I love going to the gym and lifting weights. I wouldn’t be as hardcore as most gym goers but I’m usually there 2-3 times a week. (I would go more if it wasn’t for working 40 hours a week and spending a lot of time on my blog and YouTube Channel and also wanting to have a social life….just sayin’.)
However.. it hasn’t always been this way. I only found my love for exercise in my early 20s. Before that I played a few team sports sporadically and spent most of my time at my computer or hanging out with friends.
That all changed in 2011. I had been away in Central America doing charity work and we were doing a lot of site work (digging foundations in the hot sun, mainly) and between the heat and the physicality of the whole thing I just realised how physically unfit I was. And then when I looked back at the photos after we got home I realised how bloated and unhealthy I looked.. so I decided I wanted to do something about it.
That was in 2011 and since then I’ve tried lots of different types of exercise. As I said above, at the moment I am in love with lifting heavy weights. But that could easily change again… and that’s ok!
If you’re like I was back in 2011 and you would really like to start exercising but you don’t know where to begin, I just wanted to give you some tips to help ease the stress, because at the moment I think that exercise is such a big thing and there are so many Instagram stars and YouTube stars whose content is based around how to get ripped, that it can be quite daunting to actually know where to start.
So here are my top tips to help you get the ball rolling, and I hope they can help you find a type of exercise that you actually like (because if you don’t like what you’re doing, you won’t stick at it!):
1. Find Your Motivation
Your motivation can be ANYTHING. It could be getting fitter, getting stronger, losing weight, making friends, curing boredom. There are so many reasons why people exercise and why people are active.
I think the most important thing with this is you need to find what YOUR motivation is. There’s no point exercising for the same reason that your friend does.
When I started in 2011, I used to exercise to be thinner, but now I exercise to be stronger and fitter! And while I probably weigh about the same as I did back in 2011 and probably look pretty similar in photos, my body has changed shape, my fitness has increased and I have muscles. But that’s MY motivation.. it’s not going to be your motivation.
An additional tip to this is that if are trying to find your motivation, try to make it something positive. Rather than losing weight.. try “gaining strength”? Or pick a tangible goal like “I want to be able to do a pull up” / “I want to run 5km by September”.
And if you immediately don’t know what your motivation is, that’s ok, it will come to you. Finding your motivation is key to sticking at whatever exercise you want to do, because there will be days when you couldn’t be arsed.. and you can remind yourself why it is you started and what you’re trying to achieve.
2. Try Things
Not sure what exercise to do? Give a few different ones a go! Sign up to classes, go to open nights, see what classes your friends are doing and go along with them. If you don’t want to commit to a program maybe look for pay as you go classes (yoga and pilates classes often have these options).
So far, I have tried: kettlebells, TRX, yoga, pilates, running, walking/hiking, and now I’m doing powerlifting type weightlifting with some (vomit inducing) conditioning exercises at the end of each session.
As I said in the intro, it’s important that you like whatever exercise you’ve chosen to do, so the best way to find an exercise that you like is to just try a lot of things and see which one sticks.
3. Think Outside the Box
Remember that any form of movement is exercise as long as you’re getting your heart rate up, you’re moving your body and you’re getting a bit sweaty. If none of the types of exercises I’ve mentioned so far appeal to you then really think outside the box.
You could try a dance a class, ice skating, roller skating, rock climbing, something that’s a little bit different and it’s not just being in the gym. Again, through my exercise journey the two quirky ones I did for a period of time were Roller Derby (I co-founded a team in Waterford) and swing dancing.
When I first started exercising, I thought that cardio and running were the only things that were legitimate exercise. I just wish that someone had told me there were lots of other options out there… because I hate running… SO much.
4. Recruit an exercise buddy
Don’t want to exercise alone? Recruit a friend, a partner, or even someone in work. It’s always good at the beginning to start doing your chosen exercise with another person.
When I started going to kettlebell classes, I went with my mom. Not only did it help me get over the fear of “Where is the door? Who do I pay? What weight should I pick? Will I look stupid?”. It also meant that on days that when I wasn’t bothered going I had extra motivation because I felt like I was letting her down by not going with her (even though, she’d just go on her own without me!)
And, what’s better than one exercise buddy?? An entire team! If you have an interest in team sports it’s never too late to start.. and there is nothing more motivating than the guilt you will feel after ditching training knowing that you’re letting your team down.
5. Use Apps
Don’t have an exercise buddy? Or just not a fan of working out with others? Go it alone!
There are 100s of Apps available now that are dedicated to every type of exercise, from running to yoga to weightlifting.. and even quirky ones that have you running away from zombies. It’s now possible to have a personal trainer in your ears for a fraction of the cost of hiring someone.
And if you don’t want to do anything fancy but still want to exercise by yourself and get fit, just put on your runners and headphones and go for a big long walk! Do whatever feels comfortable for you 🙂
6. Get Lessons
If you really want to try something but are scared to, get lessons… either one on one or as part of a group. And don’t be afraid to get lessons either! People are being paid to teach you.. this is their job and they are more than happy to help you out.
When I started properly exercising I went to a Kettlebell class for a few months, and the trainer there was amazing. The classes were small enough that he could keep an eye on your form, and he gave enough of a shit about the participants to go through the basic exercises with individuals until they were comfortable. This made a big difference to my progression and my general fitness AND I never got injured under his watch. (If you live near Waterford, I recommend you check out his gym)
Then I moved to Dublin and I struggled to find somewhere and someone to replace the level of training I got for the price he was charging. I was also getting a bit bored of kettlebells and wanted to branch out to weight training using barbells.. but I had no idea where to begin. So, I hired a trainer.
I’m not recommending everyone higher a trainer, because it’s expensive but it is an investment that I felt was worth it for me. I originally signed up for 6 weeks…. but fast-forward a year and I still go to him once a week. I really like knowing that someone is keeping an eye on me during my session to make sure I’m not getting any bad habits, that I’m lifting correctly and is constantly challenging me.
Getting lessons doesn’t just apply to gym based exercises though. You could get someone to teach you to swim, rock climb, row, cycle… anything that you need a bit of help with!
7. Make it convenient for you
If you find a class, but it’s miles away from your house and you need to take two buses to get there.. you might go the first few times, but eventually a day will come where you’re not arsed going. That one day might turn into two weeks and before you know it, a month has passed and you’re out of the habit.
For this very reason, I have two gym memberships. One near my house and one near my work. I go to personal training in the one near work so I can go before or after my shift. And then I tend to use the one near my house more on weekends. Yes.. it may seem like a ridiculous expense, but exercise is my hobby and I love it, so I find the more convenient and accessible I make it, the less excuses I have to not go.
8. Reward Yourself
My final tip is to reward yourself after you’ve completed a period of exercise… and I don’t mean with food or expensive purchases.. because that’s a slippery slope. But find a simple and cheap way to pat yourself on the back and reward yourself for doing a good job.
- Have a long bath after training – light some candles and put something on Netflix
- Get a sports massage after you’ve completed a 6 week program
- If your gym has a steam room, take some extra time after training to lounge in there for a bit
- Take time out to sit in the sun reading a book for an hour
Just do something to congratulate yourself on being great.. and sticking to what you set out to achieve.
And that’s it! They are my top tips for getting started with exercise!
You may have noticed that a lot of the tips are based around convincing yourself to actually exercise.. which might seem a bit strange to be forcing yourself to do something your head is saying “Nah!” to. But exercise is best when it’s a habit and almost becomes something you can’t live without, and sometimes in order to form that habit you need to practice a bit of tough love. Soon it will become second nature.
If you have any tips, let me know in the comments below!!