Too busy, overcommitted, not enough time, other priorities? Do you ever feel like your best attempts at staying fit and healthy end up derailed by excuses? If so, it may be time for you to make a plan: your Fitness Action Plan.

Many people with good intentions to exercise regularly never make it to the gym because they lack a plan. While you may think that you're motivated to work out, actions speak louder than words. If you haven't laced up your running shoes in a month or more, it's time to try a new approach to getting out the door.

Plans help us identify and focus on our priorities, providing us with structure and motivation to take action. What gets scheduled is usually what gets done. You plan activities for your work, family, and social life. Why not plan for exercise? Once you create a Fitness Action Plan, you'll no longer need to worry about what workouts to do, and when to do them. You'll just look at your plan and follow it. Ready to get started?

Look Before You Leap: Pre-Plan Considerations

You're excited to start planning--but not so fast. Creating the wrong plan for you is worse than having no plan at all. How do you ensure that your plan is right? Take the following steps before you begin:

Get a physical.

Even if you feel generally fit, it's wise to schedule a check-up with your doctor before you start your new exercise endeavors. Tell your doctor of your plan to ramp up your fitness, and be sure to discuss any injuries or medical issues. Get a clean bill of health before proceeding.

Look at what's on your plate.

Everyone should try to get the recommended amount of daily activity--at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per day, five days per week according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But certain periods in our life make starting a new schedule particularly tough. Be sure to choose a time when you don't already have an excess of other commitments. For example, if you have a planned vacation in two weeks, then plan to start your Fitness Action Plan when you return.

Choose your activities.

Part of the difficulty that many people have with exercising is that when they find time to do it, they're not sure what to do. If you decide in advance what types of activities to include, you're halfway there. Do you prefer working out alone, or with a group? Do you like biking, hiking, or swimming? Soccer? Yoga? Spinning classes? Write down a few activities to focus on. Be sure your choices are realistic logistically--for example, if you like to swim but don't live near a pool, this might not be a good choice for you.

Formulaic Fitness: Designing Your Plan

You've got the go-ahead from your doctor, and you've picked the perfect time to start your plan. Now what? With your pre-planning complete, it's quite easy to design an individualized plan:

Get a calendar.

A calendar is the centerpiece of your Fitness Action Plan. You can use either a paper calendar or an electronic one such as those found in Google or your e-mail program. It helps to see a full-month view, if you're picking a calendar at a stationery store.

Pick your days.

Use the CDC's guideline of 30 minutes a day, five days a week of exercise as your starting point. (The guideline allows for stints of exercise that are shorter than 30 minutes per session, so long as your weekly total adds up to 150 minutes.) Keeping in mind your other responsibilities, choose which days of the week you'd like to do your workouts and record this on your calendar. For example, you might schedule a 30-minute walk on Wednesday through Sunday at 6AM every day of the month. You can repeat this same plan every week, or vary it.

Work your plan.

You've got it in writing now; all that's left to do is follow your own directives. Just as you check your calendar each day to see what's in store at work, do the same with your Fitness Action Plan. To help ensure that you stick to it, prepare the night before for morning workouts by laying out your clothes and gear, and for afternoon or evening workouts by packing your gym bag in advance. With your plan as your guide, you're much more likely to reach your fitness goals.