Let’s be honest: Exercise can sometimes come with serious baggage attached. Whether you’re a pro athlete or you’ve never stepped in a gym in your life, fitness is a place where it’s so easy to compare ourselves—and get overwhelmed. Am I working out often enough? Hard enough? Or should I be doing a different kind of workout entirely?
Well, I’m here to tell you that wherever you’re at, you’re doing just fine. You don’t have to compete. You don’t have to race. As a certified personal trainer, I always like to remind my clients: We have our entire lives to keep training and growing.
With that in mind, I’ve crafted this 28-day beginner-friendly workout plan that will help you see fitness not just as a way to grow muscle and burn calories, but as a skill you can build to learn more about your body and how to use it effectively in everyday life. With daily practice, you’ll begin to see relationships between different types of movement, and how you can take the strength you gain in one exercise and apply it elsewhere.
This plan is designed as a sustainable starting point for the year so you can keep getting after it every week, every month, and the rest of your life. The workouts are short—just five to 30 minutes each. If you’re used to longer sessions, there’s no problem with adding on or repeating a series a second time. But don’t feel pressured to be overly-aggressive. The goal is to build a solid foundation that actually fits into your life and is something you can look forward to, not something that burns you out.
Are you ready? Here’s your first week of workouts, with all the details you need to know to complete them confidently. Check back each Sunday for the next week’s plan.
Photo: W+G Creative
Day 1: Do this 8-minute full-body, multidirectional workout
Day one is all about challenging your body just enough to get a sense of your baseline. You’ve already scored a victory just by showing up. So count it! This eight-minute, full-body strength session is designed so that you can easily customize the intensity of the work to meet you where you are. Go at a pace that works for you, and don’t hesitate to pull back if you need—the goal is simply to keep moving the whole time. Pay attention to how these moves challenge your muscles, and how your heart rate responds. We’ll be returning to this one a few times.
The video is coming soon—check back on Monday morning to watch the full thing!
Day 2: Go for an outdoor run, walk, bike ride, or hike for 20 minutes
I know, I know: It’s the middle of winter. And, depending on where you live, it might not exactly be enticing outside. But if at all possible, try to head out for some natural light today.
Studies show that taking your workouts outdoors can increase your overall activity levels, decrease stress levels, and boost your mood. Getting some sun also gives you some all-important vitamin D. Especially if you work from home, some outdoor cardio can be a great way to get a little change of environment in your day so not you’re not just staring at your computer screen or yoga mat in the living room yet again.
Day 3: Flow through this 15-minute flexibility-focused yoga class
Your muscles might be feeling a bit sore or fatigued today, so spend 15 minutes stretching with this flow. Anytime you’re working on flexibility, make sure you’re easing into the stretch at a sustainable level—you should not be pushing to the point of pain. If you’re diving into a pose so hard that you have to pull out of it after a couple of seconds, you’ve gone too far: You want to be able to hold the position for at least 30 seconds so your body has time to accommodate it.
Day 4: Take a rest day
I’m gonna be completely honest with you: I hate rest days. Personally, I just prefer training. Which probably explains my profession—I do this because I love it! However, I still take rest days regularly because I know my body needs days off if I’m going to get stronger and stay injury-free. No matter whether you love rest days or hate them, they are what will help sustain your fitness journey over the long term.
Day 5: Repeat the 8-minute full-body, multidirectional workout
Okay, we’re revisiting the workout from day one. Now that you know what’s coming, you can get in the flow and really see how much you can give each exercise. Maybe experiment with where you can push yourself just a little harder. But if you’re not yet ready to ramp things up today, that’s fine, too. Just commit to getting through the workout and getting a little more comfortable with each of the moves. We’re not done with them yet.
Day 6: Go for an outdoor run, walk, bike ride, or hike for 20 minutes
Whether you’re running, walking, biking, or hiking, there’s no one right way to push yourself on a cardio day. Customize the intensity level to where you are in your training right now, and how you feel today. Maybe you ran earlier in the week, but today you just head out for a walk. Or you decide to hop on a bike for the first time in years to mix things up. Don’t worry if you used to be able to go longer or faster. Focus on what you’ve got in you right now.
Day 7: Take a rest day or practice yoga
Today, the challenge is to tune in and really be honest with yourself: Is your body craving some movement, or do you need a day off? One of the most important skills to take away from any kind of training is the ability to feel what’s going on in your own body. So practice taking inventory of how you’re feeling. Is your energy low? It might be a good idea to fully rest. Are you not sure whether to push through the “blahs” or not? Give yourself permission to just do the first five minutes of this yoga flow, then you can reassess—and if you’re not feeling it, stop.