Help! What workouts SHOULD I be doing in the gym?


So you wanna know if what you’re doing in the gym is ACTUALLY what you SHOULD be doing.

I get it. Like me, I’m assuming you don’t like to waste your time. And if you feel like you’re wasting your time, well, you probably just won’t do the thing that’s wasting it!

Makes sense.

Many of my 1:1 clients come to me for that very reason. To get clarity on how a well-rounded fitness plan could look to achieve the goal they WANT!

It’s your lucky day because I’m sharing the top 3 health/fitness goals AND the specific types of workouts that will put you on the straight and narrow.

Sound good? Let’s dive in!

Psssst! Wanna watch my video summary of this post? Check out this IGTV video I made for those of you who love to listen!



Whoa whoa, hold up a sec.

Before we get COMPLETELY into the meat of this post, I think it’s important to do a little self check-in.

It’ll be fun, just play along.

Have you stopped to evaluate how your current workouts (or maybe lack of) are serving you? It’s important to start forming this relationship with your body because it LITERALLY gives you all the signs and feedback you could possibly need.

Real quick - ask yourself these questions related to your past 3-6 months:

  1. Do my workouts make me feel empowered? Or punished?

  2. Have my workouts been making me feel good mentally? Or making me feel less than?

  3. How does my body feel on a daily basis? Sore, achy, fatigued, strong, energized?

  4. Is this type of exercise something I actually look forward to?

  5. Can I see myself continuing these types of workouts for a while? Is it a phase? Am I just doing it because I feel like I should?

Just answering these questions alone will help guide you on the path and help you tune more into your body before, during, and after a workout sesh! Check in often.

Goal breakdown

Alright, the part you’ve been waiting for!

In the next few sections, I outline the 3 most COMMON goals I see in the health/fitness industry and specifically clients I work with. 

It’s super important to know not only HOW exercise makes you feel, but WHAT specifically helps move you toward your goal. The intersection of these 2 is where you want to be!

This is likely not a conclusive list, so if you have further questions, contact me here! I’d love to help you with this.

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Goal #1: Fat Loss/Weight Loss

Let’s start with perhaps the MOST common goal out there. 

While there are distinct differences between fat loss and weight loss, I’ll group them together because there is also some overlap (aka, I don’t wanna bore you by adding another bullet point).

To lose body fat (and likely a few pounds too) the focus must be on building lean MUSCLE and burning fat (obvi). So how do we do that?

1. Lift Weights - Incorporate a minimum of 2-3 days per week of resistance training to build muscle. Weights, suspension training, and resistance bands are all good examples of applying resistance to the muscles. In order to build muscle, you must break them down first, so don’t be afraid to grab the heavier weights or push it a little bit here.

PSA: Ladies you will not get “bulky.” I can squat and deadlift more than my body weight and do not feel “bulky.”

2. HIIT Training - Short bursts of high intensity activity can really fire up the metabolism, more so than basic cardio which leaves your body burning fat long after the workout. HIIT can even help retain lean muscle so you’re not wasting it away with long endurance cardio. This is best kept at 1-2 workouts per week.

Try this mini workout: Find a treadmill or running track. Sprint for 30 seconds and then jog/walk at a low intensity for 60 seconds. Repeat for 15-20 minutes.

3. Movement - Daily movement is HUGE and often overlooked. It’s actually the most EFFICIENT way to burn fat and also keep your energy levels high (YAY you don’t have to do a 10 mile run). With daily movement, having a step goal of 10,000 steps (or more) per day is a great way to get this movement in.

So, what’s different about weight loss, you ask?

Weight loss is only different in that it’s more focused on the number on the scale (aka, seeing the pounds go down). All of the above practices can still apply to weight loss. 

However, for someone that feels like they have a lot of weight to lose, burning more calories will be beneficial. Meaning, they would need to include more Moderate Intensity Cardio sessions than someone just looking to lose body fat (think jogging for 30-45 minutes). 150-200 minutes of cardio per week is the recommendation (ACSM standards).

Fat Loss Sample Plan

  • Strength training: 2-4 days per week

  • HIIT training: 1-2 days per week

  • Movement:  Daily

Weight Loss Sample Plan

  • Strength Training: 2-3 days per week

  • Moderate intensity cardio: 150-200+ minutes per week

  • Movement: Daily

Goal #2: Endurance Racing

Alright, on to the next!

If you’re a runner, triathlete, or cyclist you probably already have a set training plan so I won’t get into the weeds too much here.

While most of my clients fall into the first category, I will occasionally have a client that wants to train for a run or endurance event. More power to ya!

If this is you, I always recommend a combination of strength training, cross training, and sport-specific training (the event you’re training for).

Where to start?

Always start with your sport-specific training plan and fill in the gaps from there.

For example, if you want to run a half-marathon you can pull a 3-4 day plan online (when I was training, I found mine here) and follow that.

The biggest MISTAKE I see here is people skipping out on the strength training and getting injured. So PLEASE include that at least 2 days per week to keep your joints strong (and it can even help improve your endurance time!).

If possible, warm-ups for your strength workouts should consist of a little cross training cardio so you can target different supporting muscle groups. If you’re a runner, warm up with some biking or stair climbing.

Make sense?

Sample Endurance Training Plan

  • Sport specific training: 3-5 days per week (depending on training plan)

  • Strength Training: 2 days per week

  • Cross training: Warmup for strength workouts

Goal #3: General Health

Last but certainly not least, we have general health!

If this is you, you’re probably more focused on maintaining a healthy weight, feeling strong, being flexible and just overall feeling healthy and energized.

This is a tough category to give a specific plan and recommendation to you because it’s highly dependent on your time availability AND interests.

Love to Zumba? Go for it. Boot Camp? Heck yeah. 

The KEY here is to choose activities that make you feel GOOD inside and out.

Here are some key elements to include if you’re looking to form a well-rounded plan:

  • Strength Training

  • Cardio 

  • Mobility 

  • Core training 

  • Daily movement

I recommend putting together a weekly schedule and always returning to those beginning questions in the “ASK” section.

Aaaand there you have it! 

The top 3 health/fitness goals along with specific recommendations. I hope this helps give you some clarity on what to do in the gym for your specific goal.

If you like this post but really need a specific PLAN that fits your lifestyle and someone to hold you ACCOUNTABLE to it, consider applying for my 1:1 Coaching program!

Keep moving XX,


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Hey! I’m Nicole.

Exercise Physiologist and Health Coach

I help busy women simplify healthy living and get strong so they can live their most confident, happy life.

Learn More.


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