I started exercising about four years ago. I started from near bottom. I was a decent enough swimmer and used to participate in team sports when I was younger, but doing anything remotely althetic in my adult years made me feel really self-conscious.
Now I work out five times a week, have a fitness tracker and have signed up for a few 10k runs and a marathon. What happened? How did I keep at it? Here are my five tips to start exercising and get fit – and keep at it.
What are you hoping to achieve? Do you want to be able to run 5k? Participate in a gym class? Squat 40kg? Set realistic goals and realistic timelines. It’s not likely after two days of walking 10,000 steps that you would be able to run a sub 25 minute 5k. But perhaps in two months you can keep a steady pace for 3k. Or be working your way up to a 40kg squat. I find setting small goals means they are more achievable, and once you have achieved them you become more motivated. In future you can also do something as part of a team, like a Tough Mudder.
Use tools that will be able to help you achieve your goals and log your progress
When I started exercising, I wanted to be able to run. I wanted to be able to run a 5k, to be exact. I used the brilliant Couchto5K app to help me with this. I also got a decent pair of trainers and some proper workout leggings so I didn’t feel too uncomfortable.
Get an app that logs your progress. If you decide to start running you can enter your timings for certain distances and track how far you run. You can time how long you can hold a plank for, or how many push ups you can do. Try something like Workout Calendar.
Get proper workout clothes
Following on from the above, although exercise does not have to be expensive, you should invest in proper workout things. If you plan on running, get your gait analysed and get some trainers that accommodate that – your feet will thank you for it. Invest in gym clothes that wick sweat away so you are not uncomfortable and making youself ill by exercising in damp, sweaty clothes. It doesn’t have to be expensive, if you are in the UK Decathlon has excellent quality sportswear for reasonable prices.
Work within your budget & time allowance
Don’t skint yourself signing up to an expensive gym and buying state of the art workout equipment. Work within your budget. When I first started I was earning less and signed up to Urban Fitness which is a good value for money gym if you are in London. You don’t even need to join a gym if it is out of your budget. Running in a local park or walking costs nothing. A skipping rope is a few pounds, kicking a football around with your best pals – priceless.
Also don’t tire yourself getting up at 5am to get in a two hour work out when you usually snooze your alarm ten times and weigh up whether an extra 5 minutes in bed is worth not brushing your teeth before work in the morning. Create a workout schedule that suits you. You can only spare two hours a week to work out. That’s fine. That’s two hours extra of exercise you wouldn’t have been doing. Prefer to work out in the evenings? That’s fine too. Ignore the posts on the internet that tell you it’s best to work out at 6:53am five days a week except on a leap year where you have to work out exactly 5.43 minutes earlier. Guess what is best? Sticking to a routine because it works for you and doesn’t constantly exhaust you. Unless you like running at the crack of dawn – you superhuman!
Find an exercise you enjoy
You’ll never stick to an exercise regime if you dread doing it. Try a few classes and see what you enjoy. When I first started, I walked a lot and went on the elliptical. Once I got fitter I tried a few classes. Suddenly the elliptical became less appealing and now I am boxing and doing body combat classes. I also love swimming when the weather is warm – it doesn’t even feel like a work out
Do you have any tips for beginning exercise and getting fit?