Congratulations on making that conscious decision of improving your fitness. Not only will this improve your overall appearance and health, but it will have a significant impact on your mood and energy levels as well. You’ll see…
Finding the motivation and possibly the courage to get started can be a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you are new to fitness. What with all the information out there about how much cardio and weight training sessions one should do, the ideal heart rate while exercising, high intensity interval training vs. regular training, diet plans and the list goes on and on.
No worries my friends, as I always like to say: it’s not rocket science. You got this! All you need is the will power to get fitter and your common sense and you are good to go.
Here are my tips on how to get you up and running…
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1. Adopt a positive mindset
Repeat after me: “I’ve always been beautiful. Now, I am just deciding to be fitter, faster and stronger”. Remember this always! We’ll start this journey from a positive place with a self- loving attitude – no body shaming ourselves into senseless crash diets and compulsive exercising. That is not the way to go. Getting fit is all about improving your already fabulous self, becoming the best version of yourself and having a good time while at it.
I’m not going to lie, exercise is hard work and requires discipline and stamina. However, if you find the workout routine that suits you best and stick to it because you want to make a change for yourself, I guarantee it’s one of the most satisfying and enjoyable experiences ever!
Team up with your body and see how far you can push yourself to reach that ultimate fitness level. By all means, be a bit competitive with yourself.
2. Do I sign up with a gym or do this on my own?
This is a totally legitimate question and one you need to answer for yourself before embarking on this journey of becoming a fitter and more fabulous you. The decision whether or not to sign up for a gym membership obviously depends on various factors such as personal finances, time schedules, distance and location etc.
If you are new to fitness and don’t really know where to start, I recommend you start with the gym, if possible. I did the same and never regretted it. Sure, you have to pay a membership fee but I view it as an investment in my health, which I am happy to pay for. Plus, it’s not forever. If in a year you decide, it’s not for you, you can always cancel your membership or even transfer it to somebody else.
Before signing up with a gym, shop around a bit: book a trial training session or visit one of their group fitness classes. Take your time in deciding and, by all means don’t let yourself be pressured into signing anything you don’t feel 100% comfortable with right away. I tried out 3 different gyms before choosing the one I go to now, and my criteria were pretty simple: cleanliness (you’d think this is a given with all gyms, but sadly I found this not to be the case at all), friendly and professional staff, who know how to keep their distance and most importantly, a gym which offers the Les Mills group fitness classes. Make sure you know what you are looking for in a gym and don’t settle for less.
I also recommend you choose a gym as close to your home or work place as possible. Who wants to spend another hour in a bus or in the car after a day at work just to go workout? The longer it will take you to get there, the higher the risk you will skip the workout all together.
The big plus with signing up at a gym is obviously the professional support you’ll get on site. The staff will guide and advise you on how best to achieve your goals.
Should you opt to take on the challenge of getting fitter without the support of a gym, that’s totally fine too. Just make sure you do your research (online, fitness magazines etc.) to avoid any possible injuries by doing the wrong kind of exercises etc. Stay tuned for posts on ideas for effective exercises you can easily do in the comfort of your own living room. In the meantime try planking (for more info read my post When in doubt, plank it out).
3. Set your goals
First things first: Know what you want to achieve, whether it’s losing weight, improving muscle tone or simply improving your endurance and overall fitness.
Talk with the trainers at the gym and they will be able to point you in the right direction exercise wise.
That being said, however, go with your common sense too. Like I said, it’s not rocket science: If weight loss is your goal, your workouts should focus primarily (but not solely) on cardiovascular training (e.g. jogging, walking, running on the treadmill, stepper, high intensity interval training etc.). Anything that will get your heart rate up is excellent for burning calories. An expression I read somewhere comes to mind: “Sweat is fat crying”. So, keep that in mind. Anything that will make you sweat is good. Opt for at least three 45-minute cardio sessions a week for optimal results.
If gaining muscle mass is your first priority, then you’re focus will be strength training (weight training specifically). Three 30 minute all-over strength training sessions a week are a good start.
Whatever your goal is however, include both cardio and strength training in your workout, as both are important for optimal fitness. You can’t have one without the other. Depending on your goals, you’ll just slightly prioritize one more than the other.
When it comes to losing weight, muscle mass is equally important, as muscles burn a lot of calories, even post-workout. Furthermore, muscle mass is what will make you look lean and toned. Cardio alone will not give you that firm, toned look we are striving for.
So, you’ve set your goals and are ready to go. Commitment and dedication are the next step. You can’t expect results if you are only in this halfheartedly. You have to want this 100% and fight for it! Every workout is hard work – that’s the way it’s supposed to be – but it’s incredibly rewarding and fulfilling once you are done. Before you know it, you’ll be addicted to that feeling of empowerment you get after every workout session. And that my friend, is the right mindset.
