If you’re new to working out (or if you’re just thinking about incorporating fitness into your life), first thing first congrats. Deciding to be more active is an incredible first step to cashing in all of the amazing benefits of exercise, from better moods to improved sleep to all-around higher confidence.
But once you’ve resolved to start working out, that’s where things can get a little overwhelming. With all of the chatter about the magic workout to do or the perfect amount of time to spend in the gym, it’s hard to know where to start. And if you’re not clear about what you’re doing (or why you’re doing it), it can be easy to throw in the towel when things don’t go as planned.
Let these 18-star trainers be your guide. They help clients progress from beginners to fitness fanatics all the time, so they know what it takes to set themselves up for success. And, hey, they were all once beginners, too. Here are the habits, strategies, and mindsets they swear by for people who are new to working out.
- Identify your “why,” “what,” and “how” so you can be clear about your goals (you can even write these down).
“The first step is truly taking the time to figure out your why, what, and how. The questions I ask my clients are: Why are you adding fitness and wellness into your life now? In what ways will your life be different when you have fitness in your life on a regular basis? And how are you going to include fitness into your lifestyle today, and this week? Once you know the why, what, and how, the mindset is ‘just do it.’ Nike got it right with that one.
- Try starting with three 30-minute workouts a week to pace yourself.
“If you are just starting a new workout program, don’t overcommit or over-perform! Try starting with three days a week, and scheduling it into your week like a doctor’s appointment. No need to take a full class—stay for 30 minutes, or try a short private training session or an at-home workout. You want to make sure you are working yourself into shape safely and effectively. Then, after week four, try adding another 30 minutes every other week. You’ll be surprised how empowered you’ll feel!
- Prioritize consistency over intensity.
“You are better off doing a 45-minute, moderate-intensity strength circuit three times per week than to do a two-hour, high-intensity workout six times a week, and then burning out in three weeks because it’s not sustainable. And remember that it takes time and consistency to build your body, but one workout can put you in a better mood. You leave it all in the gym: the annoying boss, the argument with your best friend, being stuck in traffic… It’s like you get to press reset.
- Find other active people to support your efforts.
“Motivation is what gets you started, but making things a habit is how you keep the longevity of an active lifestyle. Having friends, family, and coworkers that exercise with you can help you to persevere. Try to find workout buddies to do healthy things together. Also, what you do outside the gym will have a big influence on the workouts you do inside the gym making positive changes in your nutrition, hydration, sleep, and stress levels will create big results.
- Do workouts you actually like you’re more likely to stick with it.
“My best advice for beginners is to find something you enjoy and focus on small, incremental progress each day. I believe that we get the best results from consistency, and in order to be consistent we need to enjoy the journey. That’s why I like to focus on small daily goals small goals completed each day make for big progress over time and give us a sense of accomplishment daily.
- Invest in a great pair of shoes.
“Wearing old, broken-down shoes can negatively impact your joints and ligaments, especially if you’re running, sprinting, or doing plyometrics. So selecting the correct shoes for your workout is important: For instance, tennis shoes are built for lateral movements. If you’re lifting weights, you will want a harder, flatter bottom of your shoe so you feel more connected to the floor. And if you are a runner, most specialty running stores will give you a stride assessment to help decide what shoes are best for your arch, heel strike, and foot width. Invest in a shoe that can be as diverse as possible in the gym and outside, but gives you the correct support your foot needs.
- To avoid burnout and injury, start slow and take breaks during your workouts.
“Start slow, set realistic goals, be gentle with your body, and take breaks as often as necessary. Making the commitment to begin a new workout is hard enough, so if you’re not honest about your physical fitness level and go too hard, you’re setting yourself up to potentially burn out or get injured, and that’s so far from the intended goal.
- Accept that you’ll have setbacks, and that’s OK.
“Be patient with yourself you will have setbacks, and every day will not be perfect. The key is to be persistent and keep moving forward. The only thing constant in life is change, so we should be prepared to make changes to be the best version of ourselves.