Starting a fitness journey can seem daunting, especially if you need to gain experience working out or living a healthy lifestyle. However, the secret is to start small and focus on building habits over time. With the right mindset and approach, anyone can start from scratch and progress towards their fitness goals. This beginner’s guide will walk you through the key steps on how to start your fitness journey from the ground up.
Set Your Intentions
Before diving into the tactical steps, it’s essential to understand why you want to start a fitness journey. Setting clear intentions will help motivate you and keep you on track when things get tough. Here are some examples of intentions you may have when thinking about how to start your fitness journey:
- Improve your overall health and wellbeing
- Lose weight and slim down
- Gain strength and muscle mass
- Increase your energy levels
- Boost your confidence and self-esteem
- Manage stress and anxiety
- Set a good example for your kids
Take some time to identify 1-3 primary motivations for wanting to start your fitness journey. Write these down somewhere you’ll see them daily as a reminder. This will also come in handy when you want to track your progress over time on your fitness journey. Clarifying your intentions from the start will help provide the motivation needed to stick to your goals.
Start with Your Diet
The old adage “you can’t out-train a bad diet” has truth to it. When starting a fitness journey, one of the best things you can do is look honestly at your current diet and make upgrades.
Improving your nutrition will help:
- Promote weight loss
- Increase your energy levels
- Reduce cravings
- Support muscle repair and recovery
- Boost your immune system
Strive to eat more whole, unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains. Limit sweets, fried foods, and excess carbs like bread, pasta, and baked goods. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. Take a high-quality multivitamin to fill any nutritional gaps.
Making too many drastic changes at once can backfire. Ease into it by starting with smaller diet tweaks like:
- Drinking a green smoothie for breakfast
- Adding a serving of veggies at lunch and dinner
- Increasing your protein intake
- Swapping sugary drinks for water
- Banning late-night snacking
Use a food journal app to increase awareness of what you’re eating and set weekly goals to improve your nutrition over time.
Determine Your Starting Fitness Level
When establishing an exercise regimen, starting at the appropriate level based on your current fitness is essential. Attempting workouts that are too advanced will lead to frustration, injury, and possible burnout.
Here are a few options to gauge your starting point:
- Take a fitness assessment at a gym – This will assess metrics like cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, strength, and body composition. The results will help determine your starting point.
- Try an intro fitness class – Sign up for a beginner Pilates, yoga, cycling, or aerobics class. See how you handle it and use it as a benchmark.
- Assess your stamina with cardio – Try walking, jogging, or biking for 5-10 minutes at a moderate pace. Take note of how winded you get to establish a baseline level of cardiovascular fitness.
- Evaluate basic strength and mobility – Exercises like squats, pushups, and shoulder rolls can serve as simple tests to see where you’re at. But don’t overdo it if you are new to working out.
The goal is to go only some out at first. It’s to increase your fitness through gradual progress slowly. Starting with workouts that are too difficult can lead to injury and discouragement. Use the assessments above to determine a realistic starting point.
Outline Your Exercise Routine
Once you identify your baseline fitness level, it’s time to design a basic workout routine that supports your intentions and desired results. As a fitness beginner, aim to exercise 3-4 days per week for about 30-45 minutes per session. This allows adequate recovery time as your body adjusts.
Focus your workouts on three elements for balanced fitness:
- Cardio – includes aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, cycling, and elliptical. Build up from 10-30 continuous minutes per cardio session.
- Strength Training – Use bodyweight, resistance bands, or weights for squats, lunges, pushups, and rows. Do 1-3 sets of 10-15 reps per exercise.
- Flexibility – Don’t neglect stretching! Yoga, Pilates, and static stretching open tight muscles and enhance the range of motion.
Structure your weekly workout schedule around life demands and preferences. For example:
- Monday: 30 min walk
- Wednesday: Strength training
- Friday: Beginner yoga YouTube video
- Saturday: 45 min hike
Consistency is vital, especially when starting out. Schedule workout sessions in advance and treat them with the same importance as a meeting or appointment. Over time, you can increase the frequency, intensity, and duration as your fitness improves. But start with an attainable routine that sets you up for success as a beginner.
