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If you want to make movement a regular part of your day, you have many exercise options. But you may be unsure about how to start working out if you’ve never really exercised regularly before.
Whether you’re looking to run, ride a bike, lift weights, or do yoga, just thinking about how to start working out can feel intimidating. After all, scrolling through all the fitness posts on social media—or even seeing runners easily power up the hills in your neighborhood—can make it seem like exercise comes so easily to those who are already in the thick of it.
Identify why you're ready to incorporate a regular workout program into your life and reach your goals.
This might take some digging, but it’s important you hone in on a reason that’s meaningful enough to you that it’ll push you forward. Maybe it's being able to keep up with your kids, feeling strong in your own body, or just setting aside time to focus on your own well-being.
Fitness should be about your own goals and what feels right for you.
Then, before you get started, you should also check with your doctor to get the green light to continue with whatever routine you are considering.
Exactly what kind of gear you need will depend on what kind of exercise program you want to try, but there are few staples that tend to be universal.
Check your closet to see what you already have—especially pieces that you may have forgotten about!—and if you do need to buy some new pieces, shopping off-season (say, buying zip-ups for cold outdoor running in the summer) can help you save some cash.
You should ideally be working out three to four days a week, but that doesn't mean you have to start there.
Begin by scheduling just two workouts a week!
These can be as short as a 30-minute resistance training workout. Setting a realistic goal is key to sticking with it, and since you'll probably be sore after your first handful of workouts, this means you'll have a few days to recover in between.
Doing something small each day—even if it’s 15 minutes of walking—really builds the momentum and reinforces the habit.
The best time to exercise is always the one that fits your lifestyle, your preferences, and your energy level.
You might find that becoming a morning workout person works for you, since you can get your workout out of the way before something comes along to sideline it. On the flip side, the thought of waking up extra early might completely turn you off, and you might benefit more from carving out some time after work to disengage from the workday. In that case, evening workouts might work best for you.
There really are endless types of workouts out there, and the truth is that the best workout for you is the one you'll actually do and enjoy. The number one way to find the best fit for you is through trial and error, even though it may feel daunting at first.
Start with one you're initially drawn to, whether it's barre, boxing, Pilates, dance cardio, yoga, a strength class, you name it, and keep trying new ones from there until you find what you enjoy.
Once you find a type of workout that works for you, you don’t want to go all-in right away. Take the time first to learn the basics, which will allow you to safely progress with your exercise of choice.
Many fitness apps or virtual classes offer beginner lessons, where they’ll take you through foundational work. These tend to be less intense and slower-paced, and the instructors usually give more detailed instruction so you’re less likely to get lost.
Whatever your version of too much, too soon may be, the outcome is often the same: It can burn you out, and you might find yourself dreading your workouts, or even skipping them. So take it gradually. Learn how to master the movements, and see how you feel when you make working out part of your regular life—it’s going to be more sustainable than making it your whole life.
Another option, if you feel you do need more one-on-one guidance to feel comfortable with certain moves and you can afford it, is to hire a virtual personal trainer.
Many gyms work with personal trainers, and should be able to connect you with one who is offering virtual appointments now, even if the gym is not open or taking clients in person.
You’ll likely need to invest in some equipment, especially if you’re looking to strength train. While you can—and should—start with bodyweight moves, once you get your form down, you’ll be looking to add resistance.
Apart from dumbbell sets and jump ropes, You probably want an exercise mat too, which can make exercises, especially ones where you’re lying on the ground, feel more comfortable.
Even if you're super-dedicated to your new fitness goals, some days, motivation alone just doesn't cut it (and that's totally okay). That's where an "insurance policy" comes in. If you need a little help staying on track, asking a friend who also works out to be a check-in partner.
You can fill them in on your workout plans and let them know when you follow through, and when you need an extra nudge, they can be a great source of encouragement. Of course, you can provide all of that for them too.
I love spicy foods and going to the gym.
Exercising for the rest of us.
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