Start off small to continue big. An exercise routine that sticks.

Start off small to continue big. An exercise routine that sticks.
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Start of small to continue big.  An exercise routine that sticks.

You’ve finally found an exercise routine that suits you.  It’s an exciting new plan.  After reading the instructions you feel you could stick to it long term.

This is the life style change you’ve been looking for.  You’re motivated to get a little fitter and lose what should be muscle around the waist.  It feels like the spare tyre from the boot of your car.

The day of the ‘new you’ arrives.  You focus in and give it your all.  You skip the beginner exercise routine, that’s for those who aren’t serious.

Starting at intermediate.  You’re annoyed when you can’t get the steps correct.  One of the exercises is running on the spot and you’re going for it.  Sprinting like you’re up against world athletes.

Surely you should have lost ten pounds on effort and enthusiasm alone.  You didn’t enjoy a single minute.  You can’t see this being long term at all.

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The following day you’re past sore.  You can hardly move and when you do every muscle aches.  You’ve over done it to the point of unhealthy.  After a day of unrealistic expectations you have admitted defeat.

You forgot to start off small to continue big.  Taking on the beginners exercise routine sounded lame.  Your eagerness should be rewarded.  Yet your attitude is unbalanced.

RELATED:  Need help choosing the right fitness program?

When starting a new exercise routine, think of the first couple of weeks as easing your way into new habits.  Initially it should feel as if you haven’t done anything too strenuous at all.  Slowly heading towards firmer thighs and tighter stomach muscles.

When starting a new exercise routine, think of the first couple of weeks as easing your way into new habits. Click To Tweet

The attitude for starting a new exercise routine.   

Regardless of whether it’s a new gym class or a DVD exercise routine at home, be patient.  Increasing your fitness along with your confidence starts one day at a time.

RELATED:  Staying fit without the gym.

The first session.  Don’t expect to know the moves immediately.  You get a full week to be able to laugh at yourself.  You’re meant to be wonky and unco-ordinated.  How can you expect to be the best at something you’ve just started?

Observe how good the instructor looks demonstrating that exercise routine.  Aim to be able to mimic their every move in a month.  Get your work out gear on.  All you have to do is turn up and participate.

The second session.  Can you recall any of the moves?  Was there a part of the routine that you enjoyed or even dreaded?  Remember the only expectation you have is turning up.  Slowly starting to get better at what your instructor is doing.

The third session:  Things are starting to get a little more familiar now.  You know a lot more in this session than you did the first time you started.  No pressure, you haven’t done a weeks-worth of exercise.  Enjoy your clumsy struggle to get it right.

The fourth session:  This may be in the second week of your new training schedule.  What part of the work out do you enjoy?  What parts don’t you like to do?  What moves are you having difficulty with?  You’re getting better right?

The fifth session:  You’re breathing a little heavy and this increases your heartrate.  Don’t stop now. In this session push yourself a little past that pain stage.  That point when you’re hurting but able to do a little more.

On the sixth session:  You’re familiar with most of the exercise routine.  You forget a step every now and again.  Reflect on how far you have come.  There are moments where you get out of breath but can push through regardless.

Start of small to continue big.  An exercise routine that sticks.

Start off small to continue big.

Shake it up when things start to get boring and repetitive.  If you’re doing yoga, try a dance class.  Alternate between what you’re comfortable with and something new.  Remember when beginning a new class expect to be un-coordinated when shaking your booty.

You don’t arrive at a gym 10 kilos over weight to look at the person who has been showing up for two years and feel let down.  You get inspired.  Maybe talk with them or find out what their tricks are.

Don’t watch those great looking bodies with envy.  Acknowledge their hard work and sacrifices.  We know they did not get there with a free ride.  Well defined muscles are signs of hard work.  Nobody ever arrives at chiselled.

They started off small and never gave up.  Most gym junkies began where you are right now.  With a dissatisfaction within themselves and an open mind.  Looking for change wanting something more.

  • Acknowledge that you’re starting out. Feel proud about where you are.  You want change.
  • Find a person in the class that you like and mimic their moves and attitude. Strike up a conversation with them.  Show interest.  Be real and honest.
  • Being disheartened means you are expecting results far too fast.
  • You’re not being realistic to want a six pack as soon as you start out.

The excuse of being self-conscious. 

You’re smart enough to know that these beautiful people at the gym can be a little daunting or even intimidating.  Sometimes they can make you feel blah about yourself.  Go to that dam gym every day until you don’t feel scared or apprehensive.  Face this fear.

Why not look upon those that are there and say well done.  They put in the hours.  Let them be your inspiration.  You’re serious enough to be at the gym.

There’s not one athlete that will tell you every day was a good day.  That they leaped out of bed with a positive mind set.  What they did was committed themselves and remained focused.  They pushed through the lack of motivation and the negative self-talk.

Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else. It’s the ache in your legs and the voice inside that yells can’t, but don’t listen. You just push harder and then you hear the voice whisper can and you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the person you really are. – Unknown

Success is available if you want it.  It’s not one of those feel good stories only destined for a few.  Go after it as if your life depends on it.  Remain committed; aware there are many hours of work with little reward or acknowledgement.

