If you’ve ever opened a new tab and with the best intentions, searched ‘how to start working out,’ you’re bound to be met with an overwhelming hodgepodge of answers. Don’t worry, I get it. It can be intimidating to start fresh! With so much noise in this space, it’s a lot to think about where or how to begin. And if you find yourself in a fitness rut, the motivation to start building up the habit again can be hard to find.
After I shared how walking 12,000 steps a day has helped transform my health last July, I got a lot of questions about how to start working out and stick with a fitness routine. My approach? I keep it simple and do what feels good for my body. Nothing more, nothing less.
Sometimes, that looks like a full, two-hour run and weight training. But other days, I need to prioritize sleep or work and can only squeeze in a quick 25-minute run or walk. My theory: It’s better than nothing even if it’s not what I had planned. That’s life, y’all! It’s been a journey learning to not be hard on myself when I miss a workout, but it’s that self-compassion that keeps my momentum going.
Featured image by Claire Huntsberger.
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How To Start Working Out: 5 Fitness Pros Share Their Tips
While that article covers a lot of how I made movement and daily walks a priority, I decided to tap five friends in the fitness space who all inspire me with their approach to movement. Below, they’re sharing their seasoned advice on how to start working out with joy and intention—so you can make movement a habit that lasts. Read on for their answers to the most common questions I get.
*Note: Please keep in mind this is simply advice and what works for one person, might not work for another. Ultimately, do what works best for you and your lifestyle.
Our panel of fitness pros:
I hate working out. How can I make movement something I enjoy?
Gustavo: Working out can be fun and enjoyable. If you are not loving what you are doing, try something new. Explore different ways to move your body until you find something that you enjoy and that makes you feel good!
Caitlin: Think of moving your body as something you’re doing FOR yourself—not something you HAVE to do. For me, music is vital. So throw on some music that makes you feel good and just move your body. Dance around your living room. Try something new and let it be fun. Endorphins are real and that high post-pilates, run, etc. is addictive.
If you’re feeling good about what you’re doing and having fun with it, you’ll be more inclined to want to do it again. Notice, marvel at, and find gratitude for the ability, let alone the strength, of your body, stay POSITIVE, and encourage yourself as you would be a friend. Don’t forget to give yourself credit every step of the way.
Chris: Make a Spotify playlist with songs that make you FEEL something and make you want to dance. And try something new! Have you tried running? What about a spin class? To different class? Sometimes, all we need to do is switch up our routine or try a new-to-us movement modality to start enjoying our workouts.
Kayla: Define what movement or working out means to YOU. The aesthetic of “working out” is painted by fitness culture pouring sweat while throwing around weights and gasping for air for hours in the gym. In reality, working out is any activity that challenges or improves your physical fitness. If you enjoy dancing and you choose to attend a dance cardio class, that’s working out!
Philip: For me, the discomfort (or hatred) of working out came from the belief that I was not capable of or good enough to do so. I overcame that belief by having fun with the idea that my body is capable of many things, it just needs some consistency of movement. I recalled being a child and remembered the types of play that I loved. Remembering the freedom of riding a bike, the joy of running down the block with the neighborhood kids, the exhilarating feeling of going down the hill on a skateboard. For some, it may be tumbling, a trampoline, skipping rope, playing with your dog! Find that, remember it, use it, and feel it!
How do I make exercise a habit?
Gustavo: Schedule it into your day. Think of this time as a gift to yourself. You deserve this time to take care of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Caitlin: Commit to yourself. Whether it’s a class, a walk with a friend/talking on the phone, a meditative walk by yourself without your phone, or listening to a meditation podcast—prioritize your SELF-care, mental and physical health. Put it on your calendar and keep it bite-sized and light at first so it feels manageable. Build from there and repeat it and see if you can do even one minute more the next day.
Positive reinforcement is key. Working out or moving with a friend not only makes it more fun, but helps hold yourself and each other accountable in your commitment to yourself. A smoothie date together afterwards helps solidify and positively reinforce your routine. Try taking a moment after your workout to notice how you feel and thank yourself for carving out the time. This helps reinforce your connection to and relationship with yourself. It feels good and will ultimately strengthen your desire to keep showing up for yourself.
Chris: The key to creating a habit is consistency. Make a sustainable exercise plan and stick with it! Consistently showing up for your workouts creates momentum—objects in motion stay in motion.
