Spring is almost here! And with days getting warmer and longer, many people see it as the perfect time to get back into their exercise routine to shed those pesky winter kilos! You may have been great through the Summer and Autumn months, but as the days got darker and colder, your routine went out the window. Or maybe you’ve decided that you’re going to start exercising for the first time. Either way, starting an exercise routine can be overwhelming and may cause you to quit mentally before you even start.
Exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do for your health. Soon after you start exercising you’ll begin to see and feel the benefits that physical activity can have on both your physical and mental well-being. However, working exercise into your routine takes a lot of determination, and sticking to it in the long term requires discipline.
Lucky for you, we’re here to help! Today’s blog has all you need to know about starting an exercise routine and sticking to it!
Regular exercise has been shown to significantly improve your health.
Its greatest benefits include helping you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, maintain muscle mass and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
In addition, research shows that exercise can lift your mood, boost your mental health, improve concentration and help you sleep better.
I guess a better question is… why not exercise?
Common Types of Exercise
With so many different gyms around and constantly changing trends in exercise, it can be difficult to know what some of the exercise terms mean, let alone where to start! So, let’s give you a summary of some of the most common types of exercise.
Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic exercise (or cardio as it is commonly called) is usually the core of any fitness program. It includes periods of continuous movement. Examples include swimming, running and cycling.
Strength Training: Helps to increase muscle power and strength. Examples include resistance training, plyometrics and lifting weights.
Body Weight Exercise: Basic body movements done without gym equipment. Examples include lunges, squats, sit ups and push ups.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Includes repetitions of short bursts of high-intensity exercise (generally a combination or the 3 types of exercises mentioned above) followed by low-intensity exercises or rest periods.
Boot Camps: Time-based, high-intensity circuits that combine aerobic and resistance exercises.
Balance or Stability: Strengthens stabilising muscles and improves co-ordination. Examples include Pilates, Tai Chi and core-strengthening exercises.
Flexibility: Aides muscle recovery, maintains range of motion and helps to prevent injuries. Examples include yoga or individual muscle stretch movements.
The types of activities mentioned above can be done individually or combined. The most important thing is to find something that you enjoy and have fun with it. This will make any exercise routine easier to stick to!
Top 10 Tips for Starting an Exercise Routine
- Check your health.
It is important to consult your doctor or healthcare professional before starting any exercise routine. This is particularly important for those who are not used to strenuous physical activities, those who have not exercised regularly for an extended period of time, as well as individuals aged 45 and over.
- Make a plan and set realistic goals.
Once you decide to start exercising regularly, try to create a plan that includes attainable steps and goals.
If you want to become a runner, find a couch to 5km plan, read a few running blogs and learn a bit of the lingo. If you want to get more active, look for a class or an online plan that you can easily follow.
Having a goal to work towards will keep you on track, and having a plan will give you some direction and keep you accountable.
- Stop being self-limiting with your words and attitudes.
We tend to be our own worst enemies and talk ourselves out of things before even giving them a go! We give reasons like “I’m not flexible” so as not to try yoga, or “I don’t have any rhythm, I couldn’t possibly do a dance class”. So many times, the words “I can’t” come out of our mouths before we have even given something a go. With that attitude, you are doing yourself a disservice. Give things a chance before you form your opinion. You might just surprise yourself!
- Mark your calendar with the days you are going to exercise, block off the time and keep the appointment.
This time should be sacred to you, so try not to let it get moved around too much. Remember why you started this journey and write yourself notes to keep yourself motivated.
- Start slow and listen to your body.
Start out slowly with something comfortable. The worst thing you can do is start off thinking you are going to exercise 5-6 days per week after being sedentary for years. It is going to stress you out and you will soon hate the idea. Not to mention you leave yourself susceptible to overuse injuries which will quickly derail your exercise routine. Start slow and gradually add days, time and intensity.
If you’re not used to working out, be mindful of your limits. If you feel pain or discomfort while exercising, stop and rest before continuing. Pushing through the pain is not a good idea as it can cause injuries.
- Recruit an accountability partner.
Find a friend or hire a trainer! Having someone to hold you accountable is often the key to success as a beginner. Find a friend with similar goals who has been exercising consistently and ask if you can tag along. That way you know you have someone that will hold you accountable.
Another idea is to announce to a friend of family member what your intentions are so they can help you stay motivated and check on your progress. Knowing that they will be asking about how your progress is going is extra incentive to stay on track!
- Buy the right equipment.
Improper equipment is one of the biggest causes of injury and discomfort and it is 100% avoidable! This includes things like well-fitted sports bras for women, appropriate shoes for your chosen activity and well-fitting clothes that wick away sweat and make exercising more tolerable.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Hydrate like it’s your job, even on the days you aren’t training. This helps to avoid cramps and helps flush the toxins out of your body. When you are dehydrated you don’t have as much energy and you recover more slowly. This makes exercise less enjoyable… not something you want when you are trying to get into a good routine!
- Fuel your body properly.
Good nutrition is important to fuel your body with the energy it needs to get through your exercise session. Be sure to have a small snack before your workout to keep you going, but on the flipside, don’t stuff yourself with dinner and then try to do a high intensity class. You’ll likely end up with stomach cramps and feeling sick.
If you are making dietary changes to go along with your new exercise routine, make one small change to your diet and stick with it for 2 days in a row. Switch soft drink for water, swap your mid-afternoon biscuit treat for a piece of fruit. Try it for 48 hours; if you find it is something you can continue, make another small change each week.
- Realise that fitness is a journey. Don’t expect perfection!
No one has a perfect diet. Everyone misses a workout here and there. If you make good choices 80% of the time, understand that it’s OK to be flexible with the other 20%. The worst thing you can do is adopt the “all or nothing” mentality and then completely give up at the first hiccup. Whether it’s an ice cream on a hot day or a day when you just don’t get the workout in, understand that it is only one thing and get right back on track. Consistency is the key, not perfection!
The most important thing to remember is that fitness is a journey. Don’t get caught up in the comparison game. Yes, there will be people that are more fit than you. But so what? This is your story, your journey. Everyone starts somewhere, so don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s 7-year plan.
The key to staying motivated and making exercise a habit is to find something you enjoy and have fun while doing it. This allows you to not dread having to exercise.
The Bottom Line
Starting a new exercise routine can be challenging. However, setting achievable goals will help to keep you motivated in the long term.
The goal is to start slowly, build up your fitness level and let your body rest from time to time to prevent injuries.
Keeping track of your progress or joining a fitness group can help you stay motivated and achieve your goals.
And remember… HAVE FUN!