Whether you’re new to fitness or returning to it after a long break, just getting started is, more often than not, the biggest challenge that everyone faces. (In fact, we’ll let you in on a secret. Sometimes even gym-lovers have days where they struggle to push the ignition switch and get going!)
Once you’ve got some momentum, it does get easier but it’s helpful to have some tools in place to get you kick started to overcome that initial hurdle. We’ve put together some of our favourite strategies for getting started and the best part is that these will work for you whatever your fitness level. This means that they can stay with you as you grow, so you become one of those people who consistently makes time for themselves, with mysterious ease.
5 minute read
You probably weren’t expecting Einstein quotes on a health club blog, but we think he says it perfectly, “nothing happens until something moves.” Getting started is always the hardest part and in our experience, the best way to kickstart a fitness plan is to simply get moving. Once you’ve got that ball rolling the ball moves by itself, almost.
This first step sounds so simple because it is. Even just 20 minutes of exercise can make a big difference. Many people don’t make the start because they think that getting fit and healthy involves a time commitment that they just can’t sustain.
Just 20 minutes of exercise, on a regular basis, will compound over time and make a noticeable different to both your mental and physical health. Why? Because short workouts are far less daunting and it makes them much easier to sustain. And, as your consistency increases, so will your confidence. Put it altogether and you’ll have more happy days and enjoy the sort of momentum you need to keep that ball rolling.
Make it Fun
If you’re going to commit to being active, you might as well start with something you enjoy doing. You’re more likely to stick to your fitness regime if you look forward to it. Despite what you might have heard, working out doesn’t have to be intense and painful to be effective.
Building an effective routine will look different for you than it does to someone else, because only you can define what ‘effective’ means to you in your life. That could look like a reviving yoga session, a sociable game of Racketball or a 20-minute, music-fuelled spin class. If it makes you feel good then that’s an effective workout for you. You make the rules and you have nothing to prove. Exercise is always better when you don’t take it too seriously.
To help keep your workout light and enjoyable, a beginner’s mindset is a great way to approach new activities. With an open mind and no self-inflicted pressure to ‘be the best’ you’ll be more inclined to take a chance and sign up to that new classes you haven’t tried before and have a laugh as you fumble your way through. It doesn’t matter if you lose your balance on a yoga move or throw a dud punch in a boxing class, the point is that you’re giving yourself the opportunity to try new things and find out what really floats your boat.
Find the Time
This is always the tricky part. Making time for your health and fitness only feels difficult when you don’t think it deserves the space in your life, no matter how busy you are. But, like sleep, work and socialising, keeping active is critical to good mental and physical health.
To help you develop a consistent routine you’ll need to make a promise to show up for yourself even on the tough days. Mostly on the tough days because, showing up is easy when you’re in the mood and feeling motivated. The easiest way to follow through and sustain a routine is to not overwhelm yourself with the belief that you have to perform at your peak for an hour, to make a workout worthwhile.
At first, the key is to just show up, even when you don’t have the energy. Because it’s the action of showing up that’s most important when building a new habit or routine. Energy levels will fluctuate, it’s normal. It can be down to hormones, stress, illness or external factors. Even the weather and seasons impact our energy levels.
Low and moderate intensity workouts, as well as short workouts, are still worthwhile. If you sign up to a 20-minute HIIT or Pilates class on your lunch break, you’ll still have time to shower and grab a sandwich afterwards. Even if you just show up for a coffee in our lounge, you might find that once you’re here you decide to join a 20-minute class after all.
By showing up you’re sending your subconscious the message that you are someone who doesn’t quit. When you’ve got your brain on board, you’ll find it much easier to get your body to follow.
We’ve all done it. Jumped into a new activity a bit too ambitiously, pushed ourselves too hard and then quit from exhaustion or injury. It’s enough to put anyone off from returning to the gym and it’s a sure-fire way to undermine your routine before you’ve even begun.
While ambition is a powerful catalyst for motivation, if it isn’t managed in a way that you can sustain, then you’ll only be setting yourself up for failure. Initially you might experience a boost in your mood from the dopamine hit but most people who take this approach will eventually hit a roadblock that prevents them from going. This can spark a painful sense of failure that’s hard to recover from and it can even put you off for good.
But it’s a common mistake and one that you can avoid easily.
The best way to integrate health and fitness into your lifestyle is to approach it in a more controlled way. Start slow and focus on continuity. That way you’ll hardwire the message to your brain that you can do this; you are doing this. By starting small to strengthening those new neural pathways to your brain you will avoid reinforcing the dangerous story that exercise is just ‘too hard.’
Ask for Help
You don’t have to do this all alone. At first it can make all the difference to lean on your friends, family and of course us to help you build an activity into your routine. If you have friends or family who are already living healthy and active lifestyles then ask if you can join in with them. You might fear that you’ll hold them back but, in fact, most forms of exercise are surprisingly easy to adapt to different fitness levels and you know what? People like to help.
Even if your friends and family aren’t into health and fitness, you can share your goals and ideas with them anyway. Sometimes just saying it out loud or telling someone else, can help you feel more accountable. You might discover that they have similar aspirations and you can kick start your workout plan together. Maybe you’ll even give them the inspiration they’ve been looking for, to get moving.
Talking through your workout plan and making small, achievable goals is a great way to stick to your routine. Use the wisdom that’s out there in the world, for example S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) the goal-setting technique used by businesses and individuals around the world.
Taking classes are another great way to join a community of like-minded people who can help you get the moves right at first, and eventually support you on your fitness journey as you build friendships. If nothing else, the combined energy of the people in the room will work wonders to improve your motivation.
Celebrate your Wins
Accomplishments, no matter how small they seem are wins. Acknowledging your wins, even the little ones, is a powerful strategy for boosting motivation and confidence. By patting yourself on the back regularly, you’ll reinforce a sense of forward momentum and the belief that your efforts are paying off. This will encourage you to keep going.
Even if you only manage to set aside time for a 20-minute workout, celebrate the fact that you showed up at all. This is a win, and you should be proud.
At Forest House we’ve developed a timetable of sessions that vary in length and intensity. The goal of this timetable is to support you as you kickstart your way to a healthy and active lifestyle. Even if you only have 20 minutes to spare, we offer a range of workouts, at our Watford Health Club, that will keep you moving. From gentle stretch, yoga, Pilates, breathwork and mindfulness classes to high intensity indoor cycling and functional fitness bootcamp classes – there’s no need to ever feel like you can’t overcome your time and energy barriers.