You’re an explorer, stepping out into the great unknown. The land before you is unfamiliar, yet you plunge ahead. You’re on a mission to make contact with the natives’ headquarters in an effort to start a friendly relationship. Boldly, you cross the threshold into an unfamiliar world, but now you lose confidence. The natives all seem to know just where to go and what to do, so in an effort to fit in, you strive to mimic the movements of those around you. Everything is confusing, overwhelming, and discouraging. You start wondering if you’re cut out to be an explorer in the first place.
Many of us have felt this way our first time stepping into a gym. The people all look hardcore and are doing exercises you’ve never seen before. Nobody else seems lost, and you feel self-conscious, so you decide to just start anywhere. The buff, intimidating meatheads are all crowded in the dumbbell area, so you decide to move away from them to the machines. You go to the closest machine to you, pretending to stretch while trying to peak at the directions on how to use it in the first place. Then after doing a few repetitions, you try out a few other machines, depending on which ones aren’t already being used. You don’t really have a plan or idea of what muscles to work out, so you use machines that work various muscles scattered throughout the body. An hour or so later, you may be worn out, but no closer to figuring out what to do than when you first started.
Yes, this was myself in the past. I mostly ran outside for my workouts, but would sporadically decide to take the advice of almost every health magazine out there that said strength training was good for women. It wasn’t until college when I started realizing that there is a science to weight lifting. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is just to start. But first, you have to make goals for yourself.
For one, it’s important to decide what your goals are. Are you trying to bulk up, lean down, lose weight, etc.? You need to have a general idea of what you’re trying to accomplish so that you can do the appropriate exercises for it. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. When you don’t see the results you want, you may give up entirely when you were just doing the wrong moves for what you wanted.
Make realistic goals for yourself. For example, losing twenty pounds two weeks before spring break is not realistic. Losing a half-pound a week of fat is. Don’t let genetics be an excuse for not trying to reach your goals, but keep in mind that some goals are not achievable for everyone. You were created as a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. There’s no one else out there like you, so don’t kill yourself trying to be like someone else. Instead, focus on being the healthiest version of yourself you can be. In my opinion, healthy includes mind as well as body.
Make your goals measurable. A generic goal like getting faster is hard to stay motivated to work for. Instead, make a goal like running a mile in under a certain amount of minutes. You can keep track of your trial run times, and when you finally meet that goal, you will feel on top of the world. It’s a way of showing your mind that your body is capable of adapting to the stress you put it under and motivating you to challenge it further.
How often are you going to work out? Look at how much time you are willing to spend working out, and how frequently you can do so. Working out once every two weeks is not going to do that much for you, but you also don’t want to work out so much that you aren’t giving your body a chance to rest. That’s how injuries happen. This is especially true if you’ve been sedentary for a while and decide to go all out right away.
Keep track of your progress. Workout logs allow you to see the improvements you’ve made and motivate you to keep doing what you’re doing. You can also see when it’s time to kick up the intensity if you’ve been doing the same thing for a while. This will help to keep you from getting stuck in a rut and focus more on making improvements.
Think about what motivates you. There will be days when you don’t feel like working out until you’re actually doing it. But this means you have to go out and do it even when you’d rather be lying on the coach eating cookie dough and watching Netflix. This may mean finding a workout partner that drags you to the gym or who makes you forget that you’ve been working out instead of just socializing. Or maybe you can put up motivational phrases by your alarm clock or mirror that you will see and be inspired by.
Routine is one of the best recipes for success in this case. Adopt your goals as a habit. Be intentional about getting the mindset that this isn’t just a short-term thing so that you’re less likely to give up trying when it’s no longer new and exciting. Set aside a certain time of the day for you to exercise so you don’t even have to think twice about it later on.
Later on, I’ll be writing much more about getting started on a workout program, but for now, I hope that you are starting to think about exploring the realm of the fitness world if you haven’t been already. It may be intimidating at first, but I promise that it’s an exciting adventure full of vast opportunities for success.