Starting Your Fitness Journey: The Six Initial Steps to a Healthier You

Posted on 31 Aug 2017

Deciding to take the plunge and embark on a quest for a happy, healthier lifestyle is usually met with mixed emotions.

Written by Aquamoves Fitness Instructor Chris Leonard

Unfortunately swapping a sedentary existence for a lifestyle filled with boundless energy and an overall better quality of life is often put on hold. Reasons for this include the fear of failure, lack of motivation and support, intimidation (of fitness centres and the people that frequent them) and an absence of planning and guidance from someone with the knowledge and understanding to steer you in the right direction.

If you are one of the many out there each day deciding to take control of your life and work towards an improved version of yourself, firstly let me start by saying “Congratulations!” The decision is one you won’t regret, other than you didn’t start sooner.

However, although the journey is a worthwhile one, it will be met with obstacles and setbacks and it will be hard – as is anything worth your time and commitment.

Here are a few tips to ensure you get started on the right foot, giving you your best chance of seeing optimal results early and throughout your fitness journey.

One: Failing to plan is planning to fail

Be clear about what it is you want to achieve. There are many different reasons as to why people begin fitness regimes and not all training methods and protocols will yield the same results. Invest in a program prescribed specifically for you, your fitness level and ability and this will give you structure and purpose to your workout. It isn’t about how much time you put in, rather the quality of the time invested.

Preplanning also includes ensuring you have set aside enough time (approximately 60 mins max) for your workout and how many days you can realistically commit to per week (two-three days each week initially). As a society these days we are very time poor but c’mon, you’re too busy to prioritise your own health?

Two: Take responsibility, own it and be realistic

Countless times over the years I have heard people shift the blame. Their partners, children, friends – even the work colleague who inconveniently had a birthday, twisting their arm and practically forcing the slice of celebratory cake down their throat (the second and third pieces though?) have all been responsible for their current condition.

It can almost be guaranteed that those who do not take ownership of where they’re at, will fail and call it quits when it’s gets hard or at least will find it takes a lot longer to achieve the desired results. Those who show up and admit that yes, they have been neglectful of their health and fitness and it’s time to make a change are more likely to see success due to their own accountability and realisation that there are no excuses left that hold up. There’s no shame in that, in fact it can cement the decision to make changes.

Even with the motivational fire burning bright and each workout waiting to be tackled head on with gusto and grit, it pays to be a realist.

Don’t expect to undo anywhere between one to three decades of sedentary living in six weeks. It will be hard at first, it will seem long and brutal and at times you’ll want to quit. Until you remember why you started…

Three: Get assessed

Your fitness journey should commence with a qualified and experienced instructor whom you feel comfortable with.

An initial fitness assessment allows you to see where you’re starting from, discuss goals and how to reach them, structuring a program/exercise timetable and to chat about anything else you may have questions about.

Approaching a fitness regime blindly is often met with frustration, minimal results (if any) and sometimes even injury. A gym instructor can ensure you are exercising correctly with safe and proper technique, show you around the facility and familiarise you with its staff, members, rules and etiquette. They can also recommend different aspects of fitness to include in your programming (like classes and/or aqua activities) when the time is right.

Having regular contact with a gym instructor who is aware of your purpose gives you someone else to be accountable to and can assist you in those times when motivation is low.

Four: Simplicity is the key

When starting out, the last thing any new gym member wants is to be confused by is a long and over-complicated program they can’t remember or is above and beyond their current ability.

Regardless of the individual’s goals and what stimulus is implemented (machines, free weight, bodyweight), an initial program should cover each of the functional movement patterns (squat, push, pull, hinge, lunge/single leg, rotate and bipedal/gate – walk, run, sprint, bike etc.) so to ensure a well-balanced and functional physique.

Typically this consists of about six different exercises, a cardio based warm-up and a light stretch/cool down that is all completed within a 40-60 minute timeframe.

Five: Variety is the spice of life

Even the most hard-core fitness enthusiast will lack motivation from time to time. As a beginner, the motivation may be high but the monotony of a repetitive, structured program when you aren’t used to it can wear thin.

I suggest trying as many different classes and forms of physical activity on offer as you possibly can. After all, how are you supposed to know what you like if you don’t try it first?

With such a broad range of fitness options on hand it is only natural that some will appeal more than others. Participating in something you enjoy is going to be much more sustainable than begrudgingly pushing through something you don’t.

Six: Celebrate the small wins

In order to keep seeing results as the months roll by it is imperative that you are constantly hungry for change, always chasing something that at present is just out of reach.

Setting yourself small, realistic goals (approximately six weeks apart) is one way to ensure you are consistently pushing that bit harder each week/month. It is great to have a long-term goal to get you on your way, but those goals are usually 12 – 18 months into the future. The reality being, those months between now and the end result can be long, frustrating and fruitless when you are focusing solely on the big picture and not recognising the little wins you collect along the way.

These small goals can be anything relevant to your end goal – whether it be performance based (more repetitions of a particular exercise, increase in resistance, distance/speed), aesthetically based (increase in muscle, decrease in body fat, centimetres lost/gained). It might even be committing to showing up three times a week if making your training habits routine is something you struggle with.

A friend, family member or work colleague can also be the spark you need to keep you on track. Participate in classes together, come to the gym together, get an assessment together, check-in with each other. Having a good support network around you when making a lifestyle change reinforces to you that you are making the right decision.

It is not uncommon for people around you to view your new lifestyle in a negative light, giving you backhanded compliments (“Don’t get any skinnier, you’ll fade away”, “Great body; what is it you’re compensating for?”) and sometimes blatantly attacking your choices and trying to appeal to your ideals, sense of belonging, emotions and self-esteem (“The gym is a waste of money”, “You some kind of health nut? Live a little”, “This is a real man’s body” – as they rub their pre-diabetic beer gut). These people and their attitude are toxic and in most cases, these comments are made out of jealousy, fear of taking the step themselves or some other insecurity of their own. Do not feel bad that you are a stronger individual for wanting something more. I can assure you, nobody really wants to be unfit, overweight, unhealthy and functioning sub optimally and if they were granted a wish and had the chance to change it all instantly, I’m sure they would.

Those who want what is best for you and want to see the best version of you will support you all the way - some might be right there with you every step of the way. Who knows, you may even be somebody else's inspiration and motivation to get started or keep going…

Fitness Instructor Chris Leonard says that while embarking on a healthier lifestyle can be hard, the benefits make the journey more than worthwhile.
Fitness Instructor Chris Leonard says that while embarking on a healthier lifestyle can be hard, the benefits make the journey more than worthwhile.