Perhaps you’ve dabbled in various workouts posted by top fitness accounts, but have yet to find a routine that works for you. Maybe you’ve been a cardio queen for years but hit a block in progress and motivation. You might even be someone that hasn’t moved your body since, well, you can’t even remember.
It can be an overwhelming world when you choose to begin exercising. There are plenty of fitness programs claiming you will get you a “bikini bod” or get you “shredded” if you use their program. There’s a mentality that endless cardio is the key to losing weight. It’s common to want to follow the exact exercise style of your favorite influencers.
But which plan is right for you?
5 Surprising Truths to Understand Before you Start an Exercise Routine
I’m here to shed some surprising and even unpopular truths to consider as you begin your exercise routine.
1. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all program.
I don’t care what anyone tries to tell ya, there’s no perfect exercise program that works for everyone. Not only do you have a unique body that will respond to various modes of exercise differently than your neighbor down the street, but your desires and goals are likely different too.
Be careful if you notice yourself thinking that you need the program of your favorite fitness influencer just because you admire them. It still needs to fit you, your needs and your comfort level.
2. Exercise can (and should) be fun.
If you are someone who despises running, and you force yourself to hop on the treadmill because you think you have to - stop.
Maintaining an exercise routine amongst your busy schedule is hard enough.
You don’t need to suffer every time you move your body. There are so many ways to exercise, including many that exist outside a gym (i.e., dancing, hiking, a basketball game with friends). Do a little trial and error and find a few things that you not only enjoy, but that feels good for your body too.
3. Rest and recovery days are not optional.
I sure hope this is a no-brainer, but it is an essential reminder.
Sometimes when we jump into a new exercise routine, we go in full force. We work out every day because we are trying to slay our goals asap. This is not only unsustainable for your spirit and motivation, but your body will see better results (and feel better) when you give it time to rest.
Plan in days to rest, stretch or go for a casual walk in between workout days.
4. Cardio (and counting calories-burned) or spending hours at the gym are a thing of the past.
Many people are starting to recognize this shift happening in the fitness industry, but in case you missed the memo, working out does not need to consume your day or mind. Unless you are training for a specific sport or an athlete, there’s really no reason your exercise routines should be more than an hour. Many effective workouts are 30 minutes or less.
Cardio, especially among women, has been the holy grail to slimming down. Endless hours on a treadmill or elliptical are not only boring AF, but there are so many more effective exercise options out there.
It’s time to realize the impact that a variety of exercise modalities (low impact - yoga, pilates, biking, dancing; higher impact - weightlifting, HIIT, kickboxing) have on your physical body and mental health.
5. Your intention matters.
Sure, losing weight or gaining muscle definition are common goals and reasons to start an exercise routine. But how many times have you still quit or lacked consistency having this in mind?
There is nothing wrong with weight loss or strength gains as your intention for exercising, but there’s something deeper that may be an even bigger motivation. If your body changed in the ways you desire, what would that cause for you? How would you feel? What’s your deeper intention for exercising more regularly? For this, think more about the feeling or lifestyle changes it would provide for you instead of only your appearance.
Are you still with me?
I hope these truths offer you some relief and a little less stress to conform to “what’s trending.” To help you even further, here are a few questions to reflect on before starting your exercise routine:
- What’s your “why”? - Weight loss or strength gains are lovely, but what is it about achieving these things are important to you? (Confidence, ability to play with your kids, freedom to live with less pain…)
- What type of movement and equipment do you enjoy? - there are so many options available, and it does not need to be standard gym equipment (dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, TRX, dance, walking, running, biking, yoga, pilates, basketball, tennis, kickboxing…)
- How much time do you realistically have (or want) to move your body? - Start small; so that you can achieve it and build trust in yourself (20 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour)
- How many days do you realistically plan (or want) to move your body? - Start small, you can always build in more days once you get consistent (1-3 days if you’re not moving your body regularly, 4-5 days if you are consistently exercising but need to refine your routine)
Now that all of that has been addressed let’s move on to planning your exercise routine.
How to Start an Exercise Routine
As we move forward, it will be most beneficial if you have done the previous reflections. Otherwise, you may default to things you’ve seen promoted rather than things that feel right for you.
1. Declare where and when you will move
Are you working out at home? If so, which room? Are you working out in a gym or studio? Which one?
Then, choose which day each week you are going to exercise.
If you are starting out, perhaps 2-3 days a week feels appropriate. This could be Tuesday and Thursday each week or Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
And finally, what time? First thing in the morning? Right after work?
Simply stating, “I am going to start working out a few times a week at home” isn’t enough to actually make it happen. Schedule in the days, location and time. This is key to starting your routine.
2. Schedule the type of exercise per session each week (and what exactly you plan to do)
Now that you know where and when you will exercise, you get to choose what you will be doing.
Remember that you have so many options to choose from. Start with one form of exercise or create a variety from the beginning. It’s up to you. Just be sure that you are doing things you enjoy.
- Tuesday: Yoga at 5:30 pm (at home via local yoga studio’s online classes - 1-hour class)
- Thursday: Bike Ride at 5:30 pm (to the park and back - 45 minutes)
Variety is a way to keep boredom at bay, so don’t hesitate to change things up every once in a while.
3. Gather equipment or purchase membership
This may seem pretty obvious, but be sure you are prepped with any equipment you need. Order some necessities online for your at-home gym, get your bike’s tires filled with air, purchase your gym or studio membership, etc.
4. Track your progress
It’s easy to forget where you started.
Tracking your progress allows you to recognize how far you’ve come in terms of your strength, endurance, or overall ability. Even after a week or two, you can see changes, and this is another way to keep you motivated.
I suggest logging your workouts in your planner or in a separate notebook. Check off that you did your exercise as planned (hooray!) as well as any weights, reps, or modifications you used. You may be surprised to see how quickly your performance improves.
5. Celebrate your wins
Give yourself high-fives and hoorays when you complete your workouts, crush a week of workouts, honor your rest days or try a new form of exercise.
Moving your body is such an amazing gift, and the more you feel this and take time to be grateful for all you are doing, the easier it is to keep going!
6. Listen to your body
Your body is capable of a lot, but it doesn’t mean you need to push it to its limits regularly. Listen to your body after you exercise; take rest days. Which types of movement make you feel good? Which don’t? Tweak your routine accordingly.
This is a lot of juicy information!
I hope you feel inspired to create an exercise routine that speaks to your intention, the types of movement you love and your schedule. When you follow all of the steps and reminders laid out for you, exercising becomes something you choose to do because you enjoy it.
It is never intended to be a punishment for something you ate or for something you dislike about yourself.
If you are curious to dive into a fully laid out 8-week program, check out the Thrive Guide. You can use it as it’s laid out for you or simply add in the workouts, and yoga flows to your personal routine when you wish.
I am cheering you on! You got this!
You might also be interested in: Zero-Cost, Zero-Equipment At-Home Workouts