7 Honest Tips for Starting Your Fitness Journey
As a fitness professional, I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside many other women as they start their journey to a fitter, healthier life.
Not to mention, I’ve been there myself. I remember panicking over just walking into the weight room. I would walk in, spend 10 to 15 minutes using whatever equipment I already knew how to use, and bust out of there as fast as I could, hoping that nobody noticed me wandering around looking lost like a newbie.
I remember a time when the only arm workout I wasn’t afraid of was pushing and pulling the handles of the elliptical machine. I remember being so confused about what to do, being scared of getting bulky, and being scared people could see that I didn't know what I was doing!
I’ve tried no rules/eat anything I like, clean eating, and tracking macros. I’ve had seasons in which I spent 6 days a week in the gym lifting heavy but I’ve also gone through seasons in which I couldn’t bring myself to go to the gym at all. I’ve taught group classes like spin and boot camp and competed on the national bodybuilding stage, but I’ve also had times where I struggled to keep to a routine. All of that being said, I’ve picked up some important lessons along the way.
I hope that these tips encourage you, comfort you, and bring you the clarity you need to stay strong in your fitness journey!
1. Fitness is personal. Stop looking for THE right way and start looking for the right way for YOU.
I’m sure you’ve been overwhelmed by all of the information on the internet. You’ve probably taken in a thousand different opinions on the “best” way to reach your goal. It can be so hard when you start one strategy, unsure it will even work and at the same time start seeing 3 completely conflicting opinions. Meanwhile, you are unsure of how to do any of it.
The best strategy for YOU is personal. Let me put it this way:
Say you’re a young professional working crazy hours. I could tell you to work out 6 days a week. But that would be an aggressive, probably unreasonable approach to getting you to your finish line. You might only be able to stick to that for a week or 2. Once you start skipping workouts, you might start feeling discouraged and like you’ve failed yourself. Your workouts slowly dwindle until you give up a month later, deciding this is all too hard.
But what if, instead, I said you could get to your goal working out just 3 days a week? You start strong and you’re so excited a month in when you realize you have successfully maintained your routine for a month straight! You feel your confidence building.
You stick to this routine for 2 months, then 3 months, then 6 months. Before you know it, you genuinely ENJOY working out. It’s a part of your life and your routine. You haven’t burned out on it because the commitment makes sense for YOUR schedule and priorities.
Just because a certain strategy COULD work, doesn’t mean it works for you and your life! Fitness is personal.
What obstacles get in your way? Your game plan should help you overcome your personal obstacles (like time availability) and play up your personal strengths (how do you like to move? What do you already do well?)
2. Walk before you run.
Have you built the foundation?
It can be so tempting to jump right into, say, tracking macros (a strategy I firmly believe in.) But have you covered the basics already? Are you eating enough vegetables? Do you drink enough water? Do you move your body regularly?
It’s important that you cover the basics first. If you’re not consistent with the small things yet, how can you jump into consistently doing the big things?
Usually, that’s how yo yo diets start. We try to massively overhaul our entire lifestyle at once instead of making small changes we can consistently stick to. Then, we get overwhelmed, burn out, and give up.
It’s important to identify the basics you aren’t doing properly yet. They have a massive impact! Once you’re doing those well, you can consider jumping into more precise food tracking practices if needed.
3. Focus on the process, not the outcome.
It can be easy to get so fixated on the results that you’re only focused on the finish line. But when the goal is big, the goal takes time.
If you aren’t enjoying the process of getting to the goal, it’s unlikely you’re going to consistently practice the habits that get you there. And if you can’t continue those habits, it’s unlikely you’re going to achieve and then sustain your results.
Rather than fixating on results, focus on what you can do today and this week to bring you closer to that goal.
Break it into chunks. What do you need to accomplish this week to bring you one step closer? What do you need to be doing daily?
What can you do today to move the needle forward? If you take the actions you need to today, that is success. Celebrate those daily, weekly, and monthly wins!
