38 Success Secrets You Must Know Before Starting To Exercise
One of the things that excites me most is hearing about someone who has decided to start exercising regularly to become healthier. If you are one of those people, I highly commend you for your decision and am writing this specifically for you.
You are about to change your life for the better and give your body the attention that it rightfully deserves. It means that you are going to join a growing percentage of the population that exercises regularly. It also means that you are on your way to experiencing:
- Better energy
- Weight and body-fat loss
- Better sleep
- Better disease prevention
- Improved mood
- Better sex
- Reduced stress
- Increased self-confidence
- Increased happiness
Just like you, I decided to start exercising regularly a few years ago and change my life. In order to succeed in attaining your goals and staying healthy, there is some important information that you should note and remember before you plan and begin your exciting new exercise regimen. Here is what I have learned and recommend:
1. You Are Doing a Great Thing by Investing in Your Health
Your decision to start exercising should be celebrated! You are making the most important investment in yourself because, along with time, your health is the most precious asset you have.
2. It Won’t Be Easy
It is important to realize and come to terms with the fact that you will experience some discomfort and difficulty on your road to exercising regularly and becoming healthier. Like any other endeavor in life, there will be some trials and tribulations when you are first starting out. Your body will need some time to adjust to the increased activity. Once you are mindful of this and accept it, you will be better prepared to handle the discomfort and know that it is only temporary.
3. It Won’t Be Too Difficult for You
This is closely related to #2 above: Once you have accepted the fact that you will almost certainly experience some challenges and discomfort on the road to exercising regularly, also realize that the difficulties you encounter won’t be so difficult that you cannot overcome them. You have the innate ability to withstand these difficult times and conquer them. In other words, it may not be easy at first, but it also won’t be as difficult as you might imagine.
4. Pain/Discomfort Indicates You Are Making Progress
You most likely will suffer some aches and pains when you first start working out. Of course, it is wise to consult your doctor before you start any exercise program, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions. Realize that experiencing some minor aches is part of the process and that even seasoned athletes incur them. If you have not exercised in a long time and walk a mile the first day, your legs will most likely be sore the next day. That is normal. The trick is to know when you should rest your body and when to to push through minor discomfort.
5. Your Mind Is the Biggest Obstacle
As with most changes, know that your mind will be the biggest obstacle to overcome. When you first start exercising after leading a sedentary lifestyle, your body is not the only part of you that needs to adjust. Most people are resistant to change and the mind is a big part of it. Your mind will often start its incessant internal chatter the moment things get difficult. It will come up with a hundred reasons why you should not face your difficulties head on and conquer them because it is much easier to give an excuse and quit. But, as we all know, giving in to excuses does not work in the long run because it is only a temporary fix which leads you back to square one, the very place you did not want to be in in the first place. So be aware of this chatter and prepared for your mind to provide all sorts of flimsy excuses when things get slightly challenging. Detach yourself from this mind chatter and observe it from a distance without giving in to it. You may have negative thoughts that are counterproductive to your exercise goals, but realize that thoughts are just that and have no power unless you authenticate them by acting upon them. You are not your thoughts and your thoughts are not you. You have a choice on how to respond.
6. Make It Fun
Contrary to what some people might believe, exercising can be a lot of fun. There are so many different options today when it comes to exercise that there is definitely something for you. Make your exercise sessions fun by choosing activities that you enjoy. From basketball to Zumba, yoga to kayaking, and kickboxing to hiking, the possibilities are almost endless.
7. Change It Up
Because there are so many exercise options these days, I suggest that you try different things and add variety to your exercise regimen. For example, besides joining a gym and lifting weights and doing cardio, you could also go cycling, enroll in a dance class, go for brisk morning walks with a friend, work out with kettlebells, take up swimming, etc.
8. Resist the Temptation to Make It ‘All or Nothing’
Let’s say you go to the gym and plan on walking on the treadmill for 45 minutes but only manage to complete 30. That is better than not doing anything at all and does not mean you have failed. Walking half a mile when your goal was to walk for a mile is still progress so forget the ‘all or nothing’ attitude. As the famous saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Just make sure you are moving forward.
