSCS, USAW

The most common reason that a person doesn’t work out is because of a lack of time. One of the most common reasons a person quits working out is they don’t have a plan in mind, or they are trying to accomplish an unobtainable goal.

Having a plan in mind before you even enter the weight room or fitness center is a necessary component of successful training. By creating a plan and setting “good” goals you can make the best use of your time and also be motivated to not skip your work out.

Certified strength and conditioning specialist, Paul Lundgren, at Sanford POWER in Sioux Falls, SDDETERMINE THE WHEN, WHAT, AND HOW

Before you start you need to know when, what, and how you want your workout to go. When you have answered those questions you need to set a plan — in your mind, your planner, or on your calendar.

Creating a plan will help keep you on schedule and consistent with your workout plan. Writing down what you want to accomplish will help ensure you actually carry out your plan. Most unwritten plans will go unfinished because they are forgotten or not set in stone. Putting it down on paper will help to carry out the plan.


When looking at when you want to complete your workout, make sure that you set the time based on your own schedule. Try and find a time when you know that you won’t be interrupted or distracted from completing your workout.

If having enough time is your biggest problem when trying to work out, plan shorter workouts more often. This will allow you to complete a good workout each day, and reach the volume necessary to see changes in yourself from your workout.

If you have enough time but have trouble getting yourself motivated to complete a workout, plan the workout around a time that you have open each day. Being consistent with when you work out will help keep you motivated and on schedule.


Setting goals is a great way to make sure that you can accomplish everything that you are setting out to do. Make sure to set both short-term and long-term goals. Every goal you set should have an end in mind.

Set attainable goals that are challenging. Make sure that your workouts will be both fun and rewarding. Goals ensure that you want to show up ready to train every day and avoid skipping a workout day.

Short-term goals should be set to help you accomplish your long-term goals. Breaking down your goals into smaller segments will help you work harder each day to accomplish those goals. Smaller goals help to increase the satisfaction of accomplishing something that you set for yourself. Short-term goals in the weight room might be centered on hitting certain weights for a lift each new week or having weight loss or weight gain checkpoints.

Long-term goals are the endgame of your training. These are the sought after outcomes that your short-term goals are trying to accomplish. Long-term goals will help you realize how hard you are working and give you confidence at certain points when you realize how close you are to reaching that goal. Examples of these goals can be reaching maximum weight gain or weight loss goals after a certain training period, or trying to reach a certain maximum amount of weight lifted or distance depending on what you are training for.


Choosing a workout style that fits your own personal style is important to keeping you motivated and working hard. Personal choice, time constraints, and equipment availability are all big factors in what kind of training you can complete.

Choosing a workout style that you are comfortable with makes it easier for you to complete without stressing too hard over what you are doing. If you want to try and challenge yourself you need to be willing to learn a new training style. You may be a little frustrated at first and not be able to complete certain things as well as other people.

If you aren’t a runner but have always wanted to try running, sample different types of training styles. Gradually increase your training until you are more comfortable with running more often. The same is true if you like running but want to lift weights, start out slow to acclimate to the new training style.

Time constraints play a large role in type selection for workouts.  If you have a short period of time to work out each day, a higher intensity workout for shorter time periods might be better for you.  Do not let the intensity of the workout deter you from getting a workout in, doing something small for 15-20 minutes each day is better than doing nothing at all.

Equipment availability will also determine what you are able to do.  If there isn’t a gym or fitness facility with the appropriate equipment for you to do a certain type of workout, you might need to find a facility that will help you reach your goals. Weight lifting requires a specific selection of equipment to complete correctly, whereas running and some other forms of cardio only require a surface to run on.  Finding what best fits your own goals and equipment availability is a good place to start when thinking about starting a fitness plan.

Prepare in Advance to Reach Your Goals

No matter when, what, or how you want to accomplish your work out being prepared for anything will help get you in the shape and health that you want to be in.  Don’t let excuses and complaints get in the way of trying to make yourself healthy or meet the goals that you have set for yourself.  Being active in your daily life is one of the best ways to ensure that you can stay on track for your goals and becoming a healthier and stronger individual.  If you are unsure how to make an appropriate plan, you can always find a good trainer to help get you started and keep you on track.