Creating an exercise schedule that works for you: get out your calendar now!

I am a firm believer in the power of calendars. This is what the one on my fridge looks like. 

scheduling your workouts

Big boxes. Lots of room to write down details.

I use my fridge calendar to schedule family events, children’s sports activities and appointments, hubby’s work travel, my teaching schedule and training sessions with clients. I even have a separate editorial calendar for scheduling blog posts!

I like to think of it as ‘mission control’: things that don’t make it on the calendar, often get overlooked or missed entirely.

Like exercise. When I include my weekly exercise plans on my kitchen calendar, I’m much more likely to get it done. Unfortunately, I haven’t been very good about scheduling exercise over the summer. Consequently, my workouts have been more of a mish-mash than I’d like.

Given that September is a fresh start, this week’s task is creating an exercise schedule. One that takes into consideration (1) the exercise I get when I teach classes, (2) my desire to spend less time at the gym and (3) my current goals of increasing my cardio to better balance out all the strength training I do (because I enjoy it so much more!).

Why don’t you grab your calendar (or at least a blank sheet of paper) and join me in creating an exercise schedule of your own!

I started by plotting out my current teaching load (if you’re not a group fitness instructor, you can skip this step. Or you can write in any ‘set in stone’ fitness routines you’re already following in)

schedule your workouts


Then I added in the times I spend training clients (put your work hours in here; these are times when you can’t possibly exercise)

scheduling your workouts

and taking care of my family (family, friends or pets; whoever you need to carve out time in your week for) 

scheduling your workouts

The gaps that remain are the blocks of time I have left for exercise. (Here’s hoping you have a few empty blocks left too!)

Given that my Sunday, Monday and Wednesday classes all include a cardio component and that I teach an additional cardio-only class at lunch on Monday, I really only need one more cardio workout in my week. Let’s make it a run on Friday, after my last client and before I have to pick the kids up from school.

And although I’m already lifting weights Sunday, Monday and Wednesday when I teach, to be honest, the loads that I lift when I’m teaching are no longer heavy enough to stimulate muscle growth for me. Maintenance, yes, growth, no. So I still need at least 2 days of targeted lifting in the weight room. Ideally 60-75 minute blocks with at least 48 hours between sessions. Looks like Tuesday and Thursday will have to do!

And of course, my Saturday morning 8 am Hatha Flow is sacred. Never miss it if I can help it.

Here’s what my fall exercise schedule looks like. (Is yours all filled out too? Make sure to take your daily energy levels into consideration. Not a morning person, leave those empty morning blocks for sleeping and schedule your workouts later in the day.) 

schedule your workouts

And what about ‘rest’ days? We need to schedule those in as well. I consider Saturday to be my rest day. Even though I’m attending yoga class, it’s more of a stretching and relaxation session for me than a full on workout.

On weeks when I feel like I need an extra rest day, I do more ‘coaching’ than ‘participating’ in my Wednesday morning Bootcamp. My participants have never complained that my lack of participation has resulted in them feeling less motivated to work themselves. In fact, some had said that they get a better workout when I’m walking around the room correcting form and ‘getting in their space’…

If you use iCal, you’ll recognize the calendar images above. That means that in addition to seeing my weekly exercise plans on the kitchen calendar, I’ll also be reminded of them every time I glance at my iPhone. That’s an awful lot of reminders each and every day 😉

Did you schedule your weekly workouts along with me?

Post a picture on Instagram! I’d love to see your plans!



  1. I can’t imagine not using a calendar! Great post.
    Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness recently posted…Cardio or Strength Training? What’s your Preference?My Profile

  2. I rely on my calendar for EVERYTHING EVERYTHING BUT scheduling workouts.
    Im a misfit 🙂
    MIzMiz recently posted…I found my voice in the weight room.My Profile

  3. Well, my workouts are golden to me so no need for me to even schedule them – I do them & do not miss unless I am forced to….

    LOVE your scheduling & so important with work, family, workouts & more!!!! GREAT to do & great for you to share!!!!

    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted…Getting Comfortable with UncomfortableMy Profile

    • Me too! I was amazed to see how much of my time I spend with family. I always feel like it’s not enough, but when I see it blocked out, I’m pretty impressed. No more mommy guilt!