9. Do Not Be Hard on Yourself
Closely related to point #8 listed above, it is important that you do not be too hard on yourself. Celebrate each little accomplishment rather than berate yourself for falling short of your ideal. There will be times when you will be slowed by obstacles, that is only natural. Treat yourself with love and kindness the way you would someone else.
10. Take Small Steps but Always Move Forward
When it comes to exercise, it is important to always make progress, even if it means only taking small steps. The worst thing you can do is to not move forward or, even worse, regress. If you were only able to walk for 10 minutes, that is a success.
11. Make It a Habit
One key to successfully making exercise a regular part of your life is to make it an ingrained habit. Think of some of the habits you have cultivated in your life, from brushing your teeth, to showering, to eating. Prioritize your daily routine and make exercise high on that list of priorities. For example, I have chosen to exercise in the morning after I wake up, brush my teeth and meditate. It eradicates the guesswork and scheduling issues and becomes clockwork.
12. Do It Anyway, Show Up
This is a key point. There will be times when you do not feel like going to the gym. Your mind will creatively come up with all sorts of reasons and excuses why it is permissible to skip a workout, and it can be very convincing. In such a case, do it anyway. Show up. It might be raining heavily and you do not feel like working out, but do it anyway. Your legs are achy and your mind is telling you that you need to skip the workout, but do it anyway. You drank too much wine the night before and you would rather stay in bed than exercise, but do it anyway. You just had an argument with your spouse and you are in no mood to go to the gym, but do it anyway. You get the drift. Stick to your exercise schedule no matter what.
13. Momentum Is Good and Will Help Carry You Through
Even though you may find your initial workout sessions challenging, the momentum you will develop by exercising regularly will start to take effect and keep you going. That is why it is important not to miss scheduled workouts. It is similar to any other endeavor in life. It may seem difficult at first, but with consistent effort, it gets easier as you gain momentum. So keep that momentum going.
14. Involve Friends
A wonderful way to ensure that you exercise regularly is to involve your friends. Reach out to friends who also want to exercise and change their lives. Make a commitment to exercise together regularly, offer each other moral support, and help one another during difficult times. Not only does doing so make exercise more fun, it also increases your chances of success because of the commitment you and your friends have made.
15. Involve Family
Including family members in regular exercise is a wonderful and wholesome way to get healthy while spending time with those you love. Instead of watching a movie on the couch, get active with your spouse, kids, and/or parents and exercise.
16. Celebrate Each Workout
Each and every time you exercise is a reason to celebrate! You have just made the effort to invest in your health; what could be better than that? You deserve to celebrate and pat yourself on the back. Of course, refrain from celebrating by going out and devouring a whole pizza or drinking too much alcohol. Celebrate in a wholesome way in mind, body and spirit.
17. Do Fun Activities
As you slowly but surely get more in shape, I suggest including fun activities into your exercise routines. For example, you could go camping, or try rock climbing, or go roller skating, or bowling, or learn how to paddle board. Identify and engage in activities that you truly enjoy and it will add variety to your life while keeping you active. Try to limit activities that are sedentary such as sitting on the couch and watching a movie or going to a bar.
18. Take Photos of Yourself
A wonderful gift you can give to yourself is to take regular photos of yourself each week (or more often) to illustrate and document your progress. I suggest that you start taking photos before you begin your very first exercise session. Try to take the photos in the same place each time (for example, in front of your bathroom mirror) while wearing the same or similar clothing. This will better allow you to see your progress. And, trust me, there is nothing more exciting than seeing your progress in the way of photos. Even if you are overweight now and not pleased with how you look, take the photos anyway because it will inspire you in the long run and help chart your success.
