One of the keys to a full and healthy lifestyle is a good balance between body and mind. The difficulty with physical training though is there are so many resources out there that that it can becoming overwhelming when one is simply trying to be fit. Because the thing is, we’re not all ultra-marathoners or pro athletes. Our fitness goals tend to be more modest than those who are interested in peak physical performance. They are the people willing to commit two to three hours a day while most of us don’t have that kind of time or luxury. Nonetheless we understand that fitness is important – and even though its not the end all be all, we want to be able to maintain our physical fitness in order to live and function well.

The worst thing you can do is just put on your shoes and run – or go to the gym and use whatever machine you feel like. It is directionless, aimless and can even be counterproductive. Instead, you ought to seek optimization and efficiency in your workout. Your workouts will take less time and yet still be effective.

So here’s a really quick and dirty list of steps you can take to determine what your fitness routine should look like. I’m not going to give any specific activity – but I’m sharing a process that will help you understand how to select your activities.

Step 1: Identify your goal

Do you want to run a 5k? Do you want to be able to keep up in your recreational basketball league? Do you want to not feel pain when you wake up in the morning? Identify your fitness goal and be specific about it. The more specific your goal is – the more you’ll be able to determine what your fitness needs are. Someone who wants to run a 5k once this year will have different training needs for someone who wants to be able to run a 5k at a drop of a hat.

Step 2: Determine your needs based on your goal

I tend to classify this under 3 categories: Endurance, Strength-Mobility, and Technique.

Most activities demand a kind of interaction between these three components, in varying degrees. It is not a question of priority, but a question of what is the right mix of these – because you will need all three.

As an example, suppose you’d like to run a 5k:

– The endurance component would demand you can maintain a speed of 3 meters per second

– The strength-mobility component would be having strong quadriceps and hamstrings, along with a good range of motion for the legs and hips.

– The technique component will be running style depending on your height, stride and foot arch.

On the other hand, suppose you just want to be able to play basketball with your friends:

– Your endurance component has to do with being able to successively burst sprints.

– Your strength-mobility component would be to have a balanced upper and lower body with emphasis on balance.

– The technique component will be related to shooting, ball handling, etc.

Step 3: Find ways to implement

The steps above are there in order to help you find really clear goals. Once that is in place, you have to make it happen!

The easiest way is to find a coach or a trainer. But it is not the kind of relationship where you passively do whatever the trainer tells you. Communicate your goals and your needs and together come up with a program that can work for you.

If getting a coach isn’t something you can do, there are no shortage of resources online – but this time, with your needs and goals in mind – you can be more critical and selective about the advice you are getting from the internet.

I never assign general workouts, because each person has different body types, fitness levels, capabilities and goals. It is up to each individual to be attentive to their own needs and expectations in order to be able to train effectively. Remember, simply training harder is not enough. Don’t put on your shoes and pile on miles and miles and miles. Think about the workouts you’re doing and how it actually contributes to your fitness goals.