Starting a workout routine can be daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before or if you’ve fallen out of the habit. However, incorporating regular exercise into your routine can have numerous health benefits, including improving your mood, increasing your energy levels, and reducing your risk of chronic diseases. In 2023, there’s no better time to prioritize your physical health and start a workout routine.

In this blog, we’ll provide you with actionable tips on how to start a workout routine and stick to it. We’ll cover topics such as setting realistic goals, finding an exercise that you enjoy, creating a schedule that works for you, staying motivated, and tracking your progress. By following these tips, you’ll be able to build a sustainable workout routine that helps you achieve your fitness goals and improve your overall health and well-being.

1. Find a Workout You Enjoy and Look Forward To

Just because all your friends love spinning or CrossFit doesn’t mean you do, too. Finding a workout you genuinely like will make you that much more likely to stick with it over time, says Kristen Dieffenbach, PhD, an associate professor at West Virginia University’s College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences in Morgantown.

“Begin by really thinking about the things you enjoy — nature, group settings, playing sports, quiet time, or being challenged. Then look for activities that meet one or more of your criteria,” she says.

Consider your personality, too, suggests Dr. Dieffenbach. Do you like competition? Then working out with a friend who challenges you or taking a group fitness class may be helpful. Do you like immediately seeing the results of your efforts? Then workouts associated with an app that tracks your progress, like Strava for running and cycling, may be very motivating.

2. Pick Workouts That You’re Good At

“We know from motivation research that humans have a desire to be ‘good’ at something,” says Brandonn S. Harris, PhD, an a professor and the program director of sport and exercise psychology at Georgia Southern University School of Health and Kinesiology in Savannah and Statesboro. “So I’d encourage people to not only seek out things they find pleasurable and enjoyable, but also things that they’re confident doing or would like to become more proficient in.”

That doesn’t mean the activity will necessarily be easy for you. Unless it’s an activity recovery day, every workout should push you in terms of endurance or muscle building. But, there’s no need to struggle through a Zumba class because you hate memorizing the combinations.

On the other hand, if you excelled in sports as a kid, joining an adult basketball or soccer league may be a huge confidence booster (as well as deliver all the health and fitness benefits of a workout). Or if there’s a physical skill you’ve always wanted to be able to do, such as self-defense, you may love suiting up for kickboxing or jiu-jitsu.

3. Put It on Your Calendar as You Would Any Other Appointment

Once you have a workout (or even a few) that you want to try, give yourself a slow and steady break-in period. “Don’t start off by trying to make radical changes,” says Dieffenbach. “Schedule a few days a week and put it on your calendar like any other important appointment.”
Giving yourself a workout range for the week can also be helpful. “If you set a goal of working out five days and only go four times, that’s often perceived as a failure,” says Dr. Harris. “Instead, give yourself a more realistic range, like three to five days a week.”

4. Break Up Your Workout Into Shorter Spurts

Are you skipping your workout because you don’t have time for the full routine? Break up your physical activity into a few shorter 10-minute spurts throughout the day. “Taking shorter walks throughout the day, as opposed to one longer walk that takes 30 minutes to an hour, has been shown to have very similar benefits,” says Harris.

5. Set Mini-Goals

Many people set huge outcome-oriented goals, such as losing 20 pounds, getting six-pack abs, or running a marathon. While these can be motivating, they don’t tell you what you need to do right now, and in the days and weeks to come, to accomplish them. To stay motivated, ensure you don’t get bored, and keep progressing at a steady rate, setting smaller “process goals” can help.

“If an outcome goal is the top step of a staircase, process goals are like the individual steps you’d take to get there,” says Harris.

Try increasing the length of your run by a half mile every week or increasing the duration of your plank by 15 seconds every three days. If you’re unsure how to safely increase the intensity of your exercise and set realistic process goals, consider enlisting the help of a certified personal trainer.

The feeling that you’ve accomplished something each week (in addition to over a longer period of time) can help motivate you to make each and every workout along the way count.