Which Workout Is Right for Me?

Exercise has a wonderful way of decreasing stress.1 When people focus on pursuing joy as a motivator for physical activity, they find more freedom in exercise choices, and this inspires them to remain engaged in a physically active lifestyle.2,3

When choosing workouts or physical activities, find something you’ll enjoy and do it consistently. Participating consistently is much more important than completing the “perfect workout” once every few weeks. Keep in mind that the “right” workout might change, and what works for someone else may not work for you. The more you enjoy your exercise program, the more likely you are to participate for the long haul.2

As we discussed in a previous blog, the benefits of resistance training and cardio are important to physical and psychological health, but this doesn’t mean going to your local gym every day. It does mean discovering your way of becoming consistently physically active. It is important to assess your individual needs and what kinds of physical activities can address those needs. Take a moment to answer the following questions:

  1. What activities of daily living could be easier for you?
    • Example: Walking up stairs
  1. Do you have the energy to get through a normal day?
    • Example: Having the energy after work to spend quality time with family/friends
  1. What types of physical activity do you enjoy doing?
    • Example: Hiking
  1. What recreational sports, if any, do you currently participate in?
    • Example: Mountain biking

The best exercise program should be centered around the areas of your life that you want to improve and enjoy. SMART Goals can help guide the process of finding what will work for you.

SMART Goals & principles

SMART Goals is a systematic approach to setting specific goals with action steps and timelines. Applying this concept will assist you in choosing the most appropriate workout or physical activity. SMART Goals are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-sensitive.

Consider this example for mountain biking and push-ups:

Mountain biking Push-ups
Specific Complete a 28-mile ride Do 30 in a row
Measurable 28 miles by set date 30 in a row by set date
Action-oriented Gradually increase distance Work up to 30
Realistic Yes Yes
Time-sensitive Complete by goal date Complete by date

Now it’s your turn! Grab a piece of paper, pen, and write down a couple of SMART Goals. If nothing comes to mind, spend time exploring what physical activities are associated with joy, fun, community, and family.

Bring your goal(s) to fruition using three basic principles of strength & conditioning (S&C):

  • Specific: The exercises, workouts, and/or physical activities we do should reinforce our paths to completing our goal.
  • Mountain bike example: Ride parts of the trail to familiarize yourself with the entire route piece by piece.
  • Progressive overload: Consistently pushing your body a little bit past its physical state, just enough to cause it to adapt.
  • Push-ups example: Gradually increase the number of push-ups you do in a single try. Complete 13 on the first try? In a few days, try for 15.
  • Progression: Taking exercise, workout, and/or physical activity to a new challenging level.
  • Mountain bike example: Once you can complete the entire route in one session, try riding faster, a longer route, etc.
  • Push-ups example: When you reach 30, work up to 30 clapping push-ups.

Can you see the overlap with your SMART Goals and the basic principles of S&C? If you have questions about how to accomplish your SMART Goals, a personal trainer can help lay the foundation with you.

Exercise workout or physical activity?

Physical activity is any activity that elevates your heart rate above its resting rhythm. Exercise is an activity done repetitively to yield a specific result and is generally broken down into resistance training and cardiorespiratory training. Resistance training is a form of exercise that requires movement against an external force. Cardiorespiratory training is a type of exercise that holds an elevated heart rate for a sustained period of time. These physical activities and exercise can be performed in and out of traditional gym settings. Get an in-depth look at the benefits of each.

If you thrive in a communal setting, group exercise classes can be a great way to establish connection.4 Or if learning about resistance training interests you, a certified personal trainer or strength coach can work with you privately or in a small group. If you enjoy being outdoors or aren’t interested in a gym, find a local personal trainer who holds sessions outside.5

Trainers and coaches have different resistance training tools that they prefer: suspension trainers, kettle bells, Olympic weight lifting, calisthenics (body weight), etc. Acquiring a new skill can be a world-expanding experience to new physical strengths and energy as well as a source for new goals. Finding a group, coach, or teacher can greatly enhance your drive to stay engaged as well as staying on the path to a physically healthy lifestyle.6-8

I want to leave you with this: Find joy, purpose, and community. Encouraging one another to participate in a physically active life can provide a level of support that strengthens intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.2 As always, consult with your healthcare practitioner before beginning any exercise program.

Until next time, live well and live active.



  1. Jackson E. Stress relief: the role of exercise in stress management. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. 2013;17(3):14-19.
  2. Mears J et al. Motivation for exercise: applying theory to make a difference in adoption and adherence. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. 2008;12(1):20-26.
  3. Edmunds J et al. Helping your clients and patients take ownership over their exercise: fostering exercise adoption, adherence, and associated well-being. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. 2009;13(3):20-25.
  4. Fisher J et al. A comparison of the motivational factors between CrossFit participants and other resistance exercise modalities: a pilot study. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2017;57(9):1227-1234.
  5. Brown K et al. Go green with outdoor activity. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. 2017;21(1):10-15.
  6. Richard M et al. Intrinsic motivation and exercise adherence. Int J Sport Psychol. 1997;28(4):335-354.
  7. Elsangedy HM et al. Let the pleasure guide your resistance training intensity. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018;50(7):1472-1479.
  8. Saanijoki T et al. Affective responses to repeated sessions of high-intensity interval training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015;47(12):2604-2611.


Daniel Heller, MSc, CSCS, RSCC:

Holistic strength and conditioning coach, Daniel Heller, MSc, CSCS, RSCC earned his Bachelor’s of Science in exercise science and wellness from Bastyr University in 2009 on a direct path to having a positive impact in the world of exercise and sport science. Since graduating from Bastyr, Heller has gone onto coaching youth athletes in ice hockey, figure skating, and mountain biking. As well as developing postural alignment and compression garments with Oakley Inc. and was the primary author of the exercise chapter for the Metagenics FirstLine Therapy Patient Guidebook. In 2016, he received his Master’s of Science degree in Strength and Conditioning from the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland. Heller is continuing to coach and actively participates in the field of strength and conditioning. Daniel Heller is a paid consultant and guest writer for Metagenics.


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