You’ve dusted off the sneakers and signed up for a gym membership. Good for you! Now for the tricky part: turning your fitness goals into a reality. Starting a new exercise routine can feel overwhelming, but with a smart approach and a little support, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Here are some tips to make getting back to the gym (and better health!) a little easier.
Take it slow
Whether you’re returning to a former fitness routine or starting a new plan, jumping right in usually isn’t a good idea. You may end up with really sore muscles and joints, keeping you from your new routine even longer. Ease into it. The first week, do a light workout, using light weights and 2-3 sets of 12 reps each. For cardio, do 20 minutes of light to moderate exercise, followed by some stretching. This will help get blood flowing to the muscles, stretch the joints and muscles, and get your heart rate back up. After working out, support your muscles with BCAAs and glutamine. You might also want to keep some ibuprofen on hand in case you experience excessive soreness.
Avoid peak hours at the gym
If possible, schedule your gym visits outside of peak hours, which include 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Get up as early as possible and work out before starting the rest of your day, go on your lunch break or hit the gym in the evening, after dinner time.
Clean up your diet
Eating clean may have always been a challenge. No matter how “good” or “bad” you’ve been, now’s the time to really clean up and start fresh. Invest in a food journal and start keeping track of your meals and snacks. Cut out sugar, drink more water, pack and plan meals and avoid eating out too much. Most importantly, stock your pantry with healthy options, such as whole grains (quinoa and brown rice), almonds, protein bars and chia or hemp seeds (which give a nice protein boost to smoothies or salads). If you don’t already, start taking a multivitamin.
Hire a personal trainer
If you’re new to the gym, or rusty when it comes to exercise in general, a personal trainer will guide you in the right direction. You don’t have to commit to months of personal training sessions; just tell your gym rep that you’d like a few sessions (don’t be pressured into more if you don’t want them!). Interview the trainers and find one that you think will work the best with you. If the first few sessions go well, you can consider signing up for more then.
Find a workout buddy
Sometimes going it alone is tough. It’s easier to skip a day or two, which can landslide into a week and before you know it you’re disappointingly off track. Having a friend work out with you can be fun and motivational—for both of you! Plan everything together, from what you’ll eat (meal plans) to workouts you’ll try, to supplements you’ll take to schedules you’ll stick to. Holding each other accountable is a great way stick with a plan (neither of you will want to let the other down!).
Set short-term goals
Big-picture ideas aren’t going to help you right now. Think short-term. It may be how many days you plan to work out each week, how many pounds you’d like to lose in the next month, cutting back on alcohol (which is loaded with sugar) or increasing your cardio time. Setting short-term goals will help fuel your motivation. When I have gym goals, it helps me to put a picture of someone I admire or inspirational quotes on the fridge to remind me of what I’m working toward.
Research fun exercise activities
When you have free time, check out YouTube, social media or magazines for exercise ideas. Just watching videos can sometimes be enough to get you excited about getting back to the gym. Look for workout ideas on Pinterest, blogs and other sites, or pick up a fitness magazine at the bookstore. Keeping fitness on your mind will help you to stay focused, bringing you closer to making that goal a reality.