The Auto-Regulated Plan for Lifetime Fitness

This program offers the perfect combination of discipline, guidance, freedom, and agency. Craft your own program based on your mood and needs while ensuring structure and efficiency.

The fitness community is full of ardent proponents for one specific route. They are CrossFitters, runners, strength athletes, yogis, or bodybuilders. All develop their body for a narrowly defined goal. Include a tribe and unquenchable passion, and you have one of the greatest gifts in the world. Yet many do not find this, or maybe they did but it lost its luster.

The fitness community is full of ardent proponents for one specific route. They are CrossFitters, runners, strength athletes, yogis, or bodybuilders. All develop their body for a narrowly defined goal. Include a tribe and unquenchable passion, and you have one of the greatest gifts in the world. Yet many do not find this, or maybe they did but it lost its luster.

There is nothing wrong with dabbling and playing. Allow mood to direct you through a daily dose of less structured movement. We need less “do you even lift bro,” and more environmental pulls to general activity. For most people, this is the ticket. Be human. Reconnect with your body and health through a more explorative approach that ebbs and flows with your interests, moods, and the constraints of time and environment.

The nomadic human that characterized most of human history was a jack of all trades. She had to be strong, well-conditioned, balanced, and capable of performing millions of different tasks. Within a given week, life might feature long hikes, a few runs, a swim, playful wrestling, constant squatting, carrying awkward materials like firewood, and a life or death combination of sprinting, jumping, and climbing. Each day demanded something different. This variety of movement and ever-changing nutrition made primal humans into impressive physical specimens.

Today’s world demands far less physical work and far more specialization. We work in narrow fields, often separated from the industries that we rely upon for survival. With this comes a disconnect from our bodies that we aim to mitigate through equally specialized and industrialized approaches. Our gyms are sectioned off by goals: cardio equipment over here, strength over there, and stretching areas are in that corner. We even section strength equipment by dumbbells, barbells, and machines that are further separated by body part.

Plan to Fail or Plan to Succeed

To some degree, we cannot escape our reductionist approach. Humans are highly adept at categorization, an essential tool in this era of information overload. Progress requires structure and discipline.

Optimally, a sense of exploration and play would drive our movement. The paradox is that for most, freedom follows rules and routine. In our sedentary world, movement requires some planning. Quite literally, most will stop moving if not committed to an exercise schedule. Lack of guidance or forethought brings the tendency to wander aimlessly, feel paralyzed by choice abundance, and never find time for fitness. Failure to plan is planning to fail.

In a world that does not encourage movement, we must create specific blocks of time for movement. It need not be rigid. Rigidity stifles creativity and fun, and brings stress when life forces us to adapt.

A Different Type of Program

The solution is a workout program that ushers you to a daily movement block, yet allows flexibility to work however you find most interesting, appealing, and suitable to your current needs. This requires auto-regulation: the ability to choose the type and dose of movement that your body needs. Scale the intensity based on how you feel compared to past days. More importantly, do what excites you.

This approach helps you develop the tools to thrive for a lifetime. You will move better, look better, and feel better than ever before. You won’t become amazing at any one discipline, but you’ll maintain broad fitness and honor the creative, generalist nature that made humans so successful.

Guiding Principles: Establish Broad Routines

Create expectations for time blocks devoted to movement. Keep that promise to yourself and show up no matter what. Have answers for:

  • When do you move each day?
  • Where?
  • Is it different from day to day?
  • What do you do when the plan blows up?
    • For example, can you find time for two Tabata circuits on days when chaos strikes?

Guiding Principles: Start

A body at rest tends to stay at rest. Regardless of how much you enjoy your exercise blocks, there will be times when you will not want to transition from sedentary to active. To combat this tendency, immediately begin the warm up. Perform the same warm up every day to eliminate the delay that allows you to talk yourself out of moving. After five minutes, you will be thrilled that you began.

Suggested Warm Up:

  • Side plank – 20 sec/side
  • Scales – 3/side
  • Bird dog – 5/side
  • Superman – 10 reps
  • Offset squat – 5 reps
  • Quadruped knee circles – 3/side
  • Forward, lateral, reverse lunge – 1 each/leg

Guiding Principles: Prioritize the Long Game

Showing up is the most important variable. Rather than pretend to be a Navy SEAL only to burn out after a few months, look forward to movement as daily staple for years.

Variety is the spice of life. Don’t fall into “shoulds.” Once you get to the day’s movement block, do what you want to do. You may not know all the exercises, but this is part of the fun. You have a lifetime to learn, and always have the option to simply run or bike.

Consider switching things up as much as you can. Cyclists should lift sometimes and lifters should run sometimes. Each day offers the possibility for adventure.

Guiding Principles: The Intensity Continuum

Understanding the intensity continuum is the secret to this program. Each day, work at a different intensity. Humans have an amazing capacity to perform while underfed and overstressed. If you feel like pushing it, push. When you need lower intensity, lower it. You can make this decision at any point, but keep the intensity lower when trying something new.

To Lower Intensity To Increase Intensity
Lower resistance (lighter) Increase resistance (heavier)
Lower speed Increase speed
Decrease reps Increase reps
Decrease density (decrease working time vs. rest) Increase density (increase working time vs. rest)
Examples: jogging, rowing, biking, lightweight circuits, flows, jump roping, etc. Examples: sprints, jumps, heavy resistance training, medium weight with short rest circuits, etc.

The Auto-Regulated Plan for Lifetime Fitness

Once you understand these principles, you are ready for the Auto-Regulated Plan for Lifetime Fitness. This program utilizes an Auto-Regulation Movement Matrix and the Build Your Own Day Guidelines. The first is a comprehensive and categorical list of exercises. The second is a series of daily prompts that quickly directs you to the structure, focus, and exercise selection for each workout.

These tools honor your passion and need for variation, while clarifying the structure for each workout. It’s the perfect combination of discipline and guidance with freedom and agency. Follow it with a friend or family member to boost creativity, motivation, and fun. This program brings adventure that fuels learning and fitness for a lifetime.