November 29, 2021 by Kevin Varno

the "right" workout plan

There are 2 reasons why you might be reading this:

1 - My headline piqued your interest. Unlikely. But if so, you’re in for a treat.
2 - You asked me something along the lines of “What is the right workout plan for me?” In which case, you are now fully aware that I am no longer answering that question.

Why don’t I answer that question?

Because you already know the answer! Here is my system to help you figure it out. When choosing the “PERFECT” Workout routine for you there are a few boxes you need to check. It has to be interesting, safe, sustainable and effective.

1 - Your workouts have to be interesting!

Boring is a one-way path to failure. On a long enough timeline, you will not be able to overcome a boring workout routine. Working out is uncomfortable by nature, if it doesn’t interest you, you are going to have a very hard time staying with it! Interesting workout routines take many different forms.  They can make you feel excited, nervous, or intimidated. Any emotion at all is interesting and there is something to learn from the emotion sparked by the experience. What you will learn about yourself depends on the emotions elicited by that activity. If you are not emotionally engaged in your plan, then you are not learning and growing. If you are not learning and growing, you will quit or move on at some point!

If you are anything like me, you may be interested in many different things. This is a wonderful gift! Your workout does not have to be an “or” thing, think of it instead as an “and” thing. It doesn’t have to be weightlifting OR yoga, but rather weightlifting AND yoga! You are a complex individual, honor that by exploring all the different exercise and workout options that intrigue you in some way. Stick with the ones that make sense and drop the ones that don’t.


Create a list of all workout routines, exercises, sports, classes, activities, movements that you can think of.


Highlight any of them that spark an ounce of interest or emotion. Keep an open mind and highlight the ones that may even be intimidating or out of your reach at the moment. This list will evolve over time as you discover more options, and your mind opens to other possibilities.

2 - Your workouts have to be safe

By the way, every workout is perfectly safe. It is the human who does them that is not safe. CrossFit is the reason for your injury, just like Driving is the reason for your car accident. I mean it. There is no unsafe exercise. Just misuse. Do not let other people's fear and tales of injury persuade you into believing that any specific methodology is unsafe in nature. Yes, people do get hurt powerlifting, but people also dislocate their shoulders swimming, and speed walkers will need hip replacements after enough miles. You get out of your program what you put into it.

As the athlete it is your responsibility to take the learning process seriously. Do your due diligence and find coaches with outstanding track records, knowledge, and passion for your success. Listen to them, learn, practice, and CONTINUE to apply what you’ve been taught. It is important to listen to every bit of value your coach tries to give you, there is probably a lot to be gained there. But more importantly listen to your gut! Almost everyone who gets hurt says, “I knew something wasn’t right on the 5th rep, and then on rep 8 you could hear a pop from a mile away.” Listen to your gut if you know something doesn't feel right, but also if you don’t think your coach is providing the best service. Then act on this gut instinct. Stop when you’re tired and feel things are getting unsafe. And if you begin to doubt your coach…find a new one! Yeah, it takes time, money, energy, and emotion to find a new coach. It’s uncomfortable. Your other option, staying where you are, will be MORE uncomfortable soon enough. Trust me, don’t wait to find out.

To be clear, this step of the system is here to remind you that all workout programs are safe, but the RIGHT workout program for you is the one that you’re actually going to do right!


Circle all of the options that you have access to do safely at the moment. If you are 100 pounds overweight and your knees are in bad condition, then joining an adult basketball league may not be the safest place to start. But I am sure that you can find a coach to introduce you safely to a martial art or cross training program.


Determine the safest and most effective way to approach each of the circled workout styles.  Whether it be by googling a plan, signing up at a location, hiring a coach, buying the equipment, or if it is something you are ready to take on right now, take note of the safest approach next to each one. This may seem silly, but some things are easier to dive right into than others. Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into and how you’re going to do it correctly before you make your plan.

3 - Your workouts have to be sustainable.

Most workout routines and exercise programs are far more sustainable than you think. Even the ones that are more physically demanding, expensive, time consuming, seasonal, or geographically dependent can be included in a sustainable way. Sustainability has a lot more to do with setting appropriate expectations than it does the exercise itself. If something is expensive, time consuming, and exhausting, set your expectations appropriately. For these activities plan to do them at a frequency that you can manage physically, financially, and conveniently. I include this because I see too many people choosing not to do something altogether instead of including it at a smaller frequency. Snowboarding 3x/week makes little sense for most of us but including it once a month during appropriate seasons is a great way to get movement in and use your fitness while keeping it interesting! Having multiple different options in your routine will keep it interesting and fun!


Next to each of your circled exercise options write a few sentences about how you can make it fit into your routine instead of why you can't. Example: I have the time and finances to play racquetball 1x/week on Saturdays before 12.

4 - Your workouts have to be effective.