19. Keep a Journal
Another effective idea is to keep a personal exercise journal to record your journey. Try to write down as much as you can, including the smallest details. These include the days you exercised, the duration, what exercises you did, the weights you lifted, how you felt before and after (both good and bad), etc. If done diligently, this journal will become extremely valuable and precious to you over the long run. It will also help you fine-tune your exercise routines.
20. Do Not Worry if People Are Watching
Some people who are new to exercising worry about other people looking or staring at them. In fact, many people who see themselves as overweight have told me that they are extremely conscious of others looking at them in the gym or on the jogging path. Let me say from the onset that I empathize with these people and understand their perceived embarrassment and/or fear. People should not stare and make others uncomfortable because it is rude. However, it is also important to remember two things: People are not staring at you as much as you think, if at all. Secondly, even if people do stare, you cannot do much about it and have the power to ignore them. You are making the effort to get in shape and change your life. That is something to be commended. Ignore the stares that you think you might be receiving and focus on your workout. Realize that people who might look at you may be doing so with admiration and respect. Also, explore the possibility that your self-consciousness might be exaggerating the extent to which people are looking at you. Focus on yourself and not on others. You deserve it.
21. Don’t Forget Your Diet
If you want to see quicker results in the way of weight and body-fat loss, it is important to pay attention to what you eat and drink. Of course, even if you do not alter your eating habits, regular exercise will have a positive effect and help you become healthier. But if you want to accomplish your health goals faster, eat healthier. Eat more vegetables and lean proteins, and stay away from processed foods, sugar, bad fats, and limit your alcohol intake. Recognize that your diet greatly affects your health goals. Your body is an amazing machine that deserves proper fuel. When you pay attention to your nutrition in tandem with regular exercise, you will see results much faster. You will also feel much better.
22. Drink Lots of Water
One of the best things you can do when you embark on an exercise program is to drink lots of water. I recommend drinking at least 8 cups per day. Fill a 64oz container with water every morning and try to finish it before you go to bed. The health benefits of drinking adequate water daily are well-documented so hydrate your body! Stay away from exercise and sports drinks because most contain sugar and artificial ingredients.
23. Up Your Protein Intake and Lower Your Carbs and Bad Fat
One mistake people make when engaging in an exercise program is not consuming enough protein. Make sure you eat enough lean protein (fish, shellfish, lean meat, tofu, nuts, etc). You can also supplement your diet with a good protein shake. If you are trying to lose weight and body fat, reduce your intake of saturated and other bad fats and processed carbohydrates. Eat lots of vegetables.
24. Cut Back or Eliminate Alcohol
I also suggest reducing or eliminating your alcohol intake. Not only does alcohol contain empty calories, it also can affect how you feel the next day. Having a hangover is not conducive if your goal is to exercise regularly.
25. Clean Out Your Pantry and Fridge
One of the best things you can do before starting your exercise program is to go through your pantry and get rid of unhealthy snacks and foods. Do the same with your refrigerator. Reduce your exposure to temptation by only stocking up on fresh, healthy food and snacks. There are so many healthy options these days so take advantage of them.
26. Get Proper Sleep
Now that you are committed to exercising regularly, it is important that you get adequate sleep every day to help your body rest and recover. Getting proper sleep is essential when you are exercising regularly. Try to skip or reduce the late nights and try to sleep and wake up early.
27. Morning Workouts Are Best
I highly recommend exercising as early in the morning as possible. This is when you are most rested and least distracted by the demands of the day. Exercising in the mornings will also allow you to start the day on a high note, release endorphins and serotonin, and make you feel great. You will have more energy and be better equipped to handle the rest of your day.
28. Inspire Yourself
One thing I encourage you to do as you dive in to your new exercise routine is to seek inspiration from others. There are so many inspirational and motivational stories and videos available that will prove to you that you are not alone in your efforts to get healthy. YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo and the like are great resources, as are books and articles online. Immerse yourself in these inspirational stories and anecdotes for you to learn from. Speak to others who motivate you, especially those who have successfully achieved what you want to achieve. We are all in this together and can motivate one another. Soon you will play the role of motivator and inspire others.
