Raise your hand if you started the new year with a goal of getting more exercise? Now tell me . . . for how many years have you made that same goal but struggled to reach it?
We all know that exercising regularly is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle – but it’s also no secret that keeping up with this healthy habit can be a major challenge. There’s the issue of finding time to work out, making it a priority, and choosing a form of exercise that’s enjoyable to you. Sometimes, of course, it takes sheer willpower to maintain the habit of working out. I mean, sometimes you just have to do the thing.
If you’re motivated to add a healthy dose of exercise to your day, but you need a little bit of encouragement and maybe some simple ideas, here are 10 tips for starting a new workout routine.
Set a Goal
I’ll be straight up with and just say it out loud — goal setting is not my forte. It doesn’t break my brain to set a goal, but coming up with the steps it will take to meet it, thinking about those, literally makes my head hurt. So instead of setting a goal for something like, “working out for 60 minutes, 5 times a week, I’ve made it easier on myself by setting a goal based on how Id like my fitness to improve and what I think will get me there, in baby steps. I also think about the type of exercise I’ll be doing because it’s going to have to at least be minimally enjoyable. I would suggest thinking along those lines, too. For instance, if you want to build endurance, say by becoming a runner, set a goal to complete the Couch to 5K program, especially if you’re new to the sport. Having an activity-based goal will help you build and keep your routine as you strive to achieve your goal.
Develop a Positive Attitude
Negative words and attitudes are self-limiting in every area of your life, but probably none more so than exercise (well, except maybe eating habits). They can make you feel like you’re never going to achieve your goals or maybe even like it’s not worth it to try. This kills any motivation you might have had to work out. You can keep a positive attitude by focusing on your goals and by envisioning how great it will feel to achieve them. I’m not opposed to writing down all the encouraging quotes and Scripture you can find on post-it notes and placing them all over your house either.
Schedule the Exercise Time
Most people can’t just show up for work whenver they wish, or just walk into the doctor’s office to be seen unannounced. No, these things are set in our schedules. Treat working out just like any other appointment by setting up a time for it on your calendar. Be specific and intentional about making it a time you will be able to stick with. By setting a particular time for exercising, you are mentally prepared that at that moment, without any question, you will be working out and not have to think about what you should be doing instead. This makes maintaining the routine easier, and shows yourself that exercise is an important priority.
Find a Workout You Like
I touched on this when talking about goal-setting, but it’s worth discussing further. When you’re doing something you actually enjoy, it is easier to stay motivated. Why spend more time than you have to do anything you don’t like? There are just too many forms of exercise out there of all different kinds to settle for an activity you can’t stand. I, for one, will likely never do a Couch to 5K. The idea of running does not fill me with hope for the future. No, it makes me fear broken ankles and injured knees, because I am a klutz and would likely trip over my own feet. However, I love the recumbent bike. I’m not likely to fall off it, and I can listen to music or watch This Is Us on the NBC app while I mindlessly peddle. Not a big organized work-out person? That’s okay, too. Start counting your steps. Wearing a Fitbit will help you track your steps and keep you motivated when you’re tempted to park in the closest parking spot at Walmart (really . . . it’s weird how that happens).
After being sedentary for some time (like a lifetime), it may be difficult to work out in the beginning or for long periods of time. Higher intensity workouts may be intolerable, making it difficult or even discouraging for you. Start slow and gradually add time. Last year when I first began exercising again, after many years, I celebrated a 15-minute walk in my neighborhood for the first couple of weeks. It wasn’t long before I was riding the recumbent bike for an hour or taking a 3-mile walk in our hilly neighborhood (keeping up with my fit 16-year son). Okay maybe it took a couple of months, but in the whole scheme of things, that’s not long!
Both the timing of your meals and what you are eating are essential when it comes to exercising. If you work out when you’re too full, you might feel nauseous or experience cramps. If you work out when you’re too hungry, you may not have the energy you need to complete your workout. For me, it helps to eat a pre-workout snack about 60 minutes before I exercise, and I often follow up with a high-protein smoothie after.
Avoid Gym Peak Times
My son and I joined Planet Fitness last year (where there almost always is a recumbent bike available), but it didn’t take long to figure out when we should go and when we shouldn’t. Gyms get easily crowded especially in the early morning, during the lunch hour, and in the evening right after work hours. If you want to avoid crowds and the long wait times for equipment, avoid those peak times. The mid-morning and afternoon hours are less likely to be crowded, so you’ll experience fewer interruptions and less self-consciousness (if that’s an issue for you — it is for me, so I wanted to mention that).
Find a Workout Buddy
Having someone who holds you accountable can help you stick to your routine. A friend with similar goals as you and who has a consistent exercising routine can be motivating. If you have a teen, you’ll not only have a built-in workout buddy but exercising together can strengthen your relationship. I never imagined how encouraging and helpful my teen son would be for me.
Hire a Personal Trainer
This is especially important if you’ve decided to join a gym and you have no clue where to begin. A personal trainer can help you develop a workout routine, provide accountability, help with setting goals, and also teach you how to perform your exercises safely and effectively. Most gyms give you access to personal training sessions, often included in the cost of your membership. Even if you have to pay a little extra, it’s well worth it.
Use Wicking Gear
So if you sweat like a pig, like me, I just wanted to give you a little bit of advice about that. Wicking fabrics pull sweat away from your body and dry quickly. Workout clothes made from this type of fabric are more comfortable and will prevent rashes and chafing. This is important especially for those of us who are a little fluffy in the thigh area if you know what I mean.
So there you go. Not to bad, right? You can do it, friend. Start now setting that goal, and then do your best to keep up with your new routine – you’ll be enjoying the benefits of exercise for the rest of your (healthier!) life.