Sometimes the hardest part is taking that first step.
It’s that time of year again, when new starts are all the rage. Many people go into January with resolutions and good intentions, especially those of the fitness variety. Actually getting started, though, can often be the biggest hurdle.
Despite the good intentions, the thought of getting up early, or heading to the gym after work instead of drinks with friends or even just home to catch up on TV, can deter some people from realizing those goals. For others, the fear of jumping into a brand-new environment leads to hesitation and inaction.
I understand that stepping inside an unfamiliar gym, maneuvering foreign fitness equipment, and staying consistent can all seem daunting. But we know that making fitness a regular part of your life can come with endless benefits—benefits that can only be experienced once there is some consistency in your routine.
Clients often ask me, “When will working out get easier?” and “When will my fitness routine become second nature?” The answer to these questions is, generally, once it becomes a habit. Once you are accustomed to an active way of living, it will feel less and less burdensome, and you might even start to feel that it’s something you can’t live without.
It’s impossible to know exactly how long that will take, but what’s certain is that the first step is actually starting. So, without further ado, here are my seven top tips for doing just that. I promise it’ll be well worth it.
1. Pick an official start date.
Look at your calendar and pick a date that will work for you to get started. Your date should be at least three days away, preferably at least a week out. That way, you have sufficient time to line everything up (more on preparation later) before your start date. Schedule it in your calendar, like you would a doctor’s appointment or work meeting. Making a concrete plan is a good, simple way to get mentally organized and prepared for the change in behavior that’s about to come.
2. Spend some time figuring out why you want to start exercising.
Without some sound reasons behind your fitness pursuits you might find your enthusiasm for exercise short lived. Try to pick a why that will endure in the long run. When our goals are tied to changing our bodies for a particular event or season, it’s tough to stay motivated once that time has come and gone.
Some things to ask yourself: What do you hope to get out or your new routine? What outcomes do you wish to see? Take some time to make a list of your goals and intentions so that the process has a tangible outcome that will entice you to move closer to your goal each day.
3. Make a list of things you’ll need for your first workout.
Have you heard the saying, “Fail to plan, plan to fail”? Well, there’s some truth to it. Preparation is a key component to fitness longevity and is especially important in the beginning. If we find ourselves ill-prepared, it makes it more difficult to exercise and many times that can lead to bailing on the gym and our goals altogether.
When we think about getting started with a workout routine, we see ourselves sweating it up in the gym or maybe running in our neighborhood. What we tend not to think too much about is the sneakers and sports bra we’ll be wearing, what we’ll do with our keys and wallet, whether we’ll need water before, during, or after. These are the little details that you can hammer out in minutes but will make you so much more likely to meet your workout goals.
Before you start your new routine, check on what you have and what might help you feel more prepared by your start date. Do you need new shoes, or are the ones you have sufficient? Do you have a water bottle? Have you shopped around and decided what membership or class pass you need to buy? How about your schedule? Have you cleared the time to do the workouts you plan to do? Getting prepared ahead of time will help set you up for success.
4. Visualize what your new routine will look like and how it will make you feel.
Visualization is a great mental technique for easing uncertainty and fear about something new. It’s a tool elite coaches teach to Olympians and professional athletes, and it can be just as useful to everyday fitness enthusiasts, too.
Spending time imagining what a situation will look and feel like can help prepare you mentally for what’s to come. Then, when you actually do that activity, like, say, walking into a gym and spending 30 minutes lifting weights, it feels less scary because you’ve already “seen” yourself doing it successfully.
5. Plan your workouts around what makes you feel most motivated and energized.
Some people love early morning workouts and look forward to starting each day with exercise. Others dread getting out of bed and don’t feel like they can perform well until later in the day. Some people are motivated by high-intensity group classes, while others prefer to head to the gym on their own time to work at their own pace.
We are all different, but one thing that’s true for everyone is that it’s so much harder to feel motivated in a situation where you just don’t feel energetic or inspired. Figuring out the times of day and types of exercise that get you the most excited can help ensure the best outcome.
6. Create an accountability system.
Figure out what will keep you honest. For some people, it’s working out with a friend or coworker so they’ll have an extra reason not to miss a workout. For others, it’s setting up a reward system so that after a month of consistent workouts, they’ll treat themselves to something they otherwise wouldn’t. For other people, simply tracking workouts in an app or in writing gets the job done. Figure out which one is best for you and put that system in place.
7. Reframe what it means to be successful.
Celebrating your accomplishments can go a long way and help keep you motivated, especially in the beginning. Even just acknowledging that getting started is an accomplishment in and of itself can give you that boost to keep going.
Whatever you do, don’t wait till you’ve met all the goals you’ve set to celebrate your accomplishments. It’s worth celebrating every single time you make a choice that’s aligned with your goal. Don’t withhold a celebratory selfie, pat on the back, or some kind words from you to you just because you have yet to see or feel the results you’re hoping for. Making the choice to stick with your commitment is the accomplishment.
Remember: Small steps are what lead to sustainable change. Be proud of each and every one that you take.
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