How to start working out in 6 simple steps
We all know that exercise is important for our health and wellbeing, but working out for the first time ever (or starting from scratch after a long break) can feel intimidating and overwhelming.
So if you’re wondering how to start working out, consider this your one-stop guide to setting yourself up for success.
The benefits of starting a workout routine are both physical and mental. Regular exercise can prevent excessive weight gain, combat or control medical conditions (such as high blood pressure or diabetes), help you sleep better and boost your energy levels. The New York Times reports that just a small amount of exercise can have a big impact on your happiness – even 10 minutes a day of physical activity a day was linked to more “buoyant moods”. So if your mood needs a boost, it’s time to hit the workout mat!
We get it: you’re busy, you’ve never stuck with exercise before, you can’t get to a gym, or maybe you’re just worried that you’ll fall on your face. That’s why Emily Skye FIT created FIT Foundations, a beginners’ workout program that strips away all the barriers to make fitness accessible and fun.
Want to know more? Whether you’re looking into how to start exercising again after a break or feel ready to commit for the first time, we’ve created a step-by-step guide on everything you need to succeed.
Step 1: Set clear and realistic goals
Begin by figuring out what you want. “I want to feel better” is okay as a starting point, but being more specific with your goal – or goals – will give you concrete reasons to stick with it.
So think about what you want to achieve, and try to make the outcome as clear and objective as possible. Do you want to fit into an outfit for a special event? Will increased strength and endurance help you to pass a physical fitness exam at work? Has a doctor recommended you exercise to lower your blood pressure?
Once you have a specific goal, set a reasonable time frame to achieve it, and create a road map that breaks your goal down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Get practical. What steps do you need to take to set your goal in motion? You may need to figure out how to start exercising at home – clearing a space or investing in a set of dumbbells – or set a regular workout time that works around your job, partner or kids. Every little thing you put in place will make it easier to follow through.
Emily kept her goals realistic and gently returned to fitness after giving birth – with impressive results.
One of the most common reasons people give up after starting a workout routine is setting unrealistic goals. Think stuff like:
“I’m going to get a body like a runway model!”
“I’m going to lift the heaviest weights in the gym on day one!”
“I’m going to drop 3 dress sizes in a month!”
A realistic goal is achievable, even if it takes time and hard work. An unrealistic goal may crush your confidence or risk your health when it turns out to be unobtainable. So be real, honest and kind with yourself when setting your goals. Remember, you can always set bigger goals once you’ve got some momentum going.
Step 2: Figure out your ‘why’
Your ‘why’ is your motivating force, the thing that will get you out of bed when it’s too early or too cold. So once you’ve decided it’s time to start working out and set a specific goal that you want to achieve, be clear with yourself as to why you actually want to achieve it.
For example, if your goal is: “I want to be able to finish a 30-minute workout.” Your ‘why’ might be: “Because I want to be fit enough to keep up with my growing kids.”
This will look different depending on your life and what matters to you, but some other examples are:
“Because I need to do this to improve my health and lower my risk of heart disease.”
“I’ve always wanted to feel strong and confident in a bikini.”
“Because I want to get back to doing the sport I used to love.”
If you hit a setback, or it’s hard to fit workouts into your busy day, reminding yourself of your ‘why’ will keep driving you forward.
Step 3: Start small
No one would expect you to run a full marathon when you’ve never even run around the block. Plus, as we mentioned earlier, it only takes 10 minutes of physical activity a day to boost your mood (and motivation). There’s no rule anywhere that says you can’t start small.
Set yourself a first challenge of doing something every day, whether it’s a walk around the park or a full workout.
Don’t feel fit enough to get through a full 30-minute workout? Do as much as you can, then aim to build up by 5 minutes each week.
Start training using soup cans or light dumbbells, with an aim to increase the weight in a month or whenever you’re feeling strong enough.
FIT Foundations – a 6-week workout program for beginners – is built around this ‘start small’ approach.
In FIT Foundations, Emily will teach you the basics of exercise, letting you take it at your own pace, and allowing you to repeat if necessary. It’s low equipment, so you don’t need a whole lot of gear, and Emily will help you get a grip on the moves with tutorials and modifications. If you know you perform better with structure and a deadline, a short-term program is the perfect introduction to working out.
Step 4: Take a break
What’s that? You’re trying to get started and we’re already telling you to slow down? It might seem counterintuitive, but making a fitness habit last is all about pacing yourself.
When you’ve just started a new fitness routine and you’re super keen to get results, there can be a temptation to push your body too hard. But resist the urge to overdo it! Rest is crucial to your progress. The process of muscle repair and growth happens when you rest and sleep, and overtraining can also lead to injury or burnout.
Repeat after FIT member Jenny: Slow and steady, ladies!
In general, up to 1–3 rest days per week is recommended. But it’s important to listen to your body, especially when you’re just starting out. If you’re feeling extra tired, ill, or have a lingering injury, give yourself a break.
Resting doesn’t have to mean you completely stop, however. For instance, you may go for a walk or a swim, or do yoga or a stretching session, instead of sweating through a high-intensity workout.
Step 5: Track your progress
How will you know if you’re making progress towards your goal if you don’t track it? To make the most of your training and to continue growing stronger, you need to know when it’s time to increase the challenge. It’s also a great way to motivate yourself to keep going and push for more!
The Logbook feature on FIT makes it easy to record your weights, reps and timed exercises – so you can see how much stronger you’re getting week by week. You can also track your progress by taking ‘before and after’ photos and body measurements, or using a journal to track how you feel after working out.
Step 6: Be prepared
Those sweaty and satisfied selfies you’re looking forward to sharing on your socials? They’re going to require actual sweat.
Yes, it’s likely that you’ll experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in the beginning. For instance, your glute muscles may scream a little when you go to sit down or walk upstairs the day after a big workout. But don’t worry, this soreness will lessen as your body adjusts.
You may not have full mobility when you start working out, which can also lead to some soreness. Only move your body into positions that you are comfortable with – as you get stronger, your range of motion will increase.
If you’re new to exercise, it can be difficult to know the difference between being sore and being injured. Our FIT women’s health physiotherapist Phoebe Armfield has some quick tips that will help you differentiate between the two.
DOMS is not something you feel during a workout, but in the following day or two. For instance, if you did bicep curls on Monday, you may feel a burning sensation in your muscles when you use your arms on Tuesday and Wednesday. It may hurt to touch, but continuing to move (yes, even doing another workout) will actually help it.
Injury is more likely to cause instant pain at the time it happens (or when swelling appears in the following 24 hours after a minor strain or sprain). If you feel immediate, localised pain (or swelling or bruising appears immediately), you should stop exercising, rest, and consult a medical professional if necessary.
Picking up a set of weights for the first time? If you know what to expect when you start training, you can go in prepared.
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