This is for you!  Not your neighbour, family or partner.  Those close to you benefit from this positive outlook.  They witness a transformation so strong they are near knocked over by your new attitude.

You won’t second guess yourself.  Dump doubt!  Raising a steely determination that even your strongest nemesis (your mind) can’t penetrate.

Wrapping up.

When you begin too big with a whole lot of gusto, you can be sure that you will be burnout within two weeks.  A steady pace to win the race.

Your first exercise session should be like playing dress ups.  You get your work out gear on and turn up.  You can’t expect to be an expert or get it right on day one.  You only have to start.

Whether it be at the gym or in the privacy of your own home you can’t demand perfectly co-ordinated immediately.  That’s why you start off small, consistent and persistent.

Always think of the beginning as a great excuse to laugh hard and loud at yourself.  Stop thinking you’re a world athlete when you’ve been inactive for years.

Your ‘new you’ exercise routine may feel a little odd.  As if you’re not doing anything.  Yet there’s a massive amount of work going on.  You’re committing to an exercise routine.  Creating realistic healthy habits to remain on track long term.

If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to spread the word about small steps for lasting exercise routines.

Comments (18)

  • Hey Rachel,

    Health is wealth! we should not neglect our health for the sake of money. With daily small exercise routines we can maintain our health. Just like “prevention is better than cure” daily small exercises like Sun Salutations are extremely helpful for our health and overall fitness.

    Thanks for sharing Rachel, keep inspiring.

    Yogesh Shinde
    Yogesh Shinde recently posted…Youtube Channel Art 2560 x 1440 Banner and BackgroundMy Profile

    • Hey Yogesh,

      I could not agree with you more. A rich man or woman is one that is in good physical and mental health. And that is what exercise does. It’s not only for weight loss, even though it helps. Never is weight my reason for exercise. Clarity and balance is what we achieve with regular exercise. Shaking off the days stress and pressure.

      Your yoga poses are great stretches. Even fifteen to twenty minutes of yoga daily is healthy. Thanks for your comments.


  • Well hey there Rachel,

    Cool to see you on Sonal’s blog.

    You’ve made some excellent points. I ALWAYS encourage people to start off slow for a variety of reasons, especially where safety is concerned.

    It’s so true that many of us compare ourselves to those who’ve been at it for a while. It’s great to look at these individuals as inspiration, but that’s it.

    Co-ordination is a tough thing for a lot of people. Imagine trying to embark on high-intensity exercises when your body isn’t used to the movements yet. How can someone do a squat/curl/press with dumbbells then they don’t do a basic squat properly? It’s a recipe for either an injury – or for giving up out of frustration.

    Great advice for the beginner. Have a fantastic weekend Ladies 🙂
    Dana recently posted…Grammarly: Unleash the Writer In YouMy Profile

    • Hey Dana,

      That encouragement you talk about Dana of safety is what I missed so many times. To really did do some harm. So eager and yet no experience, burning out before I even had the chance to enjoy the benefits. I struggled for many years with this.

      It really is tough going to the gym and starting out and seeing everyone work hard, but you do get over that once you focus. However I know of many who won’t attend the gym for this very reason. And yet those muscle bound people will do whatever than can to encourage.

      Now co-ordination. In a class stand up the back when you first start, not up the front. So that you can get out of breath and miss a step. I remember starting at step classes and falling all over the place, of course I was self conscious but I was dam funny as well. There was no way I could not laugh at myself.

      I bet you see that all the time as a personal trainer, people over extending themselves or doing things that look unco-ordinated and dangerous.

      Thanks for your comments.


  • Hi Rachel and Sonal,
    It is good and important for everybody to do exercise,
    not only to lose weight, it is better to keep it and make it a habit.
    The start is often the most difficult part, so do not stop. I do exercise
    a long time and I are teaching exercise classes here for 14 years.
    Most of the ladies are with me all the years because they experience
    the benefit. The oldest in the group is 82 and still very good in shape.
    Good to start and get results that stick.
    Great and encouraging post
    Thank you
    Erika Mohssen-Beyk recently posted…Where does Valentines Day Come From ?My Profile

    • Hey Erika,

      I could not agree with you more Erika, exercise is not just to lose weight but for balance and clarity of mind.

      14 years of exercise classes that is brilliant and how motivating that you have an 82 year old in your class. Sounds like you have a social gathering not just exercise which is an all round experience for the group. Knowing one another, having a natter and relationships grow and then there’s the reason everyone gathers, the exercise itself.

      I do believe the hardest part is starting, I have done it so many times before. Started out with an unhealthy attitude and now do it the right way. I think I have finally found what works for me. And that’s what we all need when it comes to exercise finding what works for ourselves. Thanks for you comments Erika.


  • Thanks Sonal and Rachel

    Great information. I just can’t help myself having been athletic once I kind of have the muscle structure to do it once and it all seems fine until the next day. Then my muscles cry… but if you carry on and let them cry they seem to shape up pretty fast.

    I know I should think long term and take it slow and steady but maybe when I hit 80 i’ll have the self discipline to do that. I just expect to hurt and figure that is part of the process.

