Five Steps to Restarting a Fitness Program

So you used to work out, but fell out of the habit? You are not alone. In fact, you are just like millions of other people who know they should work out, but are a bit stuck between “I ought to” and “I am.”

One of the hardest steps to take when it comes to restarting a fitness routine is the first one. The hardest step is usually approaching your local club and opening that door. The mind knows it’s time but somehow can’t convince the body to get to the club.

Any guesses what most people new to a club are feeling when they finally walk up to the front desk? They’re a little freaked out and scared. Yeah, you are not alone! It takes a lot of courage to enter a new place – to go into your “uncomfort” zone. Even when the club staff and members are friendly, welcoming and filled with all shapes, sizes and ages, it’s still nerve-wracking.

But easier than you’d think to shift from “former exerciser” to “YouFit club regular.”

Step One: We are almost always our own worst saboteurs, so think about why you want to go to the gym instead of focusing on the getting there. Identify your motivators and link them to your value system so you have a powerful force to get you to the club. Starting or restarting an exercise program begins in the mind. What is driving you to improve your health and fitness?

Most people who are told they need to exercise for health reasons usually don’t make the necessary  changes. Why? Because it’s not enough to know your health will improve with exercise; you need to know what will happen to you as a result of better health. Will you:

  • gain more quality time with loved ones?
  • avoid becoming a burden to those who might otherwise have to become your caretakers?
  • improve your energy levels so that you can travel, visit friends, walk in the sun – whatever it is that you want to do that requires energy?
  • become more socially active and meet people whose company you enjoy?
  • save money on medical and health insurance bills?

Whatever it is that you want to do, acknowledge it, write it down, tell other people, and repeat it to yourself as you walk through those fitness club doors to inquire about joining.

Step Two: Select activities you’ll enjoy. If you are like 75 –80% of the population, exercise isn’t your favorite thing. So forget about exercise – focus instead on MOVEMENT. Do you like dance, yoga, kickboxing or getting on cardio equipment with your favorite playlist? What your friend loves may not be what you love, so if you try a YouGX group fitness class that she raves about but that leaves you cold, try another. Group fitness programs have so many choices that you’re bound to discover one you’re passionate about.

Whether you’re on a treadmill, indoor track or outside, you can put in some earbuds and music, and off you go! Anything you do that is MORE than what you’re currently doing will help you be successful.

Step Three: Take advantage of the club’s personal trainers, especially if initial low or no-cost sessions come with your membership. A qualified, certified YouCoach trainer will help you stay motivated, answer your questions, design a program specific to your needs, keep you accountable, correct exercise technique and form, and provide feedback and advice in a nonjudgmental way.

A trainer who’s well-matched to your needs will understand your fears as well as your health needs. Be upfront about any medical issues or limitations, concerns and goals, as this will enable your trainer to best help you. It’s a collaborative relationship: You are an expert on your body and needs; the trainer is an expert on designing a program that addresses those.

Step Four: Plot out the specifics of your fitness journey. Most of us think in terms of going from 0 (I’m out of shape and am doing nothing for my health) to 10 (I am in better shape than I was in my teens and twenties), yet miss all the stops between 0 and 10. If you don’t plot out the full journey, you won’t know how to get to 10, or even what that will look like if you aren’t specific and realistic.

For example, “I want to look hot” or “I want to lose 50 pounds in three weeks” are difficult to achieve, as the first is vague and hard to define, while the latter is unrealistic and unhealthy. A helpful list might look a bit like this:

  1. I will lay out my exercise clothes before going to bed so that they are easy to put on first thing in the morning.
  2. I will schedule three one-hour workouts into my calendar every week, and treat them as mandatory appointments that are only changed in emergencies.
  3. I will write down everything I eat for three days in a row and observe patterns that aren’t helping me.
  4. I will choose four foods to eliminate or change (possibly with expert help) by the end of week one.
  5. I will reward myself with XXX (e.g., a manicure, movie) after every 300 minutes of exercise.

And so on, with #10 on your list being maintenance-oriented once you’ve reached your goal.

Step Five: Plan for success. At the end of each day, review the things you did that brought you closer to your goal. Ignore the other stuff, as focusing on your so-called failures affects your brain chemistry. When you focus on the positive changes, you feel successful, and success leads to more success. We all enjoy that feeling, and our brains crave more of it. You’ll find yourself feeling good, and it’s human nature to repeat what makes us feel good.

In addition to reviewing the positive steps you’ve taken, pay attention to the people you surround yourself with, especially at the fitness club. Active people hang out with other active people. Healthy eaters hang out with other healthy eaters. So make friends with like-minded club members who share your commitment to movement and health. These are also usually the best people to help keep you on track and accountable.

And finally, watch your self-talk. You have so many underlying, unconscious beliefs about who you are, and you don’t want those thoughts to interfere with your progress. When you see yourself as a healthy, fit person, you will do things to match that belief, so change your thoughts. Also, pay attention to your excuses. For example, change, “I’m too busy for a five-minute walk” to “I just don’t care about my health,” and see if you find that acceptable. Chances are you’ll find the five minutes once you peg it for the excuse that it is.

Now, get up and get over to the gym.

 

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Youniverse Contributors: Alexandra Williams, MA, and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA of FunandFit