Why You Need to Make a Workout Schedule

If you’re reading this article, you likely have some interest in your personal health and fitness. There’s a good chance you even made a fitness-related resolution at the beginning of this year. And if you’re like 80% of people who make such resolutions, you’ve already abandoned your annual fitness goals. Drawing on the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, here’s how to make a workout schedule and get back on track.

Aristotle and Virtue

Aristotle wrote extensively on virtues, or the qualities possessed by a good person. His works still influence how philosophers think about virtue and ethics today. According to Aristotle, virtue consists in having the right attitudes “at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way.” But having a virtuous attitude is not enough. Virtuous people act according to virtue. In other words, we know a person is virtuous because he speaks the way a virtuous person would speak and he acts the way we would expect a virtuous person to act in a certain situation. A brave person faces danger she might reasonably be expected to face. An intelligent person exhibits knowledge about a particular subject. A strong person moves heavy objects with ease. And a just person treats people fairly and grants them what they deserve.

Volunteers help with debris removal after a hurricane
We know a person is virtuous because he acts the way we expect a virtuous person to act (photo by Jocelyn Augustino).

In a previous article, I argued that virtuous action requires intention. The agent must intend to act in a manner that is virtuous or with the aim of producing favorable consequences. In order to perform an intentional virtuous action, an agent must believe that he is acting, that he has control over the situation he is trying to affect and that the effect of his action has some value. In essence, virtuous action equals intentional action motivated by value.

From Value to Action

We know being a virtuous person requires virtuous behavior. Everyone wants others to think of them as brave, strong, intelligent and just. But it’s another matter to perform the actions that exemplify the virtues of bravery, strength, intelligence and justice. And it’s even harder to dedicate time and effort to practicing the skills that will allow you to act with these virtues when the situation calls for it. That’s why military training, strength and conditioning coaches and schools exist. They provide a framework for practicing virtues and they hold students accountable with scheduled training.

Furthermore, participation in such activities allows outside observers to determine what matters to the person in question. We can reasonably say that a dedicated student cares about his education and intellect and that a strength and conditioning client who decides to make a workout schedule cares about her health and fitness. What you do indicates what you value.

Actions Speak Loudest

If you find that you are not the kind of person you want to be or if you are not accomplishing the goals you hope for, pay close attention to your actions. Start by recording everything you do over the course of a day or even a week. You’ll probably see a lot of time allocated to sleeping, eating and going to work or school. The time spent on these actions indicates the value you place on sustaining your life and minimal well-being. At the most basic level, we sleep and eat because we have to, we go to school to learn the skills necessary for work, and we work to earn money to sustain our lives and well-being. Of course, any of these actions can also be enjoyable. But you will notice significant consequences if you start making drastic cuts to any of them.

Instead, take a look at how you occupy your free time. If you spend an hour a day scrolling through Instagram, you value seeing the cool activities other people are pursuing. If you volunteer once a week at a soup kitchen, you care about giving back to your community. And if you spend three hours a night working on your first novel, you want to become a published author. Again, what you do indicates what you value. If your daily schedule does not align with your declared values, either you are deceiving yourself about what you value or you need to adjust your schedule. Make a commitment to your values by scheduling time on your calendar.

A woman starts to make a workout schedule for her class
If you want to improve your health and fitness, make a workout schedule (photo by Gabrielle Spradling).

Make a Workout Schedule

Returning to your abandoned fitness goals, it should be easy to see the benefit of a nutrition and workout schedule. If you find your health and fitness goals always get pushed aside (and you truly care about accomplishing those goals), block out time in your schedule to go to the gym, shop for groceries and meal prep for the coming week. Treat those commitments the way you would a doctor’s appointment or dinner with friends. If anyone asks, you’re busy at those times.

In short, virtue requires action, and the type of action a person chooses to pursue indicates the virtuous qualities she values. If you want to learn a new language, plan a daily practice or sign up for a structured course. If you want to help your community, schedule visits to your local senior center, soup kitchen or after-school program. And if you want to improve some aspect of your health and fitness, structure your eating habits and make a workout schedule. Cut out the activities that don’t matter to you and fill your calendar with the ones that do.