Are you in a rut, haven’t worked out in months, or have an anxiety attack even thinking about exercising? Each of us had to start somewhere and depending on the day, I still have anxiety over “having” to work out, or feel like I’m needing to dig out of my rut of monotony. I haven’t always been into fitness or even working out. Up until college, my idea of exercising was dancing in show choir or marching in band (great ways to be active, but let’s be honest, I wasn’t really breaking a sweat). No matter what you’re feeling or what excuse you’re giving yourself today, try following these few simple steps and you’ll be on your way to creating your own healthy habits and fitness goals.
1. Find your safety net
My Dad has always been an avid daily runner, so I knew people exercised with a purpose, but never imagined myself waking up early to run, or finding time to make it part of my daily routine. Never even crossed my mind to work out other than when I was forced to run the dreaded mile in PE class. That wasn’t exercising to me. That was once, maybe twice-a-year torture. I actually remember losing sleep for an entire week leading up to the day our class was told we’d be running a mile around our track the next week. In middle school, my best friend and I even choreographed an injury during the first lap of “the dreaded mile” so we’d get out of it!
So what was my breakthrough in setting my own fitness goals? Nothing earth shattering. It was the summer before my freshman year in college. One day I randomly asked my Dad if I could join him on his morning run. I confirmed with him (one million times) that he would be okay with me walking. A lot. And that I would be excruciatingly slow. He assured me that was fine with him. So my Dad, an experienced runner, was amazingly patient enough with me to “run/walk”. My run was more of a slow shuffle, and I’d never make it more than a couple of blocks at a time before having to walk. Many months later we started biking. Then I dabbled in swimming. Nothing major–just enough to learn that I loved variety and the way it made me feel like I was “getting it all out”.
2. Just start already!
If you’re brand new to exercising, just start walking. If you’ve been walking, maybe jog for twenty seconds every few minutes of walking. If running isn’t your thing, ask for a walk-through or intro session at your gym—many offer this service for free. This will give you a good representation of the free weights and weight machines. Walk around the trail at a local park. Put on your shoes and walk out the front door right now. Or ask a friend if you can tag along to a workout class. Whatever sounds fun or of interest–do it!
Too anxious about working out in front of people? Keyword search for one of the thousands of free workouts (yoga, cardio, boxing, with or without weights…options galore) on YouTube. I share a couple of my favorite sites below. Just start moving!
3. Have options
Fast forward a couple of years after starting my run/walks, I did my first Sprint Triathlon with my Dad, and have been hooked ever since. I love the idea of getting outside, competing with myself. At first it was just competing with myself to not have to walk my bike up the big hills. I took it one hill at a time. “This time I’ll bike all the way up the first hill. Next time I’ll make it up two hills.” It was an amazing “win” to me to gradually grow stronger and be able to make it a bit further each time. I loved seeing results!
I was lucky to have someone patient by my side during the start of my fitness journey—and I bet you have at least one person that would be there for you (and you probably know more than one friend that is looking for a workout buddy themselves!). Find someone or something that makes you feel safe enough to ride your bike further than a few miles from your house. Secure enough to be comfortable in any sort of state of feeling overweight, out of shape, or just anxious to get out of your comfort zone.
Would I have ever started that journey if someone wasn’t there to be my safety net? My Dad didn’t really do anything spectacular or special. The only thing I remember him saying was “just a little further–let’s make it to the next street”. He didn’t have a specialty certification in life coaching or motivational speeches. He was just there. He made me feel like I wasn’t alone. An accountability partner. These days it’s just me and my podcasts, but it’s still enough to get me moving.
4. eat the way you want to feel
It’s super corny, but it’s true–you are what you eat. If you are eating non-nutrient dense foods (packaged foods and snacks, high sugar foods, chips, etc), you are going to feel heavy, lethargic, and pretty much bleh. If you want to feel energized, light, and healthy, you have to eat the part. Plants, “good” fats (i.e. fish, olive oil), “good” carbs, all the nutrient dense foods. I firmly believe it’s 20% physical activity, 80% about what you eat that means success or failure in reaching your goals. (And there is a lot to say about mental health too–that lives in both the activity and food realms, but I’ll go into that later.) Easiest thing in the world to preach, hardest thing in the world to practice. I suffer from this daily, but feel 1000 times better when I eat the way I want to feel.
Find your safety net. Your accountability partner. Whatever you want to call it. Someone/something that gets you out there to try new things. It doesn’t have to be a person. Take your dog, borrow a neighbor’s dog. Listen to an audiobook. Do what you need to get over the hump.
Just start already. Is someone doing something you’d like to do too? Ask them if you could join them one day! Or ask them what route they take, or what website they follow. (There are lots of awesome free websites that allow you to be fit in the comfort of your own home. My personal favorite is fitnessblender.com; I also enjoy Five Parks Yoga). I still have to tell myself “just go” sometimes. I did it the other day when I “forced” myself to go on an outdoor bike ride versus driving into the gym to lift weights. I was so thankful I did! I realize, on a daily basis, being hesitant to take the first step will always be present. That’s all part of the challenges and “wins” of making your fitness journey your own!
Have options. Walk/runs were safe for me. I knew I could always walk whenever I wanted to. It would never mean I was quitting when I had options. If it’s weightlifting, try out the machines before trying free weights. The machines only move in the “right” direction for you to perform the exercise how it should be done. Even better yet–try out a class that shows you proper form and gives you ideas to try out on your own. Or–just Google how to do a bicep curl, etc. If it’s biking, know that if you have to walk your bike up the hill, that’s still a heck of a good workout. And bonus! You just made it a little bit of a competition for your self. Next time try to make it up one of those hills all the way.
Eat how you want to feel. Our eating habits can make or break our goals. Each time you eat, you are making a choice for how you want to feel and live.