Are You Ready To Make A Change? Tips for How To Start Working Out
Have you tried to start working out before but you gave up when it got hard? Do you want to start again, but you’re not sure where to start? We all know that physical activity is great for our physical and mental health, but sometimes it can really be a challenge to keep up the habit of working out. Below we’ll give you some tips for how to start working out.
Psychological benefits of physical exercise
We all know that exercise is good for us, but do you really know what it does?
- Reduces stress
- Helps combat depression, according to a study
- Improves self-esteem and body image
- Can help reduce the risk of cervical cancer, according to this study
- Reduces the risk of premature death caused by a sedentary lifestyle, and counteracts the effects of spending most of the day sitting, according to a study
- Boosts the creation of new neurons in the parts of the brain in charge of learning and memory, according to a study
- Moderate exercise can improve the cardiovascular system
In the video below, you’ll see how dangerous it can be to spend all day sitting. Our body is made to move! If you’re still not totally convinced on how to start working out, stay tuned.
Why is it so hard to start working out?
Just because we know that working out is good for us, doesn’t mean that we’ll automatically be able to be motivated to get out there and make it a habit…but why? Our brain is lazy!
1. It’s uncomfortable. Exercise brings on a series of uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings and sensations, which we interpret as something negative. Working out makes us sweat and get dirty, it makes us sore and tired, we get hot and cold and our hair gets messed up. We’re not used to these sensations of inconvenience and discomfort. We live happily, and we don’t like to leave our comfort zone.
2. Low motivation. If you have a hard time starting to exercise, you’re probably not motivated enough. Maybe you don’t like the activity that you set out to do, or maybe you think its too difficult.
3. Unrealistic goals. If you think you’ll spend an hour in the gym on the first day and lose 15 pounds a week, you’ll probably feel unmotivated pretty quickly.
4. Exercising brings about long-term benefits. People are prepared to achieve short-term goals. It’s a lot easier to visualize the benefits of physical activity because these benefits aren’t automatic.
In the next video, you’ll see why some people have a harder time learning how to start working out than others. It’s all due to the different perception of reality, depending on motivation and how difficult we think it is.
13 tips for how to start working out
1. Choose an activity that you like
Knowing how to start working out is an important part to actually getting out there, but if you choose an exercise or activity that you don’t like, you’ll dread going to the gym even before getting there. The goal isn’t to suffer, the goal is to live a happier and healthier life, which means that even though everyone else goes running or to the gym, you don’t have to! Go for a walk, go rollerskating or ride a bike, do yoga or pilates or kickboxing. With the huge amount of options out there, you’re sure to find something that works for you and your body. Take the time to discover what you like doing!
2. Find the time to do it
“I just don’t have time!” Isn’t a valid excuse anymore. Specialists recommend just 150 minutes of exercise a week, which means that 30 minutes 5 days a week is enough…even 15 minutes of exercise a day is a start.
3. Start little by little
If you get to the gym on your first day and try to run for an hour, you’ll probably have a hard time reaching it and are likely not to return.
If you’ve always had a hard time learning how to start working out, maybe just putting on your running shoes will be your goal for the day. The next day, you can walk outside, and the following day you can walk around the block. If you can set realistic goals for yourself, you’ll feel more motivated and willing to go back the next day.
4. Remind yourself
One of the best ways to create new habits is by setting reminders, or use other habits that lead you to work out. For example, if you put your shoes next to your bed, when you wake up you’ll remember that you have to fun. Or, if you have a set time to go to the gym after work, when you leave work you’ll remember automatically. If this doesn’t work, you can always set an alarm on your phone.
5. Reward your effort
Give yourself a little reward after reaching one of your goals…you deserve it and your brain will start making positive associations with exercise and working out, making you more likely to stay motivated. Watch out for unhealthy rewards, like an ice cream or a pizza… you don’t want to undo all the work you’ve done! Try to stay away from food rewards and choose something else, like a massage, a new pair of shoes, taking yourself to the movies, etc.
These rewards should disappear once you’ve gotten into the habit of working out. You’ll see that working out itself will become your motivation.
6. Workout with someone
If you make a pact with a friend to work out together, you’re more likely to keep going because you’ll feel a sense of accountability to someone. Besides, you’ll be able to share your progress and keep each other motivated!
7. Try group workouts
If you’re wondering how to start working out in a group, there is likely to be group classes at your gym. Working out with others can be great for your motivation. It’s more fun to “suffer” and struggle through the class when you have others around you that are feeling the same way. Check out what classes are available at your sports center- if you can go to the same class everyday you’ll probably even make some new friends.
8. Get used to discomfort
If one of the reasons why you haven’t learned how to start working out is because you don’t like being uncomfortable, try to get used to it. Go out in the rain without an umbrella, sweat, get dirty, and try to enjoy it! After some time, you won’t even be bothered by it. If you really have a hard time getting over these things, you can always try to do exercises that won’t make you sweaty or dirty, like walking.
9. Make a plan of action
If you can make a plan of action- when, where, how long you’ll work out for, you’ll have a much better chance at doing it.
10. Write down your achievements
We tend to over-estimate the exercise that we do. Try to keep a log of your goals and accomplishments. It’ll keep you motivated and you’ll have a way to remember exactly what you did.
11. Consider adopting a dog
This isn’t a responsibility that should be taken lightly- adopting a dog is a big deal and shouldn’t be done on a whim. That said, dogs can provide us with huge health benefits (see benefits of having a dog for an autistic child). Not only will it require you to get up and walk it, you’ll also feel more motivated to do it. Going out and walking with your dog will give you company, and it feels good knowing that you’re doing something to make your companion happy. Multiple studies have shown that adopting a dog helps us lose weight.
If you’re not able to get a dog right now but you’re an animal lover, you can try to volunteer at a rescue center and take them for walks.
12. Do you have a hard time leaving the house?
Sometimes it can be hard getting out of our comfortable routine. Sometimes it’s too hot, sometimes it’s too cold, rainy, snowy, etc. When this happens, try to find an alternative exercise that you like and that you can do at home. YouTube has a ton of tutorials and videos to help you workout without leaving your house.
13. Make your life more active
The more active you are, the easier it will be for you to work out. Take the stairs instead of the escalator, walk to work (or get off a stop early), use the car less and walk more. Your body will thank you!
This post was originally written in Spanish by CogniFit psychologist Andrea Garcia Cerdan