When I tell people what I do for a living, I often get the same response:

“Oh, I could do with someone like you.  I just don’t have the motivation to exercise.”

This is really common, and although many of my blog readers are people who work out in one way or another, I know that there are some people who aren’t quite there yet.  So this post is for everyone who is at a bit of a loss with where to start, or anyone who has had a hiatus and needs advice on taking those first steps back to fitness.

The first thing to clarify is that there is no magic formula for getting fit.  I mean, clearly there has to be an element of commitment to yield results, but what I can’t give you is a one size fits all plan that will suddenly make you want to exercise and get you to where you want to be.  Everybody has different goals, different time constraints, family set-ups, jobs, nutritional profiles, base level fitness, finances, hormonal imbalances.  What works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another.

In fact when I asked my members for their personal experiences about getting started with exercise, I got a huge range of different answers:

– Setting myself small achievable goals helped.

– Lack of willpower put me off.  It’s hard to start and maintain exercise or a diet so it’s important to celebrate any level of success at the beginning and not pay attention if anyone is saying or implying it’s not enough.

– Being worried about the aches and pains when you start exercising.  I seriously hurt for 5 days after my first Crossfit class.

– I started with small, achievable steps (first thing I did was non-runner to 5k).  I keep pictures / medals that mean a lot around the house to remind me how far I have come.

– Worrying that everyone at the gym will be thin and fit and you will be the only one who wobbles!  Going rowing worked for me – it was an all ladies crew and you need 8 bums on 8 seats to go; no saying “I’ll go tomorrow.”

So if I could offer one piece of advice on starting a fitness regime, it’s to figure out your WHY.

Why do you want to get fit?  I mean really, truly, what do you want out of it?

Quite often people will say that they just want to “be a bit fitter and tone up” but what does that actually mean?  The pain of feeling a bit unfit and wobbly isn’t likely to outweigh the pain of having to don a pair of trainers, get moving, and possibly ease up on the takeaway pizzas, so where’s the motivation to initiate change?

Likewise, if you’ve been guilted into exercise by a family member or over-enthusiastic friend, you’re probably not really going to feel hugely excited at the prospect of giving up your weekly fix of “Bake Off” in favour of circuit training.

With that in mind, here are my top tips for all exercise virgins:

1) Discover your why.

Determine how you want to feel.  What is the real reason you want to be fitter?  This is about more than just setting goals and picking an arbitrary number on the scale.  Trust me, you might think that when you’re three stone lighter your life will feel complete and you’ll be bursting with happiness, but there is always a deeper reason for your desire to lose weight (or be able to deadlift twice your bodyweight, or run a sub two hour half marathon).

Perhaps you feel your new found fitness will help attract a mate.  Or increase your chances of promotion at work.  Or mean you’ll be a better parent and able to dash around with your kids more easily.  It might be as simple as finding clothes shopping a more pleasant experience.  Whatever your why, focus on that and you’ll find your motivation right there.

2) Find something you enjoy.

Quite simply you’re much more likely to stick with your new found routine if you actually like doing it!  If you’re only showing up because you know it’s good for you, the novelty will wear off pretty quickly and before you know it, you’re back to square one.

I feel slightly twingey (is that a word?) saying this because of course there are specific training methods to yield specific results.  If you want to lose weight, certain things are going to be most effective.  If you want to get stronger then taking up distance running isn’t likely to be an efficient protocol.  But the purpose of this blog is to help you to simply start exercising.  With that in mind, then whatever your end goal, the odds of you getting there increase hugely when you enjoy the process.  If you’ve been told that running is a free, simple way to get fitter but you absolutely hate it, then try something totally different.

3) Start small.

As a couple of my ladies touched on above, the first step is showing up.  Cliched but true.  Don’t compare yourself to others (nobody else is concerned with what you’re doing or what you look like anyway – honest).  Instead just do your thing and be proud of each workout, no matter how small.  Just because your mate recently ran her fifth marathon in under four hours, doesn’t mean that you completing a 5k in 50 minutes is any less of an achievement.  Focus on you.

4) Don’t go it alone.

In some cases and for some people, a solo attempt can be successful, so if this works for you then great.  But for the majority it’s all too easy to give in when you have no accountability.  Having a buddy can help, whether it’s somebody you go walking / running with or who picks you up to attend a class.  Alternatively, team sports can be really fun – not just because of the competitive element but because you have an obligation to show up!  Why not rediscover netball, or take up something complete new?  And of course getting a fitness coach is the ultimate way to get expert advice and have somebody keep you on track.

Good luck!  Please do feel free to share your experiences.  I’d love to hear from you.