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Until two years ago, I had never run a mile in my life.
I consider myself pre-disposed to athletic aversion. I really prefer drinking wine and surfing pinterest. With chocolate. There might have been times I was supposed to run, like in school, but I used to hide in this big doorway until the end of class and then coming “running” out as though I had been at it the whole time. Seriously. I have no idea how I got away with it.
I never played a single competitive sport. I tried badminton once but I sprained a wrist two weeks in. I have spent 28 years of my life almost completely sedentary. My weight tried to creep up in my late teens, but I more or less kept it under control by dieting.
As an adult I didn’t consider myself lazy because I worked on my feet, walking quickly for 6 – 8 hours per shift (and that probably helped my weight too, at least I was burning some calories). I was always aware that I should be exercising. I just had no real desire to, and honestly, no idea how to start after so many years of…not.
A while ago, I was really struggling with life in general. I was pretty desperate, actually. I still don’t know exactly how I ended up at the gym… but it was a combination of knowing that exercise was good for you, of needing something to do, of needing to get out of the house, of finally realizing that I could have a heart attack at 40 and 40 wasn’t so far away.
I got a gym membership. I knew myself well enough to know that (at that time) I would never begin and maintain workouts at home.
If you start working out today, make a plan to ensure you will continue tomorrow
I chose to go to a gym. The gym can be scary…but it can be motivating. For the first three months I went just because I had paid to go, and I was not going to waste that money. It can be nerve wracking, I’ll give you that. All those fit people, doing fit things.
But I’ve finally reached that amazing place in life where I don’t give a tiny rats behind what people think of me. (If I had know when I was 20 what I know now, man I coulda ruled the world. Am I right?) The truth is, the people at the gym are there for themselves. True story: I have never looked around the gym and thought that some one was too fat, too old, too slow, too anything to be there.
If you can’t afford the gym, or if you just can’t be comfortable there, find a friend to work out with. Someone who you can be accountable to. In the beginning, if you have never been active before, there’ll be (lots of) days when you will choose not to work out unless it is costing you money or someone is guilting you into it. If you don’t deal with those days, they will take over. Those days will be fewer as you learn to love it, but chances are good you’re not gonna love it right away.
Throw away all preconceptions of what you think you “should be able to do
When I started, I had no idea what any of the machines at the gym did and I figured I was too weak to lift any weights. The treadmill looked not too scary, running sounded easy (like faster walking), and I was average weight with no health issues. I was pretty sure I could treadmill.
Sure I could. For about a minute and half. Going slow. If you are gonna start exercising, know this: It’s hard to do things you’ve never done before. Your body might be all confused, and that’s ok! If you do two push-ups today, that’s two more than you did yesterday. Go you! Accept that it’s gonna be hard, and take it slow. Find out what you can do and build on that. Don’t push yourself too hard when you start working out.
In fact, for the entire first month, as long as you show up and get sweaty, I’d call it a success. Be proud of yourself.
Embrace the fact that this is going to hurt
Not like you’re dying or anything, but those first few weeks, maybe even the first month… expect to be sore. This is new to your body, and it will protest. In the beginning I was just hanging out on the treadmill for an hour a few times per week, mostly going pretty slow. And still that first few weeks; WOW. I cried trying to get down the stairs one morning.
…but not THAT much
I gave myself stress fractures in my lower legs because I didn’t realize that it shouldn’t hurt THAT much. Muscle soreness is a good sign, crippling pain means you should take a break. Maybe even a week or more, if necessary, to recover. If that IS necessary you probably pushed too hard.
Remind yourself every. single. workout. this is gonna be worth it
Eventually your workout will feel like a reward, not a punishment. But in the beginning, when you have never done this before, you might need to have a little faith. You aren’t going to see results over night, and you are probably gonna want to quit. I don’t know a single person who works out regularly that can’t name at least one life changing benefit to moving their body. Most people have a list a mile long, if we’re honest. I do. I knew I was hooked about a month after I first started. My life was still going really poorly – most of the time I wanted to escape it completely. I was sitting at a stoplight after a hard work out, and I just got an overwhelming feeling like everything was going to be ok – for the first time in forever. Endorphins. Wow.
Plus, you don’t need anything except a good pair of shoes and a decent sports bra. ( I do stress the good shoes because almost all of that crippling pain I experienced in the first 6 months of my new running habit could have been avoided with better shoes. I was doing 3 – 5 miles per day in a pair of sketchers and that was a HUGE mistake I have these ones now, and I credit them 100% with curing my shin splints. If I had started with the good shoes, I might never have suffered with shin splints – and I definitely wouldn’t have wasted the 90 bucks on the sketchers.)
Now, regular workouts are a must for me. I never regret the day I decided to start working out. I still struggle with weight training (I loooooove my cardio, seriously, those endorphins are addictive) but this year is the year that I will build some strength! And I know it will be difficult, but I also know it will be worth it. More importantly, I know what it takes to begin. Who’s with me?