As you focus on the daily actions it takes to get to the end goal, the results come more naturally.
4. Get help!
Looking back, this is truly something I would have done sooner than I did. Getting a coach is valuable whether you’re a total beginner or an experienced gym goer! You can spend years fumbling around trying to figure out a solid game plan for yourself and struggling to hold yourself accountable.
Or you can invest in the guidance of someone who can look at your needs, goals, and struggles objectively and help you get there faster (not fast, but much faster than by yourself.)
You will still have to work hard. But a coach can use their expertise to help you create a plan, which will increase your confidence and allow you to focus more on execution. Plus, it’s easier to stay on track when someone else knows about your goals and asks you to check in regularly.
5. Your fitness journey may look different in different seasons of life. That’s okay!
Your routine might look a little different when you’re starting a new job, newly married, starting a family, grieving a loss, etc. As your priorities change, your routine might change. This is okay! Focus on what feels sustainable for you in this season of life. What I don’t suggest is stopping your fitness routine altogether.
Often, when the struggle hits, the all or nothing thinking kicks in. We think that if we can’t do everything (i.e. go to the gym 6 days a week, track all our food, eat all the vegetables, drink all the water, etc) we might as well do nothing.
If you miss brushing your teeth one time, do you stop brushing your teeth altogether?
The same goes for your health and fitness routine. You don’t have to do everything. But if you can do some things consistently, you will make progress you can keep. Maybe a woman who has started traveling for her career can’t lug a food scale to her business dinners, but she can make sure to get a portion of lean protein and a veggie at most meals. Maybe a newlywed wife wants to prioritize time with her new husband and so she opts to workout at the gym just 3 times a week for an hour.
Rather than stopping and starting your fitness routine or diet as things come up, focus on what you can do consistently well and be comfortable with adjusting the plan when it is honestly unreasonable for your life season.
6. Be honest with yourself though.
Are you inconsistent with your daily habits because they are truly unreasonable or is there something you can change to make these habits more achievable? If you’re trying to eat 3 servings of veggies a day and you’re not rocking it, maybe the problem isn’t the goal. Maybe it’s your preparation.
Are you scheduling your trip to the grocery store? Are you making a list with veggies you’d like to use this week? Are you setting aside time to prep them? Is there anything you can do to make time available for these activities?
Honestly examine whether the routine is too much or you just need to remove barriers that are holding you back.
Also honestly examine whether your effort truly warrants a certain result. If you aren’t working out consistently, how much are you expecting to see the scale move? If you eat clean all week and then binge on the weekends, are you still expecting fat loss? Where are your personal gaps?
Make sure you’re researching what realistic expectations look like for your goal. Ask an expert or a coach who can help you decide what goals and timelines are truly reasonable. And then continue taking an honest look at how committed you are. You get what you put in and you’re going to have to make some new, uncomfortable changes to achieve a new result.
7. Your body and mind are connected. Make sure you’re addressing all aspects of your health.
As I’ve been coaching women, I’ve noticed how often our relationship with food, our bodies, and exercise is impacted by our life experiences and our mental wellness.
You might have a poor relationship with food because you watched your mom yo yo diet ever since you were little. You might struggle to form a strong workout routine because you’re suffering from depression and anxiety. You might have lost someone recently and have zero desire to eat or move or do anything but sleep. Or maybe work is just super stressful right now and it's leading you to over eat.
That being said, what I’ve noticed both in myself and clients is that it is very hard to have true health without taking care of both your body and mental/emotional health. If one suffers, the other will too. As you take on the journey to a fitter you, I highly recommend seeing a counselor at the same time.
As you address your life stressors and inner wounds regularly with a professional, you are better able to heal, cope, and make space for a healthier lifestyle. Even if all you need is a biweekly session to vent about work stress - it will help your mental wellness and your fitness journey!
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To Your Good Health & Success,