Getting to the gym is often the hardest part of working out - especially if you're new at the whole exercise thing. Creating a routine seems impossible. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and all of a sudden, you realize that it’s not challenging at all. Reaching this point is a fantastic milestone, but where do you go after that?
Start with a goal
Whether you want to lose weight, get stronger, or build your cardio capabilities, doing so is much more achievable when you actually have a set goal in mind. If you want to lose weight, how much? If you want to be able to run, how far? Once you’ve figured out, make yourself accountable. Write it down and tell your friends. Set a time period that you want to achieve this goal in, and ensure that it’s realistic.
Create a plan
Once you have a goal, you have to figure out how to actually reach it. A goal without a plan is just a wish. A fitness program or personal trainer are both great resources. Start with something that’s appropriate for your fitness level. You can walk before you can run and you can lift 5 pound weights before you reach 10. If you push for too much too soon, you’ll likely get frustrated by how difficult and impossible your goals seem and give up too quickly.
Switch it up
Once you’ve established a routine and have gotten comfortable with your workouts, it’s time to switch it up so that you don’t plateau. It’s great to get moving, but if you want to see progress, you’ll have to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. This is where personal trainers come in handy – they’re great motivational tools. Even going to the gym with a friend will help you push yourself.
When you stop feeling sore after a workout, it’s time to up the intensity. Whether you increase the intensity of your workout or the time, you’ll be pushing your muscles and burning more calories. If you run on the treadmill, try doing HIIT. If you’ve been focusing on building muscle in your arms, switch focus to your back, instead.
Don’t forget rest and nutrition
As hard as your body is working, it needs proper rest and fuel to keep it functioning at 100%. Whether you decrease your workout intensity in order to rest your muscles or take the day off completely, it’s important to give your body rest time so that it can repair itself.
It’s also important to give your body the proper nutrients to do those repairs. Eating the right meal or snack before as well as after a workout will give you maximum results. Carbohydrates before a workout will give you an extra burst of energy. Protein after a workout will encourage protein synthesis, which is muscle repair. Make sure to portion your meals as well. Eating too little will result in lethargy during a workout.
Don’t lose focus
Sometimes you won’t feel like working out. Sometimes it’s ok to skip a day, but that can easily become a bad habit. The days that you don’t want to go often result in your best workout days. Here are three helpful tips to help you stay on track.
- Post goals on the bathroom mirror, or another place you frequently look. It will serve as a constant reminder of what you want to achieve.
- Prepare for curveballs. Life never goes according to plan and if you’re able to adapt to every day challenges that arise, you’re more likely to be able to work around them.
- Keep track of your efforts in a journal and make yourself accountable for your best days as well as your worst. On days that you don’t put your best foot forward, consider what you could have done better and try to do that the next day.
Know what your limits are and don’t try to force yourself past them. Listen to your body. If something hurts, give it rest and see a doctor if you’re concerned. There’s the good kind of pain, which is soreness from exerting yourself, and there’s bad pain, which signals an injury. Testing your limits to see how much your body can take is fine, but do it gradually and carefully.