    To the top

    Mary Sloane recently posted…The Biggest Bang for Your TimeMy Profile

    • Hey Mary,

      That is what I used to do Mary. Go hell for leather on my first day. I was a maniac. But I could not move the next day. I just did not enjoy it. And when you think about it, we begin exercising because we love and appreciate who we are. Yet we go into battle. Now when I start out, I don’t dread exercise, I appreciate it, I get a laugh and I get to face it the next day without the dread.

      Mary, no back flips at 80 until you have at least warmed up. That the only rule at 80. Thanks for take on exercise, you certainly took me down memory lane in how I used to go about exercise.


  • Hi Rachel,

    Thanks for sharing this. I don’t like to throw myself into an exercise routine. I tried that once and I was cramping up at night. 🙂

    I like to ease into a new routine too. I recently bought the Cize workout DVD and while the guide tells us to advance every week, I’ve been on the first routine for three weeks now. I want to get used to the routine before advancing to the next level.

    Love your suggestions! Thanks for sharing.

    Corina Ramos recently posted…I Heart BudgetingMy Profile

    • Hey Cori,

      I like your way of thinking Cori. Ease your way into it and go at your own pace. The experts know that we can push our bodies further than we do. But we know ourselves. If we’re put off by pain we will avoid it.

      I haven’t heard of the Cize workout, I might look into it. I would advise to only move to the next level when you’re ready. That way there is no way you can say its above you. Keep up the good work. Exercise is great for balance and clarity. I hope you’re benefiting from you new exercise regime.


  • Great advice! I had taken a lot of time off from working out after having the kids. When I wanted to get back into it, I definitely had to go slow. The first Zumba class I took was hilarious. I had no idea what I was doing, and truthfully, got a bit frustrated with myself. However, I kept going back, and now it’s one of my favorite classes. I also mix it up, as you suggest.

    • Hey Shann,

      Don’t you just love Zumba? It really does increase the heart rate. I read some where that you can’t get Zumba stepswrong but you can add a few extra dance moves of your own to the routine. It’s great when you can laugh at yourself when exercising as some of those Zumba goers are hard core dancers and just love to get there groove on. I have problems with abs and dancing. No belly dancer in my corner just a frustrated awkward mover. Always good to mix it up that way you really do look forward to your favourite.

      Thanks for your comments.


  • Hi Rachel,

    Nice and informative post!

    I do believe in starting small and then continuing big. This not only gives time to our body to get adapted but also it increases our strength gradually. I try to visit my gym at least 4 times a week and dedicate one day for cardio, second day for upper body exercises, third day for lower body and fourth day for circuit and abs. But these days, due to my hectic schedule, I am unable to keep so much pace.

    • Hey Ana,

      I’m all for increasing my strength gradually, so I agree with what you are saying. I like your schedule at the gym. The cardio classes used to scare me at the gym and I refused point blank to a cycle class, oh when I heard the instructor and read the routine I chickened out.

      Because of my schedule I committed to 20 minutes a day light cardio four days a week but I also walk 40 minutes to an hour each day as well. Ensuring that I get sun light and fresh air, plus I’m a bit of a day dreamer so I don’t see walking as exercise. Thanks for your comments.

      Rachel Wolany recently posted…Confidence – A Trademark You Talk, Walk and Wear.My Profile

  • Hi, Rachel

    Your post will help many people to have a good start in exercise.
    I believe to have a successful exercise routine like anything else must in small increments. Until the first section becomes part of you – what I mean is you can do the routine effortlessly, then you give yourself permission to move to next section. There is no rush! It is important to listen to your body.
    For myself, the hardest thing to commit to exercise is the hectic scheduling.
    Thanks for sharing!
    – Stella Chiu
    stellachiu recently posted…Are Healing Miracles Real?My Profile

    • Hey Stella,

      Small increments is right. That way we don’t overwhelm ourselves mentally or physically. When I am starting out I always remind myself that there is no rush as I’m committed long term. I understand what you mean by finding time to fit in fitness, but as a blogger I have found the benefits outweigh a tight schedule.

      I have decided that twenty minutes of exercise four times a week is what I will stick to long term, I meet a runner who is attempting to average 41 kilometres a week. For a couple of seconds my exercise schedule felt lame indeed. Then I reminded myself that if I want to continue long term I had better stick with what is realistic for me, not what I see as amazing in someone else. And then I also added I do walk 40 minutes every day. Big smile. Thanks for the comments.


  • Before I had periods of when I would work out and then I would stop. Back and forth. I no longer do this. I workout 4 to 5 days a week. Every day I change it up. I want to look great but I now focus on feeling strong and aging well. The more I workout and push myself at home the easier it is to hike for miles. Thanks for sharing.:)

    • Hey Homegrown Adventures,

      Sounds as though you have found the right balance. I get the stop and start, I was there myself. It’s no longer about weight control, it more about being proactive about your health. Such a responsible way of looking at it. Exercise does make us not only look great but feel great as well. Big hikes, I have not done one of them for a while. After reading your last post on your wonderful hike (still enjoying the mushroom pics you took), I have been thinking about doing something like that myself. Thanks for your comments.


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