A Beginner's 3-Month Plan for Getting Fit

This beginner's guide to fitness provides an easy-to-follow plan for getting on the road toward being in shape.

How are those New Year's Resolution fitness goals you made in January? If you have fallen off, this plan is for you. First, let's think about what you would do if you were just starting out and hadn't exercised for a very long time—longer than one year of no exercise. Playing a summer sand volleyball game doesn't count (sorry!). However, let's say that you made some  progress toward your fitness goals through the month of February. Now, you haven't hit the gym or track for almost a month. It's time to start back up and conquer your fitness goals, for good.

Month 1

Ready to Go Walking

Get up and walk. You must do this every day. My recommendation is simply to walk for 15 minutes every single day. If you do not do this, you'd better make the choice of what you want to do. There is do or do not. There is no in-between when it comes to achieving a high level of health and fitness.

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So step one is to walk every day for 15 minutes. Next is something called being NEAT (Non-Exercise Thermogenesis). Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic found this through science. The NEAT theory is based upon small movements, including walking at lunch or walking to your office instead of sitting in the lunchroom or taking the city bus. With technology and transportation, our society makes it easy to do more work for work and less for health and fitness. NEAT is based on the concept of sitting less. It is really simple.

So far, if you are just beginning, you have two things that you can start doing NOW:

  1. Walk 15 minutes every day.

  2. Be NEAT, every day.

So how can you get in that extra 15 minutes of walking or NEATness. Let's take a look at this.

  • Walk to work. Don't take the taxi or bus. If you live close enough, ride a bike or simply walk. You will have more energy when you get to work. With that, you will probably make better food choices.
  • Instead of sitting and talking on your phone or answering emails, stand up at your desk or table.
  • There are too many webinars, emails, texts, calls, etc. If you work in the same building with co-workers, get up and go talk with them.
  • At the very least, for every 30 minutes you sit, walk for 5 minutes.
  • When sitting at a desk most of the day, we tend to forget about drinking water and we are in a "zone." Our work-zone makes us forget to get up and drink water. Always have water at your desk
  • Place sticky notes on your computer monitor. Simply write "Water" or "Go Walk" to remind yourself.
  • Take the stairs. Increase your heart rate a bit and move the blood in your lower extremities.
  • Park further away. If you have a bigger parking lot, park further away. Get your steps in!
  • Put the printer or file cabinet in a different room or office. Having the printer in another room will force you to get up and move.
  • Instead of watching TV on the couch, perform some foam rolling, yoga or light stretching while you watch.
  • Tell people about your NEAT goals. You may help someone else who is too nervous or scared to tell you about their new fitness goals.
  • Create a trend and have "Lunch Walks." You can always eat at your desk after a good walk.

Month 2

Bodyweight Squat

Congratulations! You have made it for four weeks. That's fantastic. The first four weeks are the toughest leg of your new health and fitness journey. With that, let's slowly add some things to your current workout regimen. With a couple of additions, you will start to see even more progress. You probably feel more energized in the first four weeks. That's great for staying motivated to achieve your fitness goals. During Month 2, you can expect your clothes to start fitting better, primarily because you will be more active.

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During Month 2, you will add more aerobic conditioning to your workouts. Let's take a look at a heart rate chart from the American Heart Association website. The table below shows your estimated target heart rate based on your age. In short, your max heart rate is determined by subtracting your age from 220.

Find your age category in the left column. From there, find your target heart rate (HR) zone. You can also find your average max heart rate (HR) by subtracting your age from 220. During moderately intense exercise, your heart rate percentage is 50-69%. During "hard" exercise, your heart rate will be 70-90% of your max heart rate.

The figures are averages, so use them as general guidelines.


Target HR Zone 50-85%

Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%

20 years

100-170 beats per minute

200 beats per minute (BPM)

30 years

95-162 beats per minute

190 BPM

35 years

93-157 beats per minute

185 BPM

40 years

90-153 beats per minute

180 BPM

45 years

88-149 beats per minute

175 BPM

50 years

85-145 beats per minute

170 BPM

55 years

83-140 beats per minute

165 BPM

60 years

80-136 beats per minute

160 BPM

65 years

78-132 beats per minute

155 BPM

70 years

75-128 beats per minute

150 BPM

So what do you do now?