29. Make Goals but Break It Down
Once you commit to getting fit and healthier, I suggest that you spend some time listing your goals and writing it down. It is prudent to check with your doctor to make sure it does not conflict with any medical conditions you may have. It could be on your phone or in a journal. Make your goals specific and measureable because that is the best way to monitor your progress. For example, instead of having the vague goal of working out a few times per week, it is better to be specific and commit to working out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 1 hour each time. If your goal is to lose weight or body fat, be specific about how many pounds or body fat % you would like to lose. Having clear goals will reduce any ambiguity and help you achieve your goals faster because it takes out the guess work.
Visualization can be a great tool in helping you stick to your exercise regimen and achieve the goals you desire. Spend a few minutes each day visualizing yourself as being healthy, in great shape and looking the way you want to look. Visualize it as if you have already accomplished it. You will be amazed at how effective visualization can be if it is done consistently.
31. Do Not Get Discouraged If You Are Not Seeing Results Fast Enough
A complaint that some people have when they start exercising is that they are not seeing results fast enough. They have a preconceived idea of how much weight or fat loss they should have experienced by that point, and they get disappointed. Everyone’s body is different and responds to exercise differently. Some may achieve their goals slightly faster than others. But it is important to realize that everyone will get the results they want if they stick with it and do not give up, even if it takes a little longer. Your body needs time to adjust to the increased activity so stay focused and do not get discouraged.
32. Measure Body Fat, Not Weight
When you start exercising, I suggest that you do not step on a scale. Instead, measure your body fat. This is because you almost certainly will gain muscle mass when you exercise and muscle weighs more than fat, so stepping on the scale can be misleading. You can actually reduce your waist size, lose body fat, get thinner, and not lose weight. And that is a good thing. Since you will have more muscle, you also will be burning more calories even when idle. So remember to measure your body fat percentage rather than your weight.
33. Weights and Cardio
Now that you have decided to get in shape, I suggest that you lift weights and do some form of cardiovascular exercise in your workouts. Both weights and cardio are extremely important and both serve their own functions. Even if your goal is not to be a bodybuilder and develop big muscles, it is still important to do some form of resistance exercise. Trust me, you will not develop huge muscles in a month if you are just starting to workout. The weight training helps your body to get leaner and stronger while the cardio exercise is good for your heart and helps you to get rid of body fat. Do not neglect either one.
Do not forget to incorporate some stretching exercises into your workouts, especially after you have warmed up. You can also stretch after your workouts. Stretching increases your range of motion, increases flexibility and prevents injury.
35. Invest the Money in a Gym, Equipment, etc
I believe that when you commit to exercising regularly, it is worth investing in a gym membership, new shoes, clothes and equipment. One reason is because most people are more committed if they shelled out some cash. Secondly, it also makes you feel better, and you deserve to feel better because you are making fantastic changes in your life. Thirdly, having new equipment conveniently accessible means it will be easier for you to exercise any time you want.
36. Music, Audiobooks, Podcasts
One method you can use to make your exercise sessions more enjoyable is to take advantage of good music, audiobooks, regular books, and podcasts. For example, Spotify and Pandora have great workout playlists. TED has great podcasts that are inspiring and informative, and Amazon has millions of audiobooks that you can listen to while working out.
37. Do Research
There are so many informational resources pertaining to exercise and getting fit available these days. I highly recommend that you take advantage of these resources to supplement your workouts. YouTube, Bodybuilding.com, MuscleAndFitness.com, Nutrition.gov, are just a few that have wonderful information, even for the beginner.
38. Ask for Help
Do not be afraid to ask others for help. Everyone starts at the beginning and there is no shame in asking others about things that you do not know. Most people are glad to help others who are trying to better their lives. You, in turn, will soon be able to reciprocate and help others.
You are going to embark on an exciting journey by incorporating exercise into your daily life. I congratulate and believe in you!