4-Week Slow Build Exercise Program

If you struggle with exercise, you've probably done what a lot of us do when trying to lose weight—going a little too far and doing too much, too soon.

We often try to make up for lost time by going from no exercise to way too much exercise. But this can leave your body sore and tired and your mind rebelling against such a rigorous schedule.

As you may have found, losing weight requires some significant changes in your daily schedule, how you move your body, and how you spend your time. It often takes more time to make these changes than we realize, which may leave us frustrated if we don't see results.

We all want to see results quickly. You may think that jumping into a killer routine is the best way to do that, but it often backfires. Instead of feeling good about your workouts, you may start to hate them...and how often do we want to do something we hate? Usually, never.

Small Changes, Lasting Results

The real key to fitness and weight loss isn't a crazy exercise routine. It's about consistent exercise...doing something (anything, really) most days of the week, and allowing your body to respond to that and adapt by growing stronger and fitter.

That's what this Slow Build exercise program is all about. Take the challenge and the next four weeks will show you how to start small and gradually increase the amount of time and the intensity of your workouts.

We're also going to shift your goal away from weight loss. It's not about how much weight you lose each week. Instead, your focus is on accumulating a certain amount of exercise each week. Having a specific goal to shoot for gives you something that goes beyond weight loss—it gives you the motivation to keep going day after day.

4-Week Slow Build Exercise Program

The idea with this program is that you'll start with a certain amount of exercise, both cardio and strength training workouts, and you'll slowly add time each week so that, by the end of the program, you'll see a noticeable change in your strength and endurance.

What You Need

  • a cardio machine or a favorite activity you can do for up to 30-45 minutes
  • a few sets of dumbbells—5-15 lbs. is a good range of weights to have, but if you're on a budget or want to start with the basics, consider getting light, medium and heavy weights. For women, that might be 5 lbs., 8 lbs., and 10 lbs. For men, that might be 8 lbs., 10 lbs. and 12-15 lbs. 
  • an exercise ball (find my favorite SPRI Elite Xercise Ball at Amazon.com)
  • a resistance band (find my favorite SPRI Xertubes at at Amazon.com)
  • a mat (find a mat at Amazon.com)
  • a total of 5-7 days and 30-45 minutes of time on each of those days to complete your workouts

An Overview

  • Week 1: Your first week, you'll shoot for accumulating 150 minutes of exercise with simple cardio and strength training workouts. You'll be doing some type of activity every day—some days will include structured exercise, while others will just involve being more active.
  • Week 2: This week, your goal is 180 minutes of exercise and activity. Your workouts will, for the most part, be the same, but with some added strength training sets and a few extra minutes of cardio.
  • Week 3: This week, your goal jumps to 205 minutes of exercise. We'll be adding to your cardio workouts, increasing your light activity, and you'll see some new strength workouts.
  • Week 4: For your last week, we're going to 220 minutes, so that means a little more cardio, a little more activity and a new circuit training workout to try.

Tips for Better Workouts

  • Don't be a slave to this schedule: Not every workout or schedule will work for everyone. If you need to stay at a level for an extra week, do it. If you feel very sore or tired, skip some workouts and rest. Listen to your body and do what feels right. Modify the schedule or workouts to fit your needs
  • See your doctor if you have any medical conditions, illnesses or injuries
  • Substitute your own workouts if you have other activities you enjoy

Week 1

Woman Stretching Listening to Music
Woman Stretching Listening to Music. Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Goal: 150 Minutes of Exercise

Total Workout Time: 150 minutes

Week 2

Woman Lifting Weights on the Beach
Woman Lifting Weights on the Beach. Hero Images/Getty Images

Goal: 180 Minutes of Exercise

Total Workout Time: 180 Minutes

Week 3

Woman Jogging at Sunset
Woman Jogging at Sunset. Carlina Teteris/Getty Images

Goal: 205 Minutes of Exercise

  • Sunday: Light Cardio, 20 minutes
    • Accumulate 20 minutes of walking or any other cardio activity
  • Monday: Cardio (30 min), Stretching (10 min)
  • Tuesday: Strength Training, Approx. 40 minutes
  • Wednesday: Cardio (30 min), Stretching (10 min)
  • Thursday: Light Cardio, 15 minutes
    • Accumulate 15 minutes of walking or any other cardio activity
  • Friday: Strength Training, Approx. 40 minutes
  • Saturday: Light Cardio, 10 minutes
    • Accumulate 10 minutes of walking or any other cardio activity

Total Workout Time: 205 Minutes

Week 4

Woman Jumping Rope at Sunset
Woman Jumping Rope at Sunset. Liam Norris/Getty Images

Goal: 220 Minutes of Exercise

Total Workout Time: 220 Minutes

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