Five ways to start working out (and keep at it!)

Love to get fit but just can’t find the motivation to start (or keep at it)? Here are five ways to stop procrastinating – and start working out!

How many times have you thought about joining a gym or taking up running, but left it as a thought? Or actually made the initial effort to start working out… only to lose enthusiasm a few weeks later?

According to the Fitness Association, 22% of people who join a gym in January will have quit within 24 weeks. Thousands more will continue to pay their monthly membership fee, but rarely visit (research by Mintel revealed that 15% visit less than once a week, and 3% go less than twice a year).

Five ways to start working out (and keep at it!)

So how do you buck the trend? How do you not just find the willpower and energy to start working out in the first place, but the enthusiasm to keep at it? Here are five ways.

1) Make exercise a habit

One of the reasons many people who want to work out find excuses not to get started, is their inability to create healthy habits.

It’s common for people to embrace working out in the early days, and push themselves hard, only for their interest to wane a few weeks in. However, once you reach a particular point it becomes easier to start your exercises.

You just need to patient and give yourself a few weeks to develop a healthy habit and achieve your workout targets. To help you do this, try to exercise at the same time every week, and create a routine around it. So without thinking your brain can switch into workout mode out of habit.

It also helps to put it in your diary or calendar every week, so it’s there in black and white, and to put your focus on the habit of working out, and not results. If you’re results-focused and you don’t see immediate gratification, it can be harder to maintain enthusiasm.

2) Reward yourself

There are many natural rewards you can look forward to from working out. Research shows that workouts reward the mind by promoting the release of endorphins, which reduce pain and increase positive energy.

You also see rewards in terms of results, including improved stamina, fitness, mobility and muscle tone, and weight loss.

But what other rewards can you add as an incentive to keep working out? Especially in the early days when you’re seeing little physical results for a whole lot of exhaustion!

You could, for example, reward yourself with your favourite (healthy!) meals on the days you exercise, or promise yourself a purchase for a month’s diligence in working out.

Even little things like saving up your favourite TV shows to watch after working out can help. The point is to train your brain to expect good things after working out, so you can focus on the expectation of something enjoyable rather than the exertion of exercise.

Eventually, you may even enjoy your workouts (and the wonderful feeling afterwards) enough that they become the reward in themselves!

3) Set achievable goals

Another common reason why people give up on working out, is their failure to set realistic goals. If you expect too much too quickly, or set yourself goals that will take too long to reach, you’ll soon lose heart.

Instead, it’s more meaningful to set small goals. Rather than attempting one hour runs, challenge yourself to run for five minutes, then ten, then 20. And if you go to the gym, set yourself small milestones to achieve en-route to larger end goals. (Find out how to chunk large goals into achievable steps.)

Not only are smaller goals more realistic, but they give you a wonderful boost of motivation and achievement as you reach them. You can genuinely start to see results from your effort, giving you extra reason to continue.

Your goals are completely personal to you too. So don’t compare your own achievements with others’ results. Just focus on where you want to get to and work on that.

4) Eat a balanced diet

You’ll find it much easier to get the energy to exercise if you eat a balanced diet. So make sure that you’re eating and drinking well.

According to NHS guidelines, the best foods for exercise are starchy carbohydrates. These include wholegrain bread and cereal, brown rice and wholewheat pasta. Protein can also help with muscle building, so stock up on beans, peas, lentils, learn cuts of meat, eggs, oily fish and tofu.

Wait at least three hours after a main meal before you exercise, and eat a light snack about an hour before. A good snack choice would be porridge, fruit, a slice of wholegrain bread and peanut butter, yoghurt or a glass of milk. Make sure you stay well hydrated too by drinking plenty of water.

By eating a healthy diet, and ensuring you have enough of the right nutrients and energy to sustain your exercise, you’ll find it easier to maintain your new fitness regime.

5) Get an accountability partner

And finally, one of the simplest ways to stick to your new exercise plan is to enlist an accountability partner.

An accountability partner can be a friend you embark on your new regime with, a personal trainer at your gym, a running group you join, or a team if you opt for a team sport like netball.

The point is that you have people you’re accountable to for turning up. So on the days when you really don’t feel like working out (and we all have them), you still have to turn up – if you don’t you’ll let people down.

Sharing your workout with others also makes it more fun. You can share your goals, your successes and your failures. You can lift each other up when one of you is lagging, and celebrate when you reach your milestones.

Are you ready to start working out?

So what are you waiting for? If you’ve been promising yourself or others that you’ll start working out, why not begin today? Just think – in one month’s time you could already be celebrating reaching your first fitness goals!

Mike Jones is a regular health and fitness-focused blogger, and fan of T25 workout exercises.

Photo by Autumn Goodman