See if you are able to run! If you can get up to a jog for 10 seconds, that's awesome. Do not denigrate your success. If you have not run for longer than 10 seconds in more than a year, you should be proud. You must start before you can win. To make sure your heart rate is not becoming too high, after each bout of intense aerobic activity, place your fingers under your neck and find your heart rate. Here is how you test your heart rate:

  • Place two fingers under your neck, find your pulse.
  • Count the beats for 10 seconds.
  • Take that number and multiply by 6. That is your beats per minute (BPM)
  • Example: 20 beats in 10 seconds x 6 = 120 beats per minute.
  • Where would you be on the chart above?

Next, you will dive into some foam rolling. It doesn't have to be anything crazy. If you find that your muscles are tight (mainly lower body), you might want to invest in a foam roller. Below is a list of areas to foam roll for 30 seconds per day. Feel free to do this before or after your workouts. Either or, it will help you immensely.

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Areas to foam roll, starting with the feet:

  • Feet  - find tender spots
  • Achilles & Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • IT Bands
  • Glutes
  • Groin
  • Lower back
  • Mid-back
  • Shoulder blades

If you foam roll all those areas, you will be  supple as a leopard in no time.

With the additional running and foam rolling during Month 2, let's work on adding some dynamic movements. This will only be a couple of times per week. Below, is list of exercises you can perform for 8 to 10 repetitions each. The rep range depends on your fitness level and time availability.

Dynamic exercises

  • Walking High Knee (Kicks too)
  • Reverse Lunges & Reach Back
  • Lateral Lunges & Reach Back
  • 1-Leg RDL
  • Inchworms
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Arm Circles
  • Lying Glute Bridges
  • Spiderman Lunges
  • Wall Slides
  • 1-Leg Glute Bridges
  • YTWL Shoulder exercises
  • Bodyweight Squat

Alright, here is your layout for Month 2. Enjoy!

When you perform the foam rolling, I recommend doing it at least once per week. Sunday would be the best day for it. When you do that, hit all areas listed above for foam rolling. Then, on dynamic exercise days, choose at least eight exercises to perform. There are 16 total. Eight dynamic exercises should not take longer than 30 minutes.

With each dynamic exercise done for 10 reps, you need to perform at least 8 exercises for 10 reps each for 3 rounds. When it comes to walking, do it for at least 15 minutes.

Check out the chart:















If you would like to add more to the days, feel free to do so.

Trainer Tip

When you exercise, make note of it! It doesn't matter if it is in a journal, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever. Making note of the completed exercise day will give you a sense of accomplishment. Stay after it.

Month 3


Now that you have made it through the first two months, you are ready for Month 3. You are starting to feel awesome, so let's throw in Intro to Weight Training.

Add the two workouts below to the ones in the previous chart. The setup will be simple yet effective in taking your fitness to the next level. Simply pick 3 or 4 days to add the workouts to the ones above. Let's take a look at the two workouts you will be doing in Month 3.

Workout 1

  • Warm-up: Pick 5 dynamic exercises and perform each one for 10 reps. After that, you will move into the workout planned for your specific day.
  • Squat x 40 seconds
  • Push-Ups x 40 seconds
  • Reverse Lunges x 40 seconds
  • Plank x 40 seconds
  • Spiderman Lunges x 40 seconds
  • Rest 20 seconds between exercises
  • After each round, rest 1 minute
  • Perform the workout for 30 minutes straight
  • Use weights if you want (only do so if you are feeling comfortable)

Workout 2

  • Warm-up: Same as Workout 1
  • Squat x 40 seconds
  • Shoulder Taps x 40 seconds
  • Glute Bridges x 40 seconds
  • Superman x 40 seconds
  • Reverse Lunges x 40 seconds
  • Rest 20 seconds between exercises
  • After each round, rest 1 minute
  • Perform the workout for 30 minutes straight
  • Use weights if you want (only do so if you are feeling comfortable)

You will not perform the workouts on consecutive days. If you start to notice any injuries, asymmetries or joint issues, be cautious with exercise and notify your doctor if you need to.

Starting on a fitness journey is tough. Maintaining fitness can be even harder. With this guide, you will be well on your way to starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Set some small goals and take action today. If you want to win, you must start.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock