How to Start Working Out (and Actually Stick to It)

A regular workout routine can optimize your health and improve your life. Here are some tips on getting started.

If you’re new to working out, you need more than motivation to see it through.

You need the right mindset, strategy, and habits.

In this guide, we’ll show you exactly how to stick to your fitness goals no matter what. Let’s dive in.  

Know Your Finish Line  

The first thing you need to know before starting any workout program is, what do you want to accomplish? Do you want to drop a few pounds? Gain some muscle? Improve your performance? What is it specifically? Once you know what you’re after, you can chisel it down to a concrete measurable goal. This is your finish line.  

Having a vision like “I want to get in the best shape of my life” can inspire you, but without a specific goal, you’ll be spinning your wheels. Instead, define exactly how much you want to lose, gain, or maintain and write it down.  

If you’re newer to working out, you might be wondering, how do you figure out what your goal should be? We’ve got you. This calculator will help you define a healthy weight based on your age, experience, level of activity, and fitness goals. 

Set Realistic Expectations 

If you want to truly make this the year you make a change, you need the right expectations. Setting big, ambitious goals can be a great motivator, but without rooting them in reality, they’ll just collect dust on your “vision board.”  

To get yourself to follow through, your goals need to feel attainable. If you set out to drop 50 pounds in one week, it’s like planting a seed and expecting a full-blown vineyard seven days later. The right expectations help you build belief and consistency.   

So, if you want to transform your body, what’s realistic? Most experts agree that it takes about a week to lose 1-2 pounds of fat or gain ½ pound. of muscle. All you have to do is map that out. Whether you’re looking to drop 20 pounds or 5-10 pounds of lean muscle, you could get there in 3-5 months.  

I know, sounds like a long time, but remember, that’s your finish line. Your job is to have that as your target but celebrate the small wins. Every time you hit your weekly goal, celebrate it! That way you’re getting to enjoy the journey, and you’re training your brain to love the process.  

Find a Proven Process  

Now that you’ve got a realistic timeline, you need the right strategy. I’m not talking about picking up tips from your local gym bro. You need to follow in the footsteps of someone specific. Someone’s who knows what it’s like to be where you are now and achieve the goal you’re after. If you want to become a self-made millionaire, following the advice of a trust-fund baby won’t help you. So, where do you find your expert?  

First, there are two types of experts worth following: the Role Model and the Researcher. The role model has been there themselves, they’ve walked the path, they’ve overcome the obstacles, and they’ve gotten results. This is the person who has been where you are now and has gotten to where you want to be.  

The researcher might not have been when you are now, but they’ve studied the science behind nutrition and fitness and have helped others achieve a goal similar to yours. Whether it’s a personal trainer or online program, make sure you’re using these two things as your filter.  

Make It Fun 

When you think about working out, the first word that comes to mind shouldn‘t be “torture.” If you want to see your program through, you need to feel good when you exercise. Instead of forcing yourself to do workouts you hate, design your routine around exercise you enjoy. If you’re not a fan of running but need cardio, try incorporating it through sports. If you love the outdoors, go on a hike or use a playground as your gym. If you want to catch up with a friend after work, buddy up and hit a group class together.  

There are many ways to customize your routine and have fun with it. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Plus, biology is on your side. If you exercise for just 30 minutes, your brain will trigger an “exercise high,” flooding your system with dopamine to reward the habit. At first, it’ll take some getting used to, but the more you exercise, the more you’ll learn to love it.  

Don’t Fight Your Brain 

When it comes to exercising, it’s easy to get stuck in a mental tug-of-war. Part of you wants to hit the gym, but the other part wants another five minutes to snooze.  If you plan to stick to your routine long-term, you need to get your brain on board.  

In Mel Robbin’s best-selling book, “The 5 Second Rule,” she puts it this way: “If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within five seconds, or your brain will kill the idea.” You can’t talk yourself into going to the gym; your brain will always win that argument. To win the war in your mind, you need to remove friction and automate your routine.  

Instead of giving yourself time to debate whether you’re going to get up and work out, get prepped the night before. Blend your protein shake, pack your gym clothes, and place your running shoes by the door. When your alarm starts chirping, don’t even think about it; just get up, grab your stuff and go. This way you won’t give your brain a chance to stop you before you even start.  

Ease Into It  

Another rookie mistake when it comes to a new workout routine is doing too much too soon. If you go full throttle on your first visit, you’ll never go back. Not because you won’t want to but because you won’t be able to move. Feeling sore is a good thing; overtraining, not so much. Since you’re giving your body new demands, you also need to give it time to adapt.  

It’s when your body is resting that your muscles repair and start to see results. While it’s tempting to try to keep up with others who are further along in their journey, don’t. You’ll only risk injury or get discouraged and give up.  

Instead, ease into your routine. Start with two days a week, then increase it to three, then four. Most workout routines recommend 3-4 days a week, but your frequency will depend on your specific goals. Check out this guide for building your workout program. 

Find a BIG “Why” 

The key to sticking with your workout is to stack your motivation. The stronger your motivation, the more likely you’ll follow through. The thing is, everyone is motivated by something different. Some are driven more by the carrot, others by the stick. If you set up both, it’ll help push and pull you towards your goal. Let’s start with the stick.  

Ask yourself, what will it cost you if you don’t see this goal through? And I’m not talking about the annual fee. What will you miss out on if you don’t make this change? How will it affect you a year from now if you keep putting it off? How will it ultimately prevent you from becoming the person you’re meant to be? Dig deep.  

Now, let’s set up your carrot. Ask yourself, if you do achieve this goal, how will you benefit? How will it make your life better? How will it affect your emotions, mood, mindset? How will it change how you see yourself and what you believe you’re capable of? How will it help you become the best version of yourself?  

By answering these questions honestly, you’ll have plenty of fuel to keep you going no matter what.  

Want More Tips on How to Optimize Your Life?  

Check out our new Optimized Speaker Series. Each week we’re bringing you the best tips on how to master your mindset, nutrition, productivity, creativity, and wellness from world-leading experts. Now is the time; take control of your life with Optimize You!  

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