If you’re getting ready to kick-start your journey into fitness—whether it’s starting a strength training workout for the first time, finally lacing up your running shoes and hitting the pavement as you’ve talked about all these years, or taking a group fitness class like kickboxing or yoga—there’s likely a little voice in the back of your head giving you doubts.
The voice might make you wonder if you can really do this—are you really prepared? Do you really know what you’re doing? Will you really see success?
Very often, these doubts simply come from the fact that you don’t have experience with what you’re about to do and are worried there’s too much you don’t know.
To help ease these doubts and make the transition into fitness easier, here are a few of the big things I’ve learned throughout my 15-year journey to fitness.
1. THERE WILL BE DAYS YOU JUST DON’T WANT TO
First, let’s start with what you likely don’t want to hear: You won’t always be motivated. Inspiration comes and goes, even for the fittest individuals, and that’s completely OK. Normal even.
Embrace it. Realize that you can’t expect motivation to carry you through this journey. You need to trust the process and know that if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, results will eventually come. In fact, your ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other during this time is what will make you stronger mentally—just as your workouts make you stronger physically.
Even on those days when you just aren’t feeling into it, do something active. Something will almost always be better than nothing (unless you really do just need to rest, and then it’s time to listen to your body—more on this later).
2. FINDING YOUR “INNER REASON” IS KEY
Why do you want to exercise? Does it make you feel more confident? Does it give you more energy? Do you want to be active with your grandkids?
Find an inner reason—something that isn’t about impressing others or looking good at your reunion. Those reasons just won’t stand the test of time.
3. PROGRESS WON’T ALWAYS BE LINEAR
It would be great if your results were just a straight line that went up, up, and up. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Understand that you’ll progress much faster at certain times than others. Again, this is natural. Don’t give up the fight. Just as things seem to slow, you need to trust that they’ll pick up again.
Learn the difference between slow progress and stagnation. If it’s been four weeks or longer without any results, it’s time for re-evaluation. Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result. If after four weeks you aren’t seeing progress, then it isn’t coming.
4. REST IS KEY
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the great changes that are taking place, and you might want to work out every single chance you get. Unfortunately, this will likely result in slowed progress, burnout, illness or injury.
Rest is a vital component in the process of getting fitter. Learn this now or you’ll be forced to learn it later when you’re sidelined due to fatigue or injury. The choice is yours.
5. PERIODIZATION IS IMPORTANT
Periodization, meaning focusing on different goals at various points, is also a must. During some months, gaining strength may be a goal. Over the next few months, you might choose to work on losing fat instead.
Change things up. This will not only keep you more mentally interested in your sessions but also give your body a break from the repetitive nature of the exercise you’re doing.
Over the long run, this can go a long way towards preventing injuries.
6. COMPARISONS WILL NEVER HELP
One of the worst things that you can do as you go about this journey is compare yourself to others. There will always be someone out there who is fitter than you, leaner than you, stronger than you, and so forth.
Don’t pay attention to them. This is your journey so the only person you need to worry about is yourself.
Are you better than you were yesterday? That is the question you need to be asking.
7. SEEKING ASSISTANCE WILL HELP
Don’t be afraid to ask others for support. Benefit from the experience of others, whether this is a personal trainer, a friend who’s more fit than you, or someone you know online who is an expert in the area you’re trying to improve.
Failing to get the help you need could be the one thing that causes your progress to stagnate. Don’t be shy or embarrassed about it. Reach out and you’ll be glad you did.
8. HAVING FUN SHOULD BE PRIORITIZED
Finally, it’s a must to focus on having fun. If you don’t have fun during your workout, you’re unlikely to stick with it over the long haul. Nothing says you have to lift free weights or that you have to go for a run. If you don’t like it, don’t do it.
There are plenty of ways to get fit, so choose one that you’ll look forward to doing. When you enjoy the activity, it won’t feel like work and you’ll naturally want to exercise regularly.
Find something that brings you an inner sense of joy—something that makes you feel alive when you do it, and that’ll be the workout that changes the way you view fitness.
So keep these quick tips in mind. As a beginner, you’re forming the foundation upon which you’ll view fitness and everything involved with it. Make sure you make that foundation a positive one.