  4. Hi Tamara,

    wow, such a nicely organized calendar and I love the handwriting. I must say I like organizing and then I don’t, it’ hard to explain. I am a really good organizer but I have my own methods that don’t usually involve calendars. Although those colors make it really tempting for me to try doing one right now!
    Mariella Lombardi recently posted…How Can I Help My Daughter In A Wheel Chair Lose Weight?My Profile

    • Could you read my handwriting Mariella? (I need my reading glasses or my screen’s too small…). I’m curious about your non-calendar organization tools. Share, please?

  5. I have my various workouts in as recurring appointments in my iCal, so that there’s no messing w/them (unless, of course, there is something that absolutely can’t wait, then I MOVE the w/o – usually to 5 a.m. – always know where I’ll be at 5 a.m.!). It’s the best way for me to make sure they happen. If someone wants to schedule something during the workout block, I simply “have a commitment.” To myself. Every day of the week. For the rest of my life!
    Sarah @ Semi-Sweet recently posted…Tuesday Tidbit: Whole Grain Cereal is BetterMy Profile

    • Sarah, you are the exception! Amazingly consistent about your workouts! I keep toying with the idea of getting up earlier (i.e. before the kids do) to get my workouts in, but have given myself a ton of reasons, er, excuses, why I can’t. Maybe it’s worth a try for me too!

      • It was REALLY hard in the beginning, and some mornings it still is . . . but once you get UP, it’s not so bad. And as you know, you never regret a workout! I just tell myself that if I waited for everything to be “perfect” before I worked out (great night’s sleep, for one), I’d NEVER work out. Tough love!
        Sarah @ Semi-Sweet recently posted…Tuesday Tidbit: Whole Grain Cereal is BetterMy Profile

  6. I’ve gotten really bad about this over the summer. Now that we’re back to our homeschool year I need to get my calendar out! Actually, I really like using a fitbook for this.
    Kerri O recently posted…Skora FORM Review #RunRealMy Profile

    • What’s a fitbook Kerri?
      I love seeing that big old calendar right in my face first thing in the morning!

      • It’s a little fitness journal. Yes, I love a big old calendar too. I miss mine, I have a little one my niece made…so you know, have to wait until next year to get one with big squares again 😉
        Kerri O recently posted…Skora FORM Review #RunRealMy Profile

        • Thanks! Yes, I always make sure to buy my ‘big box’ calendar as soon as I see them at Cosco in July…

  7. I live by my google calendar. If it doesn’t go on there, it gets missed. Except for exercise. I schedule that on a weekly hand written to do list. Somehow that makes me more likely to get it done than putting it on my calendar LOL.
    MCM Mama recently posted…The best laid plans…My Profile

    • There really is something about a handwritten list isn’t there? I get so much satisfaction out of crossing things off (and placing them at the top of the next’s day’s list…)

  8. Until recently (when I switched to an iphone), I did all my scheduling on my phone, which worked great. I’ve advanced through the years, from a calendar, to an appointment book, to the computer, to an app on my phone. But for some reason, I can’t find one on the iphone that meets my needs. So, I haven’t been scheduling as well as I used to and my workouts show it. I need to get back on it. And yes, I joined your September Challenge 🙂
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted…Wednesday Workout: Answering Your QuestionsMy Profile

    • Sometimes good old paper works better than fancy apps! I think I’ve downloaded at least 5 organizational apps, none of which does everything I need it to.

  9. This is great. I love being organized and using my calendar (I’m a google calendar girl mysefl). Every since I had my baby, though, I’ve found I need to be more flexible with my schedule… particularly with working out. And I try to get her involved as much as possible.
    Robin @ Thank Your Body recently posted…Blemish Remover with lavender and tea tree oilMy Profile

    • Congrats on your baby Robin! I miss having really little ones around; they don’t give you nearly as much attitude as their bigger counterparts!

  10. Ooo! I love calendars, too! And, I think of September as the start of a new year. I can’t shake being a student 🙂 I’m going to purchase a giant one for my fridge!
    Kareen recently posted…Mood Lifter Monday – Be About it!My Profile

    • Kareen, do you love brand new pencil crayons and the empty first page of a new notebook too? My FAVS!

  11. I love your system! And your calendar looks a lot like mine did before I left my horrible job… except squeezing in workouts was tough because there were strange gaps between clients and long drives, and… Whew! Glad things are simpler for me now 🙂 However, I could probably still use a calendar because there are SO many things I want to accomplish and I always feel overwhelmed.
    Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana recently posted…Your Ideal Weight: It’s Between Your Body and Its FuelMy Profile

  12. Now that the kids have gone back to school, I can go back to my routine. A calendar will def. help me in my weightloss journey. I can still make one for Sept. yay!!


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