Getting Started: Tips for Beginning a Workout Routine
When it comes to exercise, that first step is always the hardest to take. Life is busy, whether you're a young single living in the city or a stay-at-home parent in the suburbs. Making the time to work out can seem impossible. Just finding the motivation to start can feel daunting.
Getting into a workout routine takes time and effort. You don't need a personal trainer to motivate you. Only you are responsible for putting in the work. Like quitting a bad habit, the jumping-off point is wanting it for yourself. Not your spouse, your kids, or your friends.
Have you found that spark to take charge of your health but still need some guidance in getting started with a workout plan? These simple tips will give you the confidence you need to stop putting it off and take action!
It's easy to make excuses. Plus, we're often tired from work, household duties, and other obligations. Having a demanding job with long hours or a family to care for can make it extra hard to find time to exercise.
With that said, work out when you can. Does your baby regularly nap for an hour and a half in the afternoon? Do a quick half-hour workout. Can't exercise when the kids are at school because you're also at work? Find a gym that has a child watch program on-site. (Or find a babysitter to watch the kiddos.) Get up an hour early before work and get some exercise in. You need to take a shower anyway! Or, swim some laps at your local pool on the way home from work. You don't have to work out for an hour or more every day to see a change. You just have to be consistent.
Do it for yourself
It may sound harsh, but YOU need to be the one wanting to make a change and start working out, or you're not likely to stick to your workout plan. Doing it for someone else, even if it's at your doctor's suggestion, will not keep you motivated for long. You need to have the intrinsic desire to want to do it yourself, or you're not likely to keep going. Think about why you want to exercise, and remind yourself of it when you lack motivation.
This is probably the most important thing to remember when starting a workout plan. Taking on too much too soon can leave you burnt out, discouraged, sore, and fatigued. Even if you think you can handle more, it's still best to gradually build up slowly, so that you don't over-exert yourself, or worse, pull or strain something! You don't want to have to stop as soon as you start!
Looking to do a lot of cardio? Start with a mile of walking. Want to get toned and muscular? Do 10 or 15 reps with weights at first and up the amount in small increments as you get stronger.
Do activities you like
Exercising comes in a variety of forms. You don't even have to go to the gym, though you certainly can if you find it's what works for you. Hiking and walking are great low-impact options that get you out in the fresh air as well. Swimming is another excellent full-body cardio workout. Love dancing? Sign up for a Zumba class!
Get involved in whatever you enjoy and doesn't feel tedious. Mix it up with different activities on different days of the week or try new things that sound interesting to you. Getting bored with what you're doing for exercise can also quickly lead to burnout.
Avoid activities that aggravate old injuries
Have a bad knee? Taking up jogging or running probably isn't the best idea for you. Neither is swimming if you have shoulder issues. Luckily, there are all kinds of ways to get exercise! Experiment and find an activity that you like that doesn't put further strain on a pre-existing injury.
Find a place where you're comfortable
Everyone is different. Some people love hitting the gym. Others enjoy getting their exercise outdoors. Still, others prefer working out in the privacy of their own home. Whether at home, the gym, or outside, find the place you feel most comfortable exercising. You're more likely to stick to your workout regimen if you do.
A special word on gyms: Contrary to popular belief, gyms aren't just for buff people who are already in shape. After all, they had to start somewhere too! Paying for a gym membership gives some people more incentive to make the time to go. But remember that this only works if you feel comfortable in a gym atmosphere.
Set reasonable expectations
There are several things to keep in mind when it comes to setting fitness goals. First, set short and long-term goals and make sure they're reasonable. Keeping your goals healthy and attainable will not only make you more likely to achieve them, but it will also help you keep the weight off. Those who lose weight very quickly are less likely to keep it off.
What qualifies as achievable goals? That is ultimately for you to decide. However, keep in mind that you'll likely gain weight in muscle at first. Yes, even if you're doing cardio. So don't be discouraged if the number on the scales doesn't start going down right away.
How does losing four or more pounds a month sound? Pretty awesome, right? If your ultimate health goal is losing weight and you're not changing your eating habits, it's best to know that you're unlikely to achieve that amount of weight loss per month with exercise alone.
Don't get discouraged
As mentioned above, you can gain a little weight when you start working out because your muscles are slightly swollen. While a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, muscle is smaller and denser. In other words, muscle takes up less "room" than fat of the same weight.
Being a slave to the scales is a quick way to burn out. Instead, pay attention to how your clothes fit and take pride in them feeling looser than before. If you need measurable results, keep track of your stats with a tape measure. And, if you do decide to check the scales occasionally, keep in mind that your weight can fluctuate an average of 2-5 pounds throughout the day. So, whether you're using a scale or tape measure, be sure to take your measurements at the same time of day. (Just not each day!)
Don't compare yourself to others
Everyone is different: Different metabolisms, body types, amount of time we have to work out, types of workouts we do, and what we eat. Wondering why you can't look like Brenda down the street is like wondering why a daisy doesn't look like a rose. You're both simply different. Different genes, different habits, and different lifestyles mean that no two people will ever look exactly the same. So, don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself by comparing your unique self to someone else.
Celebrate your successes
Sticking to any new, healthy habit also requires a mental shift. To stay motivated, remember to praise yourself for all of your goals met, whether they are big or small. Pushed yourself and ran 2.5 miles instead of 2? Congratulate yourself! Upped your bench press weight to 150lbs from 125? Celebrate! Lost a pound more than your average last month? Pat yourself on the back!
In a nutshell, find an exercise you like, set attainable goals, and celebrate all of your accomplishments. Hopefully, these suggestions give you the inspiration and confidence you need to get started (and stick to) your exercise and weight loss journey. Best of luck!