How To Start Exercising Again: 12 Steps to Get Going!

Everyone has ups and downs in the world of fitness. Sometimes you’re on top of your game with motivation and personal records, and sometimes you lapse into periods of no exercise. 

In this situation, how to start exercising again is an important question to ask. It can be hard to make time away from your busy career and/or your family life; sometimes it’s equally hard to find the motivation to get started again. 

What Stops You From Exercising?

The first thing to consider is what is really stopping you from exercising in the first place. 

Sure, it’s easy to blame lack of time, but sometimes the answer lies a bit deeper.

If you can find the underlying reason why you’ve stopped working out, you’ll have more success once you strategize how to start working out again. 

The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography lists some below-the-surface reasons you may be having trouble exercising. 

  • The weather is unpleasant: Some people hate running in the rain or cold and find it hard to motivate themselves to get out in it…even if they have the proper gear. 
  • You feel self-conscious or insecure: Many people think they need to have “the perfect body” before going to the gym or running trail. Others are embarrassed of being at a beginner level and hesitate to exercise in public without being more advanced. 
  • Chronic lack of energy: It can be hard to get up earlier in the morning or convince yourself to exert yourself physically after a long day of work. The couch or a cold beer often carries a stronger pull than a 30-minute run! 

Related: Should you drink beer after running?

how to start exercising again

How to Start Exercising Again: 12 Tips

The good news: all these reasons have solutions which we’ll help you overcome in the following tips. 

Motivate Yourself

1. Internal Motivation

Some people struggle to keep up with a workout routine because they are approaching it with external motivation: focusing on factors outside of yourself.

When your only motivation to exercise is to look good in a certain outfit or to impress others, the motivation dies down quickly when things get tough. 

When you have internal motivation (e.g. the desire to be strong, to be healthy, to live a long life, etc.), you are much more likely to stick with your goal, even when that early alarm rings in the morning and you don’t feel like getting up. 

2. Focus on the Feeling

One of the best ways to motivate yourself internally is to focus on the way you feel when you exercise. If you’re a runner, really appreciate the feeling of the runner’s high or the energetic excitement you feel when you’ve crushed a new goal. 

Notice how you feel throughout the day when you exercise – you most likely feel more energized, stronger, and even happier.

Holding onto that feeling can help you when you’re struggling to stick with a routine. Just remind yourself of that and it will be even more of a boost than a strong cup of coffee. 

Related: Should you drink coffee before running?

3. Focus on One Thing At a Time

You can’t change your whole life in one day. You don’t need to tackle a new exercise regimen, a new diet, and a new sleep schedule all at once.

This will overwhelm and actually cause you to give up sooner. Stick with one thing at a time and you’ll see real results. 

Related: 11 Pro Tips for Running Motivation

Plan Your Course of Action

how to start exercising again

4. Organize Your Goals

Maybe your ultimate goal is running a marathon. That’s a great goal! But have you finished a half marathon? A 10K?

If not, be sure to set those smaller goals along the way so that you can experience wins quickly. If you have to wait 3-6 months to finish a marathon, you’re likely to give up before you get there. 

But if you finish other races in the meantime, you’ll feel the sweet smell of victory and want more.

5. Start Small

Maybe you’ve planned this out many times. You tell yourself you’ll run for 30 minutes 3 times a week.

Maybe you plan a 30-minute at-home workout for the mornings. But every time you think about getting started, you manage to talk yourself out of it and never get started. 

Studies have shown that starting with a smaller, more achievable goal will help you break into the routine.

Why not start with a 5-minute daily workout?

Do 20 pushups on Monday, then 20 squats on Tuesday, etc. Run one circle at the local track, instead of 5. 

Building a routine comes from habit, not level of exertion. So start by getting used to getting out there and then work your way up. 

6. Set a Schedule

Saying, “I’ll run a mile a day” is too vague. Decide whether you’ll run in the morning or at night. Then choose the time you’ll do it, and where you’ll do it.

Setting up a detailed schedule will help you stick to it better than making a vague statement. It’s easier to talk yourself out of it when there’s no solid plan. 

Put the Plan to Action

how to start exercising again

7. Routine

It’s all well and good to put ideas down on paper when putting them to action is what counts. Sticking to a routine becomes more possible and manageable with these techniques:

  • Develop a reward system: Whether that reward is some type of snack, a new pair of running shoes, or a trip to the beach, have something to look forward to when you reach your first goal. 
  • Track your progress: Running for 15 minutes is far more exciting when you’ve got a gadget to track your speed, distance, or rate of exertion. Seeing your body improve in these areas daily, weekly, and monthly is an exciting motivator to keep you on track. 
  • Don’t punish yourself: Many people think they need to be penalized if they don’t stick to the routine. But psychologists have proven that the harsh approach can yield less results than a compassionate reward for good.

    So instead of developing punishments for falling off the wagon, focus on the rewards mentioned above. 

8. Take It a Week at a Time

While it’s always important to visualize your goals for the future and to keep them in mind, it can be difficult to stick to your routine when you want to be in a nationwide competition, but you’re currently at a beginner level. 

You don’t want to forget about the ultimate vision, but you’ll need ways to enjoy the workouts right now. Brianstorm smaller ways you can enjoy your runs or other types of exercise today. 

Maybe you love running in different types of weather, so you enjoy the sunshine one day and the light rain the next. Maybe you live by a gorgeous park, so you can focus on the view, the sunset, or the people at the park. 

If you’re working out in a gym, maybe you enjoy a specially curated playlist you’ve made for the occasion or experimenting with new types of workouts (e.g. taking a class in yoga, Zumba, etc.). 

9. Get an Accountability Partner

A buddy by your side can always strengthen your motivation and keep you on track. Even if you don’t have someone who can go with you every day, you can meet up on the weekends and compare results.

You can use running or workout apps to track each other’s progress and make sure the other is sticking to their goals. 

Rinse and Repeat

how to start exercising again

Once you’ve established a routine, the next step is to make it repeatable. When you’re wondering how to get back into working out, here are some ways to keep your routine interesting and exciting:

10. Plan Exciting Routes

Choose a new part of town or a new trail to explore one a week or once a month. On your next vacation, be sure to bring your running shoes to explore the new area. 

Take part in local events – you’ll be surprised how many holiday fitness events you can find in your city. Take advantage of them as often as you can to experience your exercise in a new light, just to keep things interesting. 

how to start exercising again

11. Compete With Yourself (Or Others)

Always strive for new goals. If your goal was a marathon, sign up for an ultramarathon or train for a faster pace. If your goal was to cycle a century (100 miles) then sign up for another one. 

Setting exciting new goals for yourself is the best way to stay passionate about anything you do. And a little competition from friends or family can help keep that fire lit. 

12. Sign Up for a Race

After reading these steps, you’ve got your question, How to start exercising again, answered. Now, if you’re looking for a tangible way to get started, I recommend signing up for a race. 

Choose any distance that feels challenging but still achievable, download one of our free training plans, and get yourself registered! 

There’s no better way to get started than giving yourself a deadline and a date to look forward to. 

how to start exercising again
Mia Kercher

Mia Kercher

Mia Kercher is a hiker, cyclist, and runner. After finishing her first marathon in 2013, she continued the sport but found a new passion in trail running. She now explores the glorious mountains in Portland, Oregon where she works as co-founder of Evoke.

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