How to start working out again: woman doing an online workoutHow to start working out again: woman doing an online workout
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Kickoff's certified personal trainers and registered dietitians share detailed analysis, discussion, and how-tos about the questions we get most often

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How to Start Working Out Again and Actually Enjoy It

We’ve all been there — sitting on our couch in workout clothes that haven't seen a workout in awhile.

It’s not that you’ve never worked out. Maybe you were captain of your high school soccer team, or you once trained for a 10k. Then you took what was supposed to be a brief hiatus, and suddenly your physical activity isn't what it used to be.

You remember how good it felt to workout, but you can’t for the life of you remember how you motivated yourself to do it. (Maybe it was with all that extra energy you had from working out in the first place. 🤔)

Well, we’ve got your Monday (and Tuesday through Sunday) motivation right here! We’ll explain how to start working out again and give you the tools you need to get back on track anytime you experience a little (or big) wobble in your workout routine.

How to Start Working Out Again in 5 Steps

Even fitness fanatics get out of their workout routine from time to time. Whether you took a short break because of an injury or a long break because life gets busy, this is what you need to know to get back on track.

1. Start Small

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The key to building healthy habits — or any habits — is to make small, consistent changes. If you set a fitness goal like run a mile everyday when you’ve never even run a 100-yard dash, you’re setting yourself up for failure. A better goal might be to walk for five minutes, run for two, and walk for five. (Bonus: The walking benefits your health and serves as a warm-up and cool-down.)

And if a 12-minute workout sounds like it’s not enough, here’s something you’ll like the sound of: The New York Times recently reported on multiple scientific studies that showed short workouts (we’re talking minutes or even seconds long) dramatically improved participants’ cardio fitness and lower body strength.

Here are a few small goals that we like for anyone who’s just getting back into their fitness routine:

  • Do 3 sets with 10 reps each of squats, lunges, and push-ups.

  • Hit and sustain your target heart rate for 5 minutes each day.

  • Take 500 extra steps during your day.

These small goals are enough for you to start experiencing improvements in your physical and mental health, which can keep you motivated on your fitness journey. Once your fitness level improves and these goals start to feel easy, you can make them a little bit harder ... and then a little bit harder ... and then a little bit harder.

So, even if you have big goals, like a weight loss target or a triathlon, these small steps will help you get there — sustainably.

2. Add More Movement to Your Day 

Fitting in small workouts is a great place to start, but you can also take steps toward a less sedentary lifestyle by literally taking steps. Look for ways that you can add more movement to your daily routine. For example, if you often drive to your neighborhood coffee shop, try riding your bike instead. Or if you usually take your dog into the backyard for bathroom breaks, try walking them around the block.

Once you start looking for more ways to move, you'll find a lot of them. But remember our first tip, and start small. Focus on consistently incorporating one new form of movement at a time. Once you've got that down, add another to your routine. Here is some extra movement motivation to get you started: 

  • Take walking meetings.

  • Try a treadmill desk. 

  • Add under-desk bike pedals. 

  • Do some chair yoga.

  • Take a five minute stretching, walking, or strength training break once an hour.

  • Declare driving off limits for one day of the week (and ride your bike instead). 

Using a pedometer can help you build on your daily movement goals. (Hot tip: Most smartphones have a pedometer built in.) 

Monitor your steps for a week to figure out your baseline. Then try increasing your daily number by 500 (or even 200) steps. So, if you typically take 2,000 steps in a day, aim for 2,500. Once you're consistently taking 2,500, increase your daily movement goal to 3,000.    

3. Find Something Fun

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You are not going to stick with a workout you don’t like. That might be the reason you stopped working out in the first place. 

If you hate running, don’t force yourself to run. There are plenty of other ways to get moving and get your cardio — from swimming to dancing to riding your bike.

The same goes for strength training. If signing up for bootcamp sounds like torture, then try a low-impact exercise program like yoga instead (and yes, yoga can still make you feel that just-right level in soreness in those glutes, quads, and triceps).