Not all of them need to move the needle toward better physical health and a leaner, more shredded physique, but there must be an overall health benefit. For example, if you are overweight, pre-diabetic, and on blood pressure meds, drinking beers in the dugout of your slow pitch softball league isn’t the exercise routine that’s going to fix your problems. Walking your dog around the neighborhood for 30 minutes each morning however, may seem a bit too simple, but if this keeps you from sitting on the couch eating Cheez-It's then it’s going to be pretty damn effective!

There are two groups of people I want to make my message loud and clear for on this one. The group that doesn’t go on an evening walk after dinner because “What’s the point…I am 60 pounds overweight, what is a walk going to do for me?” And the group that convinces themselves that the weekly bowling league (with pizza and beer) is exercise because “My shoulder is so sore the day after I bowl!” For these extremes we need some perspective.

If you are procrastinating getting started because you have so far to go and don’t think you can put a dent in it with a simple stroll around the neighborhood, you are wrong! Let me paint you a picture. This is an imperfect analogy so don’t spend your time picking holes in it, instead humor me and find the value. Achieving fitness goals is like digging a pool with a garden shovel. Starting is intimidating because you know the garden shovel will barely make a dent. But until you build some momentum a garden shovel is all you’ve got so you better start digging. After some consistency you will develop more ability and you’ll upgrade to a full size shovel. Continue in this fashion and you’ll be digging that pool with a backhoe in no time! Don’t wait around for the backhoe, it isn’t coming out of thin air. And more importantly, don’t hire someone to do it for you! Weight-loss surgeries come with a long list of unpredictable complications. Start breaking ground with that garden shovel or you’ll never have that pool!

If you are overweight and unhealthy but still convincing yourself that your job or hobbies are active enough that you don’t need to eat well and exercise, then you’re in denial. You’re probably right about the great benefit of the movement you get from your job and hobbies. But your health is telling us clear as day that your food, sleep, and stress habits are winning the battle. Start by removing the bullshit…The fast food that's making you overweight and tired, the mindless time spent watching TV and, on the internet, that's making you miss out on valuable sleep, and the unrealistic expectations of all that you can cram into your day that is stressing you out 24/7. By removing 1 or 2 things in each of these categories you will start to see the benefit of your movement. Once you see that benefit and your energy starts to increase, I bet you’ll find the belief and inspiration that adding a little more fitness into your routine is doable!

Effectiveness is a tricky thing to measure. Very few things are effective doing them for just 1 day or even 1 week. But with consistency and measuring multiple factors of improvement it can be quite clear if your approach is effective within the 1st month.


Plan out your workout routine (add diet, exercise, sleep, and stress relief for the full effect). Use some or all of the remaining exercises in your list along with the sustainability notes you took. Make this plan simple and clear. Make it interesting and doable. Do not overwhelm yourself and avoid setting expectations too high. Some types of exercise require a lot more time, energy, and focus to get started safely on so I recommend choosing 1 complex option at a time and mixing it with simpler options. An example of that would be CrossFit 3x/week, walk/jog 2x/week, tennis 1x/week. CrossFit is a big undertaking and requires time and focus. Walking and tennis could be done a bit more leisurely.


Use a scientific approach. Commit yourself to this plan for 1 month. Regardless of outcome, promise yourself that you will remain consistent for 30 days. Then measure your starting point (Before Photos, Body Measurements, Weight On the scale, general 1-10 rating of your energy and happiness). After 1 month the results will speak for themselves. When the results deem your plan is ineffective, don’t quit it, don’t deny it, CHANGE IT!


Find an honest friend to share this plan with. This friend will hold you accountable to what you’re setting out to do. They will also keep you honest when interpreting the outcome. It is easy to be biased when it comes to your eating, sleeping, stress relief, and workout habits. So be very transparent with this friend and be sure to identify the correct reasons why your plan is or is not working.

You evolve and change as time goes. Your body, interests, schedule, and location will all do the same. So naturally you need to be prepared for and ok with the fact that your workout routine will change. This doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong, lost your pizzaz, fell off the wagon, or anything like that. It is a natural part of everyone's fitness journey. Be prepared to adapt to this gracefully.

We started this process by making a list of everything you know and understanding that that list will grow. When something begins to get stale or feels inappropriate for you, move on! It’s not this OR that, it’s this AND that.

Enjoy the process, it is a fun journey that you GET to take. Not one that you HAVE to take.

The next time you’re feeling the need to ask about what the right workout routine is for you just follow the steps. You are very complex and nobody knows that complexity as well as you do! Make it happen and reap the rewards!

Once you’ve created a plan that is interesting, safe, sustainable and effective for you, check out How To Tone Up to refine your approach to an even more effective plan.

If you need help figuring out the safest way to start something or where to find a quality coach let me know!

Stay Strong!

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