“where do i start?”- three simple guidelines to fulfilling your exercise goals

Everyone knows that anxious feeling of walking into a gym and not knowing what to do next. The clanging of weights, constant whirring of bikes and treadmills, and the judgmental eyes are overwhelming. You hop on a bike for like five minutes, do a couple of crunches and then sneak away praying for the judgement to end. Two weeks later you’re sitting on your phone on your couch complaining that the gym is always too busy or you never have time to go and exercise. Trust me, we’ve all been there.

So how do I get back on track? Here are three easy guidelines to getting back to a healthy lifestyle.

Establish A Routine

Human beings are creatures of habit. We crave structure and balance to our daily lives. If we don’t have a set schedule we tend to feel lost and let the day waste away. On the other hand, some people may feel that their day is way too busy to get a quick workout in. It’s hard nowadays to allocate time to hop on the treadmill or throw some weight around. Or so we think. According to this Scientific American article, the average American adult spends around 10 hours a day looking at screens. At least one of those hours can be spent towards exercising or being active.

Still don’t believe me? Map out your day. That’s why things like Google Calendar and iCalendar exist. These are useful tools to help you allocate your time to make sure you get your priorities straight. Let’s make being active one of these priorities. Whether it’s fifteen minutes or two hours, any kind of activity is beneficial. Here’s a snapshot of my week for example:

I don’t have a lot of time during the week, but I still try to make it work.

Make A Plan

Nothing is worse than building up the motivation to go exercise and then realizing you have no idea what you want to do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a gym or gotten to the trail and leave after five minutes of sitting around. A good workout has structure, a plan to follow so you don’t feel like you’re just playing around at the gym. Additionally making a plan helps you to focus on the exercises that YOU need to focus on in the gym. That way you won’t have to worry about the judging eyes at the gym. You’re doing what’s best for you.

The simpler, the better.

When you’re trying to establish or reestablish an exercise routine, the simpler the plan is the better. That way when you’re checking off your exercise list, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. And that’s because you have. Speaking from personal experience a good, simple workout has three elements: a warm-up, three exercises/lifts, and a cool-down. This plan will help you lay a solid fitness foundation for you to build upon. If you try to over-complicate your gym sesh with a fancy workout you saw on social media to start it’s just going to be overwhelming. Sure you’ll get there someday, but every house has to have a solid foundation before you can start dressing it up.

Set Goals

I think this is the most important aspect to reestablishing a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t have a goal in mind, then what are you really working for? Goals can range from the most narcissistic (like getting a six-pack or building bigger delts) to the most functional (being able to get up from bed without any pain or trouble). Whatever your motivation is, find it.

I’ve found that the easiest goals to set are the ones you can measure. For example, this past week I set three goals. I wanted to limit my coffee consumption to less than 3 cups a day. I also wanted to run at least 3 miles and lift at least 3 times last week. And guess what, I did. By establishing a numeric value to my goals I was able to keep track of what I accomplished the past week. On the flip side, I would also be able to see how I fell short of a goal.

If you can envision it, you can do it.

Additionally, writing down your goals is a powerful trick. The science of writing goals is explained in this Forbes article but it basically boils down to this. If you write your goals down, you are more likely to accomplish them. Part of the reason behind this phenomenon is known as the “generation effect”. You are generating the idea of goal by first just thinking about it. And then when you write it down you actually start to envision your goal and your brain starts firing about all the different ways you can accomplish your goal. In essence I’m a big fan of writing down your goals.

Take it Day by Day

You’re not going to turn into Superman overnight. Building a better you is a journey that takes vigilance and dedication. Remember everyone is unique and it may take longer for you to reach your goals than another person. Stay strong and stay the course! You may see the fruits of your labor more quickly than you expect.

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