Kayla: Making exercise a habit takes more thank just telling yourself you’re going to workout at 6 am every day for a week. As human beings, we prefer the path of least resistance. This means that making your workout happen takes planning and preparation to build the consistency needed to create a habit. For those wondering how to start working out or who are looking to build a workout habit, set yourself up for success by setting out your workout clothes the night before and leaving your gym bag near the door to help reduce excuses and mental load. Make it easier on yourself to show up.
Philip: Slow start. Grab your dog and run around the block and feel the joy in it. When it is too uncomfortable, stop, walk a little, then run or jog again, and repeat. If you have a child that likes to be outside, make it a game! Throw a ball, jump on the trampoline, make a date with your kid to do so, and stick to it. Find something you need to do every day and add a “workout” routine or practice to it. Commute by foot or bike, take a walk with friends, or find a movement community. That can be a run club, a yoga group, mushroom hunting hikers, old man skating group, or anything you’re interested in.
How can you make time for exercise with a busy schedule?
Gustavo: In an ideal world, you would carve 20-30 minutes to work out. But there will be days when your schedule is jam-packed and the last thing you want to do is get your sweat on. On days when this happens, I recommend a few things:
- Get it out of the way before your day begins, and wake up earlier to move your body.
- Get your steps in while multitasking, such as taking work calls on a walk.
- Take breaks to clear your mind. Do 10 air squats at your desk every hour on the hour.
- Be kind to yourself and do your best to stay consistent with prioritizing your well-being as it will help you think more clearly and be more productive in life.
Caitlin: Set an alarm to go to sleep early and get up with the sun to cross it off your list first thing in the morning. Prioritizing self-care is vital and will reinforce your relationship and commitment with yourself.
Chris: Do a time block inventory of your day. Write out what you’re doing from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Chances are, you will notice spaces you can fit a workout in. If not, you’ll have to assess what shifts need to happen to make exercise a priority.
Kayla: With all the hats we wear in our lives, finding time for exercise can feel challenging when we’re looking for large chunks of time. But if I asked you to identify small gaps of free time (I’m talking 5-10 minutes) throughout your day, I’m sure you could identify a few pockets you could take for you to move your body. In these micro-moments, move your body in ways you enjoy. Dance to your favorite playlist, hit a few kitchen counter push-ups, or go for a walk to your mailbox.
Philip: Combine your workout with something you do every day already. Once you feel the momentum, find a space where your workout serves you better than that habit—ie, happy hour, fast food stop, social media scrolling, shopping, etc.
Is there gear that can make it easier to work out at home?
Gustavo: You do not need fancy gear or equipment to get an effective workout at home. But if you are looking for accountability and motivation, I recommend checking out a fitness app. I personally love the accessibility of glo. They have something for everyone whether you want to get your yoga and meditation on or gain strength and agility with their strength and HIIT classes.
caitlin: I love Bala weights and a pilates ball. Music is key, too. Make it something you want to dance to and sing along with. Get yourself a new outfit that you feel good in, pump up the volume and carve out a brightly-lit space dedicated to movement.
Chris: Whatever makes you feel comfortable, free, and sexy! You are more likely to complete your workout and feel good after you exercise if you feel good in what you’re wearing. My top favs are Vuori and lululemon.
Kayla: Convenience is queen. If working out at home best suits your lifestyle, here are my must-haves in getting in your at-home workout: mini-resistance bands, ankles weights or a kettlebell up to 25 pounds, a yoga mat or designated space to move, a hype playlist, and a few workout super suits that make you feel strong, capable, and confident to get after it!
Philip: There are plenty of fitness apps that can help you build a community. Dedicate a space to your practice and make movement a ritual. You can use bands, kettlebells, free weights, a skateboard, roller skates, a stationary bike stand, a trampoline, or whatever inspires you to move!
I think of working out as play. Playing with your body and your limits. Consistently show up for that, even if just a bit at a time. There are so many ways to play! Remember that movement is freedom, and your body is capable of just about anything.
To close, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite things that Kayla Jeter wrote to me in an email. “The workout routine you’ll stick with is the routine that works for you and your lifestyle. Know that it’s your privilege to care of your star player, YOU!” I couldn’t agree more. Learning how to work out and move consistently can be simple and at its best—an enjoyable practice.