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Moving from not exercising at all to exercising consistently is a big change. It’s important to plan accordingly and take steps to help you succeed. It’s going to take effort, but the results are worth it.

Set a Specific Intention

Plan your workouts, and be specific! Something vague like “I will walk,” isn’t enough. Include things like how much time you’ll exercise, where you’ll exercise, and when. Say, “I will walk for five minutes (how long) around the block (where) at 7 am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (when).” Get a notebook to track your exercise and write down your intention. Having your intentions written down helps hold yourself accountable and has proven to increase the odds of actually doing what you planned.

Start Super Small

Trying to do too much is a common beginner mistake. This isn’t sustainable – and often leads to giving up even getting injured (shin splints are a common problem for people who run farther than their bodies can handle). In order to make exercise a habit, start with manageable goals and build up. That may mean your first goal is just five minutes of walking, or even as small as simply getting dressed and lacing up your sneakers. There, you did it! Once you build that habit, it’ll become easier and easier. Take it one step at a time.

Develop a Ritual

Rituals are important cues that signal our body (and brain) that it’s time for a specific activity. Most people have a morning ritual that helps them ease into the day – a series of action that prepare them for the work ahead. This may include things like a cup of coffee, checking the news, or walking the dog, etc. A pre-workout ritual may include things like having a cup of coffee, drinking a full glass of water, looking at inspirational quotes, listening to a playlist, or reading through your exercise log to see your progress. A ritual helps cement your habit and use the power of momentum to get your going on days you just don’t want to work out.

Focus on the Process

Exercise takes time to see results. Focus on building the habit first, and the results will come. Constantly asking “are we there yet?” is going to make the experience frustrating for everyone. Remember, focus on the journey and you’ll get to your destination.

Set Measurable Goals

Setting small goals will help you see the progress you’re making. Can you walk for 10 minutes? Run one mile? Do five push-ups? These should be small goals to work towards. Set one goal at a time, and once that goal is complete, set a new one. This may seem contradictory to the previous advice about focusing on the process, but it’s not! You have to have goals, but also have patience with yourself and understand that getting to those goals will take time.

Track Your Progress

This should go without saying, but your plans, intentions, goals and workout log shouldn’t be stored in your head. Get a journal or a phone app to log your plan and your workouts. This will both help to hold yourself accountable, and motivate you when you see how far you’ve come.

More Beginner Exercise Tips

Want even more exercise tips for beginners just starting out? Download our quick reference guide for more.