If you’re a beginner in the sense you never tried working out consistently before now, or if you’re coming back after taking a long break from exercising for one reason or another, you know all too well the many benefits associated with an active lifestyle, as many studies have shown over time.
Getting started, however, is a different issue. It takes a lot of determination to get going and then sticking to it requires discipline. So it’s easy to feel intimidated and unmotivated before you even begin.
The first thing you should convince yourself of is that everyone has to start somewhere. The fitness instructors at your gym, your yoga teacher, the fit people you follow on social media, and the joggers you see out and about at the crack of dawn. They all had their rough start and at one point a 5 minute run around the block was a victory for them.
Another thing to remember is that this is about you, not them. Your individual goals, your needs and interests, what your body can and cannot do. What works for someone else may be way off from what you want and can implement for yourself, and that is okay.
Considering all this, here’s what you need to do before anything else:
1 - Understand Why You Want to Start Working Out
Identifying the reason why you want to start working out might seem obvious, but many people go at it without much thought and end up dropping what they were doing after a few weeks if not days.
Knowing why you feel ready to incorporate a consistent workout program into your life, and honing in on a reason that is meaningful enough to you, will help push you forward and stick to whatever you choose to do.
This can be anything from wanting to be able to keep up with your kids, shedding a few extra pounds, wanting to feel stronger in your own body, or just feeling better at the end of the day. More importantly, understand that fitness should be about what feels right for you and not what everyone else is doing.
We all move at our own pace so it’s okay to start small and even workout from home before joining a gym. Seeking professional and medical help is also recommended, especially if you have never worked out before, just to get that green light or some direction on what you need to start doing.
2 - Which Type of Exercises Can You Do
Have you figured out why you want to start working out? Great! Now, which exercises should you be doing?
The answer is simple - whatever works for you and seems fun! But choosing exercises that fit your goals might seem intimidating so a fitness professional, more than anyone else, will know what you need to do for the results you want to achieve.
Here are some exercise types you can familiarise yourself with, which can be done either by themselves or by combining them into a routine:
Aerobic exercises like swimming, running, and dancing, are the core and usually the start of any workout program since they include continuous movement and get your body ready for other activities.
Resistance training, plyometrics, weightlifting, and sprinting are strength exercises that will increase your muscle power and strength, usually paired up with aerobic exercises when you’re looking to lose weight so you build muscle as you lose fat.
Callisthenics are usually done without gym equipment at a medium aerobic pace. Anything from lunges, to sit-ups, pushups, and pull-ups.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a quite popular activity that you usually see done by people who have been working out for a while. HIIT training consists of repetitions of short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by low-intensity exercises and short rest periods in between.
Boot camps are timed-based, high-intensity circuits that combine aerobic and resistance exercises.
Pilates, tai chi poses, and core-strengthening exercises fall under balance or stability exercises and they’re designed to strengthen muscles and improve your body coordination.
And finally we have flexibility training. Yoga or individual muscle-stretch movements that help muscle recovery, maintain range of motion, and prevent injuries.
3 - Set Small and Realistic Goals
Maybe one of the most important parts of your new fitness plan is knowing what you can realistically achieve and how long it will take you to get there. This is because if you aim for a goal you cannot possibly reach at your current level and don’t give yourself enough time to get there, you will feel unmotivated and drop whatever progress you were making.
One way to do this is to set small, achievable goals. Let’s say you’d like to finish a 3 mile run around your neighborhood without feeling winded and exhausted. You begin with short paced runs and slowly increase the distance until you can run the whole 3 miles in one session.
Starting with small goals will not only increase your chances of success but also keep you motivated every step of the way.
4 - Expect Setbacks and Plan Ahead
Skipping one day of your workout because work got busy or you feel too tired to go at it should not throw you off your plan. Everyone, without exception, experiences setbacks, especially when they’ve just started working out.
Let’s say you wake up with no energy and can’t even go through the day without feeling tired. Consider focusing on your nutrition instead of hitting the gym or going for that run. If you still feel like you should do something, go for an easy workout or something you can do that gets your body moving without draining the little energy you have left.
If the lack of motivation starts kicking in, it may be a sign you need to change things up. It’s easy to get bored if all you do is hop on the treadmill for 30 minutes. Either skip whatever you are doing for a few days, or change it up by going for a walk with a friend instead. A change of scenery usually helps and having someone around will make it easier to pull through.
If you skipped one too many times on your workout and feel guilty, think about what caused this and learn from it. Was it because you went for a heavy meal, was it a tough day at work, or are you just feeling tired all the time?
This is normal and will happen again and often. Just prepare yourself to pick up where you left off or start small again, even if you already increased the duration or intensity of your exercises.
At the end of the day, starting to workout can and will be challenging. But understanding why you want to do it, how you can do it, and how to stick to it will help you in the long run. There are many things you can try out and see if they work for you. It’s okay to drop exercises you find boring or repetitive and try new things. The goal is always to start slow and build up on what you achieve day-to-day.
Let your body rest as well as to prevent injuries and keep track of your progress, but don’t feel discouraged if you don’t see results within one week or even for the first couple of months. Working out is a long term investment that your future self will thank you for.