Commit to exercising regularly. The more you do, the quicker you’ll see results. Try to incorporate at least three 45 minute workouts a week for optimal results.
Remember to recover after each workout. While commitment is good, exaggeration is not. You have to give your body and muscles time to recover and repair themselves. Training the same muscle groups two days in a row is not a good idea and can lead to injuries. Pause for at least 24 hours before you train those specific muscles again and use the time in between to train a different muscle group or opt for a cardio session.
For example, if you train your lower body on Monday, give it a rest on Tuesday and train your upper body instead. The same goes for cardio sessions: Don’t overdo it. Avoid jogging every day, especially if you are new to it. Hit the stepping machine instead or do some Yoga.
5. Try group fitness
If you’ve read my last post on group fitness, you will have learned by now that I am a huge fan and strongly recommend this form of exercise to everyone out there looking to either get back in shape or to improve their fitness level.
If you’ve never tried it, I strongly encourage you to do so. You might think it’s embarrassing to join a class without any proper experience and that everybody will notice. You’re wrong. Everybody started out somewhere and people are much too preoccupied with their own performance anyway so they won’t have time to judge you. Plus, you can always go with a friend so you don’t feel completely alone and a good fitness instructor will always do his/her best to make you feel comfortable.
I only do group fitness classes at the gym and take 5-6 different classes a week. I don’t do machines as I easily get bored exercising alone. Working out to upbeat music in a group with a professional instructor, who will guide and motivate me through the class, is my kind of thing.
There are tons of classes you can choose from. If you like to dance or have always been interested in it, then Zumba or Les Mills SH Bam could be fun options to try. For the more martial arts oriented people: Les Mills BODYCOMBAT, kickpower oder kickbox classes are a good choice. And for those of us who can’t live without their barbells and weights, Les Mills’ famous BODYPUMP workout or Bodytoning classes are a great option. And there are tons more. I encourage you to check out the classes at your gym and who knows, you might even discover a new passion – just like I did a few years ago.
6. Workout outfits and gear
For obvious reasons, you’ll want your workout clothes to be functional and comfortable. Invest in at least one pair of good quality sneakers (especially if you do jogging or running) to prevent injuries to your joints. They might be a bit pricey but it’s worth every penny. Your knees and ankles will thank you for it. Be sure to change them regularly if you work out every day. I own 6 different pairs of sneakers, which is admittedly a bit exaggerated but that way I don’t wear them out as quickly.
For the ladies: invest in a comfortable sports bra, which will offer you enough support. I used to workout in my normal bra but have noticed a huge difference since I wear sports bras.
There is a wide range of workout clothes out there and I’ll admit that I have become a bit of an addict when it comes to buying new workout outfits. I am obsessed with Nike leggings and flowy workout tops in bright neon colors, which I tie up to a knot in the front. I love that sort of stuff, and wearing flashy outfits to the gym makes me feel good about myself and motivates me. To each their own, right?!
Mind you, working out in baggy sweatpants and old T-shirts is fine too. You don’t have to look like a diva when you hit the gym. However, I recommend you play around with your outfit a bit. Wear those colors and maybe invest in a pair of workout leggings (believe me, they make everyone look toned). You’ll see that the right outfit will work wonders on your self-confidence. It’s definitely worth a try.
You can find cute stuff in every price range. H&M makes really comfortable and cute sports bras and has great tops too. I am not a fan of their leggings as they tend to get transparent after washing them only once. Nike is my go-to store for sneakers and Reebok has fantastic leggings at reasonable prices. Look online for inspiration.
Just like diet alone won’t get you fitter, so won’t exercising. Both go hand in hand. Exercising doesn’t mean you get to indulge in candy and fatty foods. Also, exercise should never be a compensation for unhealthy food choices. It doesn’t work that way.
So, before embarking on you fitness journey, make sure you have fine tuned your eating habits to include all the important macro nutrients (complex carbs, proteins and healthy fats). For more information on this subject read my post on healthy eating.
If you want to lose weight, you will have to burn more calories than you consume. So far so good. However, a lot of people start starving themselves and working out, in order to reach their weight loss goal even quicker. That’s exactly how you shouldn’t do it!
Starving yourself will slow down your metabolism, making your body hold on to the calories you consume even more, making it next to impossible to lose any weight at all. Also, this method will backfire soon enough, causing you to binge eat at some point. Moderation is key. Continue consuming regular meals, just opt for the less caloric foods by avoiding fatty foods and including more proteins and complex carbs in your diet.