Wellbeing

How To Start Exercising If You Have No Idea

One of the biggest barriers to exercise is motivation. It’s a struggle to get out of bed early (or head after work) to go and do nothing but literal exertion for the sake of what is probably an extremely long-term goal. Sounds appealing, right? We get it – it’s even harder when you’re not experienced at whatever exercise you plan to do. It’s nerve wracking. But it’s possible to move past these feelings and start exercising.

We all know that exercise has benefits, from fat loss and healthier hearts to mental health and improved memory. You’ll feel better about yourself all round, so it’s best to get started.

Here’s where to begin.

1. Figure out your motivation

Knowing why you’re exercising is crucial, and you should figure it out right at the beginning of your workout journey. As we’ve said, it’s hard to be motivated, but if you are able to keep in your mind your exercise purpose and end goal, it’ll make schlepping it to the gym, track or pool that much easier.

Do you want to fit into the same size clothing you used to? Do you want to not get puffed walking up stairs? Did you get some concerning results from your doctor? Do you want visible abs?

These are all legitimate goals. Just make sure you remember them when you’re blearily snoozing your alarm at 5.30am. Write it down in your phone, change your wallpaper, whatever it takes.

2. You don’t need to start exercising in a gym

You can exercise wherever you are, with whatever you have to hand. Expensive gym memberships can become a big waste of money if you’re not using your included benefits. They call running the democratic sport, because anyone can do it – all you need is a pair of shoes and an open space. Swimming is also accessible (and a very low impact, full-body workout). Remember not to start too hard, or you’ll be sore for a week and not return to your exercise.

If you are keen to join a gym, memberships have their own benefits. Most will offer a free trial period so you can get a taste of the gym-going life, and you can probably also score some time with a personal trainer to help you set up a routine targeted at your specific goals. They may also help you measure your progress over time – one of the best motivations there is.

3. Don’t worry about anyone else

One of the most daunting things about exercising around people is the pressure you feel to be excellent. We’re telling you now – abandon any concept of comparison.

When you’re new, it’s likely you’ll be the newest person there for a while. Don’t worry what other people think, not even those swole gym bros on the free weights, or the energetic gym bunny bouncing around the abs area. They’re probably wrapped up in their own workouts, unlikely to think about you. As long as you’re polite and observe gym etiquette, everyone will get along.

3. Try starting with a friend

Science shows that if you work out regularly with an exercise partner, you’re more likely to exercise more frequently. This means you’ll achieve your goals sooner. You’re both able to support each other through your exercise journey, and you’re less likely to skip a workout if you’re letting down someone else as well as your schedule.

4. Get some instruction

If you don’t know what to do for your workout, find some resources or people who’ll tell you. Ideas for workouts are all over the place. Try workout websites, news sites, magazines. Check out the #workouts hashtag on Instagram, ask a friend who exercises. If you do join a gym, ask the staff – that’s what they’re there for. Join an outdoor workout squad. Join your colleagues for lunch-time workouts. Try a guided yoga class.

5. Love yourself

Don’t get so wrapped up in achieving your goal that you make yourself unhappy. Remember you’re beautiful just the way you are, and the fact that you’re on the way to better health is the important thing. Whatever your goal, you won’t achieve it instantly when you start exercising – you’ll probably need several weeks and months to notice significant change. But keep at it and you’ll feel the effects in no time.

Hot tips:

– Exercise and diet go hand in hand: particularly for fat loss, make sure you’re eating the right things.

– Don’t go too hard: Ease into your exercise. Overworking when you’re not used to it can risk injury. You might also ache too much to want to return.

– Stretch: Warming up and warming down is important – don’t jump straight to intense exercise without warming up your limbs with a light jog and stretches.

– Something is better than nothing: When you’re feeling unmotivated, even a short workout

– Choose the right fuel: Exercise makes you hungry. Just choose healthy meals or snacks over junk food, or risk undoing your progress. Also, drink lots of water (and forget energy or workout drinks).

For an easy start to your new exercise life, try these workouts that don’t need a gym.


Mitch is Editor of The Cusp and does a mixture of gym workouts, group exercise and swimming. 

Main image: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt / Netflix