There are so many types of workouts that there’s no reason to settle for an exercise routine that makes you say, “UGH!” Instead, give one of these fun workouts a try:

  • Aerial yoga

  • Barre

  • Belly dancing

  • Dance cardio

  • High-intensity interval training or an HIIT workout

  • Hiking

  • Hula hooping

  • Ice skating

  • Jiu Jitsu

  • Jumping on a Trampoline

  • Jumping rope

  • Kayaking

  • Kickboxing

  • Pilates

  • Playing the drums

  • Pole fitness

  • Rock climbing

  • Rollerblading

  • Skiing

  • Snorkeling

  • Snowshoeing

  • Speed walking

  • Spin or cycling

  • Stand-up paddle board

  • Step aerobics

  • Swimming

  • Tennis

  • Volleyball

  • Water aerobics

Actually, now that we think of it, maybe you should give all of these types of exercise a try. Keep trying things until you find a workout that works for you.

4. Make It Fit Your Schedule

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According to a survey by OnePoll, the number one reason people don’t workout is a lack of time. Of course, now that you know that even a few minutes of exercise can have a big impact on your health, we hope that excuse is gone for good.

Still, to create a fitness routine you can stick to, you need to make it fit in the amount of time you have. Bust out your calendar app because you’re going to need to set a schedule. With alerts. And alarms. ⏰

When you schedule your workouts, it’s easier to hold yourself accountable. But, you don’t need to schedule large blocks of time or a block of time every single day. If you only have 15 minutes, schedule 15 minutes. If you have one day of the week that’s always busy, make that your rest day. If you only have one day of the week free, one day is better than none. A personal trainer can help you schedule workouts in a way that helps you make progress with your fitness goals and fits into your busy life. 

Much like how short workouts have proven benefits, fewer workouts will still get you moving in the right direction. There’s no correct number of days to work out each week. Do what you can to start, and increase your goals when you’re ready.

5. Don’t Break the Bank

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In the same OnePoll survey we mentioned above, a full 20% of respondents said they don’t workout because it’s too expensive. But, working out doesn’t have to cost a dime.

You can start doing home workouts in your living room with no equipment. For example, a calisthenics workout plan uses only your bodyweight for resistance. And if your living room features cushy carpet, you won’t even need a new pair of sneakers. (But if you’re doing your workout barefoot, make sure to clear out any dog toys or kids’ LEGOs before you start — because ouch!)

And if you do have the budget to put toward your fitness goals, you can invest in home equipment like an exercise mat or lightweight dumbbells for some at-home dumbbell exercises. You could also use it to buy some fun at-home exercise equipment like rollerblades, a trampoline, or a belly dancing skirt.

Or you can make the most effective fitness investment by hiring an online personal trainer, which will also help you with the next step ...

6. Enlist an Accountability Partner

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The best motivation to start working out again is another person. When you share your goals with someone else, and they ask for updates on your progress, you don’t want to disappoint them. So, you work harder toward your goals.

If you have a friend who’s also trying to start working out, you can serve as each other's accountability partners. Checking in daily or a few times per week to make sure everyone is staying on track.

If you don’t have a friend who can help you meet your fitness goals, a Kickoff coach can serve not only as your accountability partner, but also as your guide. With coaching, you’ll be able to find an exercise routine you like and can stick with, make new goals as your fitness level improves, and get expert advice at any stage in your fitness journey.

It’s Never Too Late to Start

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Now that you know how to start working out again, there’s only one thing left to do: Start. You’ve got this!

Take the first step by setting a small, attainable goal. It doesn’t have to involve a major time commitment or an expensive gym membership. Instead, find a workout that you enjoy. Try swimming, belly dancing, kickboxing, HIIT training, or rock climbing. Keep trying new workouts until you find one you’re excited to do again. Then, stay on track by enlisting an accountability partner.

If you’re having trouble finding the right workout or workout partner, talk to a Kickoff coach. With Kickoff, you can work with a personal trainer for less than the cost of your daily cup of coffee. Your trainer will send you personalized workout routines, daily feedback, and a nutrition plan, and they’ll help you continuously refine your fitness routine so you can meet your goals and have fun doing it.

Kickstart your workout routine with Kickoff!