One day a week needs to HURT. One of my favorite things is to turn my face bright red and leave the gym dripping in sweat. Hense, I created a "Red Face Friday" contract with my body. This means that on Fridays, I do whatever is necessary to make my face red during and after my workout. Since speed usually does the trick- then sprints, burpees and intensity are part of my Friday workout prescription. Pushing past barriers no matter what your mindset or circumstances, creates mental toughness. There is no optional Red Face Friday for me, I just know I have to do it.
Work Your Weakness: The most obvious benefit to programming your workouts for yourself, is that you can attack your weaknesses head on. For instance, my weaknesses, which are posted on my fridge, are double unders and muscle ups. It's up to me (and only me) to add those into my workouts and get them off my weakness list. I am not saying it's easy by any means, it requires work, but the rewards are huge. Working your weaknesses will improve other areas of your fitness through skill transfer. This means if you can improve one weakness, your hard work will show itself somewhere else in another move.
Add Variance (Pretty) Please: Who wants to have the same hair style for 40 years, Hell No. Life is about change and flow, Life is a river, it's not the rock. Variance instills the unconditional love of working out, because nothing stays the same so you are constantly drawn back in. There's a yoga class at my gym that I loved going to but once I memorized the program and realized we were doing exactly the same moves, in the same order, every week - I lost interest. Design your workout to use different machines and do different moves, even if it takes planning and feels a little uncomfortable. What's easy is hopping on the same cardio machine and doing the same workout every time you hit the gym. But that bores me. Routine bores most of us...eventually, but it is comfortable. Remember, comfort and growth are mortal enemies. If you want to be comfortable in the gym, that's fine; do that for a while until you are ready to blossom. When you're ready to see physical changes that will knock your socks off, get yourself out of a gym routine.
Frequency: If you need a little assistance, a cheat sheet from Crossfit which helps if you are looking to improve ALL areas of fitness: Cardio, Strength and Skill simultaneously. It essentially means that your week would be working out 3 days on, then 1 day off, and then repeat. This works best for you die hards because it pushes your body to it's peak ability by the 3rd day. By the 4th day, you would not be able to give it 100% so that becomes a rest day. Others like me who need to split their mornings equally between fitness and family time have to change it up. My workout schedule is more like M-W-F for morning solo workouts. I like to think of the other days as rest days but I'm not actually resting. Usually on the other days the intensity is less or I'm playing racquetball without training.
Keep it simple. Sure, you can bring your fitness magazine and start doing all the strange moves the beautiful models are doing. But I only ask that you make sure to focus on the functional movements. Two of my fitness besties are squats and push ups which are super functional and have unlimited variations. What are functional moves? Every time you go to the bathroom, you are squatting - so that makes squats functional. When you lean over to pick up something, you are deadlifting, so deadlifting is functional. Functional is your friend that keeps you from getting hurt in the real world. Because you shouldn't have a heart attack from snow shoveling, and you shouldn't break your back when you lift something heavy. Your body should be treated well by lifting heavy things and by teaching how to move properly.
Programming help from Crossfit's methodology:
G = Gymnastics/bodyweight
M= Metabolic Conditioning
G. Body Weight/Gymnastics:Squats - pistol squats or two legged
Pull-ups - assisted, strict, kipping, butterfly, with weight belt
Push-ups -diamond, wide grip, decline, on your knees, one handed
Dips - on a box, on rings, assisted
Handstands - against the wall, free standing, facing wall
Sit-ups/ V- Ups/toes to bar/knees to elbow
Jumps - broad, vertical, box
Lunges - with weight plate, with barbell, frontwards/backwards, with kettlebells
Hollow holds - hand in air or hands by your side
Planks - high/low
M. Plus one of these:Run - sprints, intervals, slow, fast
Bike - sprints, intervals, slow, fast
Row - sprints, intervals, slow, fast
Jump Rope - double/single, running, backwards
W. Then work on one of these:Deadlifts - sumo, deficit, Romanian, snatch grip
Cleans - hang, power, squat
Presses - push, bench
Squats - front, back, overhead
Snatch - power, squat
Clean and Jerk - barbell or kettlebell
Kettlebells - swings, snatches, around the world
For some sample workouts, go here or here. Otherwise, start getting creative with the lists above.
W+M one day, then M alone one day, then G + W + M one day. It's endless.
Hope that helps! Best of luck in your programming and don't forget to add in your weaknesses. Feel free to Red-Face-Friday with me, company is always welcome!