(Photo: Cavelle Schmid Photography)
Well, the answer in its most simplest form is this: just START.
But I know, it isn’t that simple!
The world is full of “new” exercisers, because people find fitness for different reasons at different times in their lives.
Maybe you’ve never “had to” work out in the past, because you were young with a fast metabolism and excellent genetics. (And P.S., That’s a deadly combination friends, because the social perception of physical activity seems to be that we only “need” to workout if we have weight to lose or muscles to build. To LOOK a certain way, not to FEEL a certain way. Totally backwards.)
Maybe you’ve worked out before and had success, but then have fallen back into old habits and are “starting over” or trying to get yourself back to previous levels of fitness.
Maybe you thought you could get fit as a means to an end, and then stop doing it once you reached your goals. (You can’t. Fitness is lifelong. Get ready to enjoy it.)
Maybe you’ve just had a baby. (I get that, I found it super tough to come back to the gym after I gave birth, and I am a fitness instructor!)
Maybe you’ve recently and/or accumulatively gained weight, and feel awkward and embarrassed about what to do at the gym, or what you’ll look like doing it. Maybe you think other people will judge or stare at you because you’re doing something wrong or you look like you don’t belong. (Side note: please do not give a f*#& what other people might think of you. You belong there just as much as anybody else, and, I can guarantee with almost 100% certainty that there are a lot less people paying attention to what you’re doing than you think. Everybody else is there to work on themselves, they’re not noticing everybody else. True story.)
Maybe you’ve been fit and confident in they gym in the past, and after being away for so long you feel like you’ve failed because you have to start all over again. (You haven’t!)
Maybe you’re feeling uncomfortable and intimidated and don’t know where you should start? Maybe you think you should be doing something because “everybody else is doing it” (#doyoueventrain ?), but you don’t really know how, or even why you should? Maybe you don’t enjoy the feeling of fitness right away, and you’re unsure if your attempts are even worth the pain and sweat of each session?
Yeah, #realtalk, sometimes working out is hard. It is. It can be physically exhausting and painful and difficult. And it’s supposed to be.
But the benefits far outweigh the negatives, I promise!
So how do you start?
Well, first, you need to decide to start.
Let go of any expectations or judgements on yourself, and decide that you’re going to join/re-join the gym/studio/club/facility. The very first step is to commit to your fitness. Just do it.
Stop worrying about what you look like, or that people are CLEARLY going to notice that you have gained 30 pounds. Stop worrying that you don’t belong. YOU BELONG.
Pack a really sweet gym bag and keep it locked and loaded in your car. This step is crucial to be SURE there are absolutely NO obstacles to you showing up because you “forgot your stuff”. (Click HERE to check out what kind of cool shit I keep in my perma-ready gym bag.)
Then, you need to SHOW UP.
You don’t need to know how to do everything, you don’t even need to have a plan at the beginning… you just need to start going.
The first month or so will be about creating (or re-creating) a routine and a habit.
So show up, 3-4 times a week, around the same time of day if you can, and start moving.
If you have no idea what to do or how to use any equipment, don’t panic! Start by using an inconspicuous and innocent-looking cardio machine and just walk briskly, or run, climb, cycle, etc. for 30-45 minutes. That’s it. Habit forming. (And let me be clear: I am not saying that doing cardio for 45 minutes 3x per week will get you to reach your fitness goals. No. I’m saying, if you’re brand new to fitness, you need to start somewhere, and a cardio machine is not nearly as intimidating or potentially dangerous as learning how to weight train properly.)
Once you’ve started getting comfortable with the club, start asking questions. Get a group fitness schedule. See if your membership includes any complimentary fitness assessments or education sessions and sign up for those bad boys. Speak with a personal trainer and ask if they have any tips, suggestions, or advice. Just try to take advantage of as many programs or sessions that new members are entitled to as possible.
Next, you can start to research and educate yourself. As you start getting familiar with your gym or studio, pay attention to how it’s organized and where equipment is located. Look closely at what other people are doing. Situate yourself on a treadmill or bike that has a good view of the gym floor, and observe. What are people doing? What muscle do you think they’re working when they do a specific move? How long are they spending doing each exercise? This will not make you an expert, but being observant can help you learn.
Now, you can start to figure out what you want to work on. Are you aiming to build strength in your upper body? Do you want to tighten up your midsection, gain muscle in your legs, or just lose weight overall? Most* fitness goals will require that you work with weights and strength train 3-4 times per week. Yes ladies, even if you don’t want to build “manly” muscles, strength training is important to help your body burn fat later. I’m telling the truth. The more muscle you have, the more effectively your body can burn fat. So you’ll need to learn how to lift.
You may have zero idea of how to lift weights properly. If that’s the case, you can look into getting a personal trainer, which is hands-down the best way to train as a newb. One-on-one guidance, education, support, and focus on YOUR personal goals. But, it is expensive. Totally worth it, but an investment for sure.
If you can’t afford a personal trainer, find out which group fitness classes are strength based. At my gym, we have an incredible weight-training program that’s perfect for beginners (well, it’s perfect for any level, actually) called BODYPUMP that will literally teach you exercises for every part of your body. It’s 1 hour, it’s hard, it’s fun, it’s done to music, and it’ll give you a well-rounded weights workout while helping you learn how to move properly and safely with a barbell. Your gym may have something similar – ask an associate to give you some ideas, or find out where all the class descriptions are listed.
At the very least, If you don’t know what to do with the equipment, YouTube it. You can easily search “upper body circuit” or “dumbbell leg exercises” to see demos of how to move safely with weights. Also, pinterest. (Again, I’m not suggesting these things will make you an expert, but it will help you learn as you go, and they’re good tools to have in your back pocket.)
If you’ve done all of the above things, muddled through the first few weeks, started feeling more comfortable and less UNcomfortable in the gym environment, have increased your activity levels by several hours per week… by the 3rd or 4th week you’ll probably notice that you FEEL better, both physically and mentally – and that will give you a boost in motivation to CONTINUE along your path. You may even have lost a few pounds, which is great! And while weight loss is a common goal, please try not to become a slave to the scale. If you want to do some tangible measuring, take actual inch measurements, and go by how your clothes are fitting. If you put on muscle and lose fat, the number may not move much on the scale. It’s also possible to GAIN weight but LOSE fat, because muscle weighs more than fat. So promise me you won’t stress about a damn number!
The VERY first benefit of exercise is the way it makes you FEEL. I’m talking energy levels, mental state, and attitude. You’ll start FEELING better about yourself way before you really start SEEING any changes.
(That’s why you have to START NOW. Girl, put in #werk.)
And that’s the point. If you can commit to fitness and wellness because of the internal benefits, instead of the external rewards, you’ll no longer perceive that you lose X pounds and then mission = accomplished.
Newsflash: It’s never accomplished.
Maintenance takes work too, friends. Lots of work. So start enjoying it!
It’s best to start slow and steady, build a healthy habit with your relationship with fitness, learn and try new things often to keep yourself engaged, and be physically active because it’s good for your body, mind, and soul. It allows you to keep up with your kids, walk your dog with ease, carry all your groceries, and manage alllllll of life’s brilliant and frustrating obstacles with sanity and mental clarity.
And hopefully, that means you’ll never need to “re-start” your fitness journey.
You’ll be on it forever.