How to Get Started on a Fitness Program

*I am not a medical professional or registered dietitian. As always, before beginning an exercise, nutrition, or supplement program, please consult with your doctor.

The number one reason my clients usually give me as to not starting a fitness program earlier is this: “I don’t know where to begin.”

Lots of people feel overwhelmed with fitness.

This is often the reason why people reach out to a personal trainer: they simply don’t know where or how to start.  And to me, that’s not all too surprising since the media is filled with fad diets and programs claiming that you’ll lose weight.  We witness advertisements about exercise machines and gym memberships, and meal programs, but where do you really start?

Fitness can be overwhelming. There are SO many different things to choose from nowadays: yoga, spinning, crossfit, Pilates, weight lifting, power lifting…and the list goes on and on.  So how do you know what’s going to be right for you?

My advice? Try it all.

No, not all at the same time, but why not give a few different things a try?  Personally, if you’re in college, this is the best time to try different fitness classes as they are usually inexpensive and colleges offer a wide variety.  If you’re not in college, do your research–a lot of places/gyms will let you try a class out for a small drop-in fee.

If that’s just not going to work for you because you feel self-conscious, are broke, or any one reason, then at-home workouts are going to become your best friend.

I’ve been there before: intimidated to go to a fitness class because I had NO IDEA what I was doing.  Not wanting to go to the gym because I feared all the “meat heads” and people who seemed to know exactly what they were doing. And so, I started my fitness journey in my bedroom.

At first, it was renting exercise DVDs from the library (old school, I know) but they have a great variety–yoga, Zumba, bootcamps-you name it! I could do all of these in the comfort of my own home without being embarrassed that I couldn’t keep up.

Once I built my confidence a bit, I signed up for a body toning class during high school (mostly because I’m not the athletic type and would really sign up for anything to get out of normal gym class).  I also signed up for yoga and Pilates classes at this time.

I built the foundation for weight lifting in the body toning class.  We learned about different muscle groups, how to use exercise machines, and which exercises to perform to ensure you are hitting each muscle in the right way. It was because of this class that I branched out and started doing research of my own and, ultimately, becoming a personal trainer to help others learn where to begin.

So, how do I start?

First of all, as you have read before, you don’t need a lot of equipment to start an at-home gym and to get a successful workout. My gym is in my garage and it is by no means anything fancy.

As most of you probably already know, there is unfortunately no such thing as spot training.  Which means, I can’t continuously workout JUST my thighs and they will get smaller (bummer, I know).  You’ll come to realize that anything fitness or nutrition is all about balance.

Balance is the key to fitness success.

The three main things you’ll balance are: cardio, workouts, and macros.

If you’re lacking in one, you’ll find that your success will greatly suffer as a consequence.  But, once you learn how to balance these three things, you hold the key to your success!

Alright, so first of all, the main muscle groups (these are the basics):

-Legs

-Arms

-Back

-Chest

-Shoulders

-Abs

It is important that you try to hit each muscle per week, that’s why you’ll notice a lot of bodybuilders talking about “splits” which is simply how they split their muscle groups into their workouts.

For beginners, I typically recommend a full-body workout every other day, where you do about one exercise per muscle.  That way your body can adjust without getting too overwhelmed (or sore!)

Currently, this is what I am doing as I am trying to readjust after wedding and honeymoon.  This is also what I do when I am in a chronic illness slump so that I can still get activity without over-taxing my system.

My workout today looked like this:

Dumbbell Chest Press

Dumbbell Bench Squats

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

Tricep Kickbacks

Lateral Raises

Notice that you do not need much equipment at all–actually all I used were dumbbells in this workout!

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: “What if we don’t know exercises for each muscle group?”

I started out with two resources for finding new exercises (three if you count Google) and I still use them today as they are some of the best I have found.

The first one is called exrx.net. This is the one we used in that body toning class I mentioned earlier and I love it. Here’s why: they have a TON of resources for beginners.  My personal favorite has always been their “Exercise and Muscle Directory” which you can find here.

This is an amazing tool because you simply click on the muscle you are interested in working out, and it will give you a list of exercises.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Once you view the list, you can click on the exercise and it will give you a list of instructions on how to perform it correctly AND a video of how to do it properly (which if you’re a visual learner like me, this is extremely helpful).

My second favorite resource is bodybuilding.com and their app “BodySpace.” I know a lot of beginners may be intimidated by the name, but it’s a website and resource for everyone.  Here you can create a profile, select your goal, and then find fitness programs (they have them leveled as beginner, intermediate, and expert).  This way, you don’t even have to create your own workouts! I am guilty of using a lot of these programs as it forces you to leave your comfort zone and try new exercises.

On their app, it will sync your program to a calendar and remind you to complete your workout (accountability anyone?).  You can also friend people (feel free to add me “jregs”), track your measurements and weight, and utilize their forum to ask questions.  If you do not want to follow their program, they also have an exercise guide that has videos and instructions on how to perform them correctly.

With these resources and tips, you can begin to learn about the muscles and how to properly work them out.  There is a lot that goes into fitness programming, but ultimately, as a beginner, the most important thing is that you start.  We all start somewhere and we all learn through the process.

If you try these suggestions out and still feel like you’re lost, you can always reach out to a personal trainer (I happen to know one).  I would be happy to answer any questions you may have and get you started on your way to health! You can contact me anytime or join my training for personalized fitness plans!

How did you get started on your journey?

Share your thoughts!