How to start on your new workout plan, and stick with it

Well, it looks like you’ve taken the first step – and it’s a big one. You’ve decided that you want to work on your health and your fitness and you’re looking to setup a workout plan. First off, congrats – you’ve made it further than a lot of other people do! But, that’s only the first step and you’ve got a lot ahead of you. I’m not going to provide you with any one specific workout plan or diet that you should use, because everyone is different – but what I’ll provide are some tips to help you create, and stick to, your new workout plan. Good luck!

Woohoo for your new workout plan!
Woohoo for your new workout plan!

Step 1: Accept that it’s not going to be easy, and be okay with that

For starters, you need to set some realistic expectations. When your body isn’t used to your workout plan, it’s going to take some time to get to where you don’t hate it and it doesn’t suck. So, acknowledge that. It’s going to be difficult, and you’re probably going to hate it most of the time. That’s okay. That’s normal. But, it will get better. You may not realize it along the way, but one day you’ll hopefully stop and say wow, I remember when I couldn’t even do “x” and now I’m doing “y” with no problem!

Step 2: Buy new gear for your new workout plan

Splurge on some new gear that you’ll feel good in. Ross and Marshalls both have great workout gear for real cheap, so you can get a ton of stuff for under $100. I don’t know about you, but when I get new clothing, I’m super excited to wear it! And if you’re already wearing it, you may as well go to the gym. I like to get up on the weekend and put my workout clothing on right away so that I feel guilty if I don’t go because I wasted a good gym outfit.

Step 3: Figure out what you enjoy doing

I went through a few types of workouts before I set on what I enjoyed doing. For a while, I forced myself into running but found that I hated running so much that I often skipped the gym simply because I really didn’t want to run. Then, I started lifting weights again and found that I didn’t talk myself out of going to the gym nearly as much. So, I learned to switch it up. I run, occasionally – oddly, I don’t mind sprint intervals up a hill as much as I do running 5 miles on flat ground. I like cycling on the stationary bike intermittently because I can multi task and still get a great cardio workout (I still go 14mph – don’t be one of those people that gets on and goes like 4mph…I can’t accept that as a workout), and then I’ll follow with some weight training. I don’t cross-fit because I prefer to workout alone, but if that’s what gets you to the gym  – go for it (just please listen to your limits and lift carefully!).

Step 4: Create a workout schedule for your workout plan

You might not always stick to it, but try. Decide, realistically, how many days a week you think you’ll be able to realistically complete your workout plan, and what you want to do on each day. Make a calendar, decide what you’re going to do each day. It helps me to sometimes make plans with others for the things I really hate doing – like interval sprints up a gigantic hill. If I decided to do it alone, I’d likely never end up doing it. But, if I make plans with someone else to do it, then I can’t back out as easily, nor can I stop half way through because I have someone to hold me accountable.

Step 5: Create a meal plan

Look up some recipes that align with your new workout routine, plan your meals ahead of time, and make sure you make things you’ll actually want to eat. If you don’t like salads, don’t eat salads! There are plenty of other healthy options out there that you don’t need to eat something you don’t like. I love tuna with mayo, chopped garlic and onions on whole wheat sourdough from Trader Joes. It’s very high in protein (beware, with the garlic and onion, you’ll likely stink…like deliciousness) so it keeps me full. And, yes there’s a bit of mayo, but it’s not horrible and you can always use greek yogurt if you want to go a different route. Point is, find foods you like. Don’t eat kale because studies say it’s good for you if you think it tastes gross, because then you likely won’t feel satisfied and you’ll find yourself wishing for cookies. High protein meals are good – chicken, fish, eggs – they’ll keep you full longer. And carbs are not the enemy – they’re energy (when eaten right) for your workout. Just don’t overdo it with anything – be smart, do your research, and don’t believe something just because you saw a headline of an article on facebook. If you’re really unsure, talk to a nutritionist.

Step 6: Incentivize yourself to stick to the plan

As kids, we got gold stars for doing a good job, and I don’t know about you, but they sure worked for me. So, why not use that now? Create a point system for your new workout plan– for each day you make it to the gym, you get 10 points. If you miss a day on your schedule, you lose 15 points. When you reach 300 points, you get to buy yourself something amazing that you’ve been wanting for a while but couldn’t justify buying. Or, if you think you’ll cheat, have someone else hold you accountable. For each day you miss from your workout, you owe a friend $15. And for each day you go over your calories, you owe your friend another $5. Going further, maybe it’s that under 100 calories over, you owe $5 and over 100 calories, you owe $10. But make sure it’s a friend who will hold you to paying! The point is that you want to be held accountable, whether it’s you holding yourself accountable, or someone else – and then reward yourself based on that accountability.

Step 7: Allow for indulgences

This is a big one for me. I’ve found that if I completely deprive myself of the things I like, it makes me just want them more so that when I do treat myself with a little, I end up overindulging. So, don’t deprive yourself – just moderate yourself. If you like cookies, tell yourself you can have 1 cookie a day. If you like potato chips, take 10 chips out of the bag and put the rest away – that is your snack for the day. Allow yourself little bites, but just don’t go overboard. You want to create new habits, you want to train your body not to want as much of the indulgences as it’s used to. So, maybe you start week one with 10 chips, and week 2 you go down to 5 chips. It’s important to let yourself feel like nothing is off limits, because that can often make you want it more. Just learn moderation.

Step 8: Track your progress

It’s hard when you’re looking at yourself every day to see the small differences as you go along with your workout plan, and you can start to feel like the work you’re doing is futile and just give up. So, find some way of tracking your progress. I am anti-weight/pound tracking because this is not indicative of your fitness. I weigh more than I did in college, and I was drinking a lot of beer and eating a lot of pizza back then – I’m much more fit now, but I also have more muscle, so the number on the scale is a terrible indicator for me. Instead, I take pictures – just for myself. I take them once a week at the same time (usually first thing in the morning) and then I put them in a folder. This helps me see week after week the small incremental differences that I can’t see day to day. However, this may not work for everyone. A friend of mine has trouble with the pound tracking, so she just goes by time improvements with her running. Whatever it is, track it. Make sure you have something to look back on to see how awesome you are!

Step 9: Recognize your milestones

Along with tracking your process, celebrate it. Working out isn’t just about the end goal of, say, losing 100 pounds. It’s also about the small victories along the way – recognize and appreciate these. That moment when you break that 9-minute mile – celebrate it (not with a huge, fatty donut, but maybe allow yourself an extra glass of wine that night). Maybe you finally need new pants because your old ones are too big – so, go splurge a bit on a few new pairs. You’ve been working hard, you deserve to congratulate yourself.

Now, get out there, start looking up different recipes and workout plans, and get to creating the best you!

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