So, do you want to learn how to start exercising right now?
Let me start by saying this: I am practically giddy with the idea of you sitting on the other end of this computer. You’re about to start a whole new lifestyle, and that’s no small feat. The confidence, energy, vibrancy, passion, and discipline it will bring to your life will be well worth it!
While I know you’re committed, I’m sure there are some questions you have on your mind as well, including “Where do I even begin?”
Well, because I care about your success, my answer won’t be as cut and dry as “You need to do these exercises” and such.
Creating a new lifestyle does not only mean changing your physical but also mental habits, after all. Yes, you could start working out, but that would be a disservice. You would be making things far more challenging on yourself than you need to.
There are three things that you can build on to make a change last:
Table of Contents
Let’s start with the foundation of your goals: mindset.
As a fitness manager, I have witnessed how a slight change in mindset has the power to change lives. You just need to:
1. Know Your Why
If you were to walk up to me in a gym and ask how to start exercising, I would stop you in your track and answer you with another question. “Why do you want to start exercising?”
I do this because behavior change is an emotional thing! Typically, it takes someone hitting rock bottom to commit to change.
For me, I was chronically ill for years. I started working out to save my life! For some, they might have gotten out of breath and have not been able to play with their kids. One client of mine saw a picture of herself that brought her to tears. She didn’t even recognize herself anymore.
These are the emotions that will propel you to your goal. You need to know why you are doing what you are doing. Just knowing what to do will never help you reach the potential you deserve.
Check out this article to start making your dreams come true: 10 Fitness Excuses You Need to Stop Making Now
2. Create SMART Goals
Now for the fun part: goal setting. This is an exciting moment. You get to dream up what you want out of your habits. What dreams and goals do you want to reach?
Merely writing a goal down will make you 42% more likely to achieve them.
But there is another professional secret I would like to share with you. It is the power of a SMART goal.
A SMART goal is a way of breaking your big goal into actionable steps to help you reach that goal!
Take the goal of someone wanting to lose weight, for instance. Turning that into a “smart” plan will look like this:
Specific: I want to lose 40 pounds of body fat.
Measurable: I want to lose 40 pounds by February 1st.
Achievable: I can safely lose 2 pounds a week by doing strength training and cardio 3x a week.
Realistic: Am I willing to commit enough time to reach this goal?
Timely: Each week, I will lose 2 pounds. Each month, I will lose 8 Pounds. By 5-6 months, I will reach my target weight.
Using this goal-setting method indeed clarifies your goal. It gives you simple action steps that will guarantee your success!
Behavioral Change and Habits
How to start exercising can be relatively simple: do it. But if it were easy, we would all be doing it, wouldn’t we?
What if I told you there was a way for you to work out naturally? You wouldn’t have to think about it — you would just wake up and do it.
It all lies in the power of the habit.
If you’ve ever read atomic habits, you understand that you will be spending tons of unnecessary energy without patterns. Once the practice becomes second nature to you, you will find the goals easier to accomplish.
Why? Because a habit “is a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously.”
Think about a bad habit you’ve always wanted to break. It’s hard to stop doing that because the pattern is literally ingrained in your brain.
The same thing goes with good habits. Once a good habit is achieved, your brain will do it almost automatically.
How nice would it be to find yourself working out without even having to think about it?
There are several ways to build a habit, but these are my two favorites:
1. Habit Stacking
Habit stacking is a way of building new habits by taking advantage of existing ones.
Your brain likely has already formed hundreds of habits. E.g., brewing coffee every morning, brushing your teeth, pulling out your phone when you get stressed, or driving a particular route from work.
Instead of trying to build a whole new habit from scratch, you can just borrow from these other habits.
For instance, you change out of your work clothes each evening (I hope!). So, you could make your new habit of changing into your workout clothes instead and texting a friend your workout for the day.
This is actually how I built my love for working out in the first place. Each evening, I would place my workout clothes and gear on my bed. Then, first thing each morning, I would change into them and go for a walk or jog. Before long, mornings became a foundational habit that I later built on.
2. Make the Habit Accessible
Our brain always likes to do the easy thing. If we complicate a situation by adding unnecessary steps, it’s doubtful that we will follow through.
The simple solution is to make your habit easy. For instance, when I learned how to start exercising, I prepared for it the night. This way, it only took one step (changing) before I was ready to workout.
Now, that’s turned into me creating a gym bag, writing my workout programs in advance, or hiring someone to write my workouts for myself. I also have a specific area for tracking all my goals and progress.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure the heavy lifting is already done the day before you actually do it.
3. Commit Daily
This might seem obsessive, but it’s crucial to commit to your goals daily. If you don’t, you will likely fall out of the habit.
In my case, that means working out every morning. Sometimes my workout might not be intense. In fact, I limit my movement to recovery for at least one day and go on a hike, walk, or stretching. However, the daily consistency guarantees that I won’t fall off the bandwagon.
For most people, this isn’t something that they have to commit to for a lifetime. Still, I think everyone should do it for the first 30-90 days.
I use something called a thermometer checklist to track my consistency. It has been a game-changer!
The final step is actually to choose what exercise to do.
My recommendation is to spend the first 30 days, just creating a habit. That could mean attending classes, going on walks, doing strength training — whatever it takes for you to gain consistency seven days a week.
Once your habits are built, there a few types of exercise you can incorporate to see positive results.
Almost everyone already knows about cardio. Working in a gym, I always see the cardio equipment more flooded than anything else!
Cardio is excellent for your heart and helps you burn calories immediately. However, cardio doesn’t boost your metabolism and make you lose fat long-term (if that is your goal).
Another thing to keep in mind is that cardio isn’t beneficial unless you are either working out often or pushing yourself to raise your heart rate.
2. Strength Training
Strength training sculpts the body and allows you to burn more fat over a more extended period.
This is true for several reasons:
- It reduces insulin resistance (if you are sensitive to eating carbs, that is).
- Muscle burns fat, so the more muscle you build, the more calories you burn daily.
- Recovery from strength training boosts your metabolism for the next 2-3 days.
If you were to ask any fitness expert if cardio or strength training gives people better results, almost all of them would say strength training will do the job fast.
How to Do Strength Training:
If strength training works so well, then the obvious question is, “Where do I start?”
From a personal trainer standpoint, I always recommend starting with stabilization exercises. These workouts will help build up your core muscles and increase your balance so that you don’t get injured later on.
If the linked exercises above seem hard to learn, I would recommend starting with either hiring a personal trainer (my apparent preference) to guide you through everything or taking up yoga classes (which improves your stability and core moves).
Once you’ve mastered some balance and stability, then you can do other workouts as well.
Best of luck on your journey! To make things easy, you need to remember the following:
- Know your why
- Create SMART goals
- Make accessible habits
- Commit to your daily habits
- Spend 30 days just making a habit of moving forward
- Do cardio and strength training
If you’re struggling with the nutrition side of habit building, here are more tips for you.
More on Jumping Into the Fitness Wagon
At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.
Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.
One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.
When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.
So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.
Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day
This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.
Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.
When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.
Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity
One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.
Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.
An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.
When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.
Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day
Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.
We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.
By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.
Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment
While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.
I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.
You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.
Con #1: We Move a Lot Less
When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.
Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.
Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.
Con #2: Less Human Interaction
One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.
Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.
Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.
This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.
While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.
Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment
Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.
This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.
For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.
Con #4: Unique Distractions
Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.
For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.
To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.
Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.
We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.