Do you dream of being able to join your local running group or yoga studio? Maybe you wish you had the confidence to hit the gym and start lifting weights. We all know that physical exercise is good for us, but with so many different fitness trends and ways to get in shape available, it can be hard to know where to start.
Take it slow and steady, starting with simple activities like walking or dancing.
Embrace the funny side of exercise, let laughter be your companion, and don’t take anything too seriously.
Find an exercise that you genuinely enjoy, something that you feel excited about and doesn’t feel like a chore.
Be consistent with your routine and reward yourself along the way.
Being a beginner in the world of exercise might be intimidating at first, so let us walk you through the ultimate guide to building your healthy new exercise habit — one step at a time.
Overcoming the fear of fitness
Whether you are a complete newbie or someone who has tried and failed before, know that you are not alone — fitness journeys are not linear and they don’t follow a one-size-fits-all method. Everyone is different and what works for your best friend, might not do the trick for you. However, there are some ways that have proved useful for those of us who have experienced the physical, emotional, or mental barriers to beginning a regular exercise habit. Some of the hurdles you might experience include:
- Fear of being ridiculed. Being worried about being teased for starting to exercise is very real. If it’s not something that your friends and family do then they might feel challenged by you taking a step in a different direction. Try not to let what others think dissuade you from starting your own incredible and personal journey with exercise.
- Physical insecurity. If you are worried about your weight, age, or not being what you imagine as the “right shape” to start exercising, know that it’s a really normal concern to have. Image concerns are a very strong barrier to beginning an exercise habit. Just remember, everyone, started at the beginning, and most of the fitness influencers and avid gym goers didn’t start out looking the way they do. It can be really useful to find an inspiring story that you can relate to, someone who overcame a weight issue or health concern and kept going despite their worries.
- Not knowing where to start. Please rest assured that if you are a newbie to the world of workouts, no one expects you to be up at the crack of dawn running laps in your local park. The key is to start slowly, and as you build confidence, you can start adding in new activities. The saying, “Don’t run before you can walk,” is famous for a reason.
Regardless of the hurdles you may need to overcome, this ultimate guide will provide you with all the motivation, tips, and tricks you need to kickstart your fitness journey — with some laughs along the way.
Step 1. From couch potato to fitness aficionado
The first step is always the hardest. It can be extremely difficult to drag yourself away from your favorite TV show in favor of doing some exercise or getting out of a cozy bed 15 minutes early to do a morning movement practice. But you are about to embark on a journey that will show you just what you are truly capable of when you decide to show up for yourself, and you have to start somewhere — the beginning.
Starting an exercise routine doesn't mean you have to transform into a gym buff overnight. Instead, take it slow and steady. Begin with simple activities that don’t feel too strenuous or intimidating, such as:
- Brisk walking around the block or local park
- Dancing to your favorite songs for 10 minutes in the morning
- Cycling for 20 minutes on an exercise bike while you listen to music or watch a show
- Taking a hike into your nearest nature reserve with a friend
- Taking a 15 minute morning movement lesson online
Remember, the goal here is to get moving and have fun while you are doing it. You'll be surprised how quickly your body adapts and craves more physical activity.
Step 2. Embrace the power of laughter
There is no doubt that exercise can be intimidating. Perhaps the mere thought of lifting heavy weights or attempting complex yoga poses sends shivers down your spine. However, the antidote to intimidation is laughter. Imagine yourself doing a push-up and ending up face-planting instead, or think about doing the most awkward dancing you can possibly do.
The trick is to not take anything too seriously. No yogi ever got into a headstand without falling flat on their back, no weight lifter ever got up to higher weights without wobbling, buckling, and going red in the face. Laughter not only lightens the mood but also boosts your motivation to keep going. If you have a friend to share the silliness with, even better — remember, it's okay to look silly as long as you're enjoying yourself!
Step 3. Find your perfect exercise
Just like finding the right life partner, finding the perfect exercise for you requires a bit of trial and error. Don't force yourself to do something you despise or something that doesn’t inspire you at all just because it's trendy or your friends are doing it. Explore different options until you discover the exercise that speaks to your soul and that you can look forward to before each session. Here are some examples of different exercise options to try that go beyond running on a treadmill:
- Zumba classes
- Slow flow yoga
- Swing dance classes
- Martial arts
- Joining a sports league
- Walking groups
- Hiking groups
- Sea swimming
- Aqua aerobics
- Stretch and mobility classes
The key is to find something you genuinely enjoy that makes you feel good when you do it and motivates you to keep going. When you find your perfect exercise, it won't feel like a chore but rather a delightful adventure with your own body.
Step 3. Consistency
Consistency is undoubtedly the secret ingredient to success — if you commit to a regular practice you will see results. As you embark on this exercise journey, remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint and consistency is key to achieving your fitness goals. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track:
- Schedule. Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Treat exercise like an unmissable date with yourself.
- Pack your bag. If you need different clothes or any gear for your chosen exercise, pack your bag the night before and leave it by the door.
- Lay your clothes out. Make sure you have your clothes ready so you can just get up, put your sneakers on and head out. Remove as many decision-making obstacles as possible so you don’t give yourself a chance to talk yourself out of your exercise commitment.
- Meal prep. This can be a game changer once you really get going on your exercise journey. By prepping meals and taking them out with you, you’ll be less tempted to snack on unhealthy foods which only leads to a feeling of guilt.
Step 4. Rewards
This step should not be overlooked — rewards are essential along the way. And we aren’t talking about a whole box of chocolates as a post-workout treat, or a burger and fries after a yoga class. Try something that has self-care written all over it, here are a few ideas to get you going:
- Long bubble bath with candles and soothing music
- A new workout outfit when you hit a new milestone
- Going out to lunch at a healthy, whole foods restaurant
- Taking a spa day
- Getting yourself a massage
- Giving yourself an evening all to yourself, curled up with a good book or a movie
Giving yourself these rewards will keep you motivated and excited to continue your fitness journey, and will signal to your mind, body, and soul that you are taking care of yourself. Rewards and acts of self-care can also positively impact your mood, feelings of self-worth, and satisfaction with life.
Holidays and healthy hobbies
You can also factor in rewards into your holiday time — like heading somewhere beautiful for a yoga retreat or taking a hiking weekend somewhere with incredible views. Bringing hobbies, travel and exercise together is a great way to reward yourself for creating a new exercise habit.
Your personal fitness journey will have ups and downs, you might do great one week but slip up the next — the important thing to remember is to keep going. With a sprinkle of laughter, a dash of determination, and a reminder not to take anything — including yourself — too seriously, you can conquer any fitness goal you set your heart on. So go out there, sweat it out, and embrace the joys of movement. Your future self will thank you, and your body will dance with delight the more it comes alive with the joys of physical fitness. Let the adventure begin.
- Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Exercise habit formation in new gym members: a longitudinal study.
- International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Fear of failure in sport, exercise and physical activity: a scoping review.