Invest in Basic Equipment
You don’t need fancy equipment to start your at-home fitness journey. A few simple additions can go a long way in helping you get fit with minimal investment:
Yoga mat – Provides cushioning and traction for floor exercises. Look for thicker mats for more joint protection.
Resistance bands – Bands come in varying levels of resistance for strength training. They take up little space, and many can also be used for yoga/stretching.
Dumbbells – Select a single 5-15 lbs set for strength training moves like bicep curls, lunges, and rows. Increase weight over time.
Cardio machine (optional) – A folding treadmill or exercise bike makes home cardio more convenient, especially in bad weather.
Technology – A fitness watch, heart rate monitor, or app can help track health metrics and workouts. Many are affordable.
The idea is to keep the bank intact when outfitting your home gym. Start with essentials and only purchase additional fitness gear gradually as your needs expand.
Form New Habits
Starting and sticking with a fitness routine requires forming new exercise habits. Here are some tips for building habits that stick:
- Schedule workouts – Consistency is vital, so put exercise sessions in your calendar and protect that time.
- Start small – Attempting too much too soon leads to burnout. Start with 10-20 minute workouts and slowly increase from there.
- Make it enjoyable – Do activities you like and mix them up. Walk, hike, swim, cycle, or join group classes to stay engaged.
- Track progress – Use a journal, app, or fitness tracker to monitor progress. Seeing improvements provides motivation.
- Be patient – It takes 4-6 weeks for new habits to stick. Stick with your routine until it feels automatic.
- Find support – Surround yourself with friends, family, or a support group that keeps you accountable.
Consistent effort over time leads to habits that become natural and self-sustaining. Remind yourself it’s a gradual process. With commitment, your “new normal” will eventually shift to prioritize fitness.
Address Other Aspects of Health
Fitness is just one part of the overall health equation. Starting a successful journey means also addressing these other aspects:
Sleep – Aim for 7-8 hours per night. Lack of sleep increases the risk of weight gain and injury.
Stress Management – Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing counteract the negative impacts of stress on health.
Hydration – Drink plenty of water and limit sugary and alcoholic drinks, which cause dehydration.
Active Recovery – Balance strenuous workouts with gentler activities like stretching, walking, and foam rolling.
Nutrition – Pay attention to what you eat before and after exercise to properly fuel your body.
Rest Days – Don’t exercise daily when starting. Allow at least 1-2 non-workout days per week for muscles to recover.
The holistic approach allows you to maximize results from your fitness efforts while lowering the risk of overtraining injuries and fatigue.
Seek Support if Needed
Embarking on a fitness journey alone can be challenging. If you need help or motivation, consider the following:
- Hiring a personal trainer – They can teach proper form, provide accountability and customize workouts to your goals. Even a few sessions when starting can get you on the right path.
- Partnering with a friend – Having a gym buddy provides comradery and peer pressure! Agree to meet up for your workouts.
- Joining a class or group – The social nature helps commitment. Look for beginner classes focused on your goals.
- Working with a registered dietitian – If you want guidance in improving your diet, an RD can provide eating plans tailored to your needs.
If you have specific conditions, injuries, or limitations, consult a doctor to discuss any restrictions before starting an exercise regimen. They may refer you to a physical therapist or trainer versed in modification.
The right support system will enhance your fitness journey, especially when overcoming hurdles like lack of motivation, injury setbacks, or plateaued progress. Consider options that suit your personality and needs.
Be Patient and Celebrate Small Wins
Starting a fitness journey from scratch requires patience. Expect gradual progress rather than overnight results. With regular effort, you will start to feel healthier, stronger and more energetic.
To stay motivated, take note of small wins like:
- Finishing your first 5 minute jog without stopping
- Increasing your workout frequency from 2x to 3x per week
- Making healthier swaps in your diet
- Feeling less winded going up a flight of stairs
- Being able to lift heavier weights
These mini milestones indicate you are making progress! Over time, the cumulative effect of small wins leads to greater fitness and optimal health.
Stay focused on your “why”, be kind to yourself in the process and remain consistent. The healthy habits you build will serve you for the rest of your life. At Latitude 32 Fitness, we celebrate each member’s small wins as they establish their unique fitness journey. Remember that the most important thing is to start – the rest will organically follow as you establish your fitness journey. What are you waiting for? Lace up those sneakers and go get moving!