If you’re trying to establish a regular workout routine, knowing where to start can seem daunting. What form of exercise will be best for your level of fitness, your health goals and your unique body? Here are some factors to take into account.
What do you enjoy?
This is probably the most important factor. Working out shouldn’t feel like an obligation. And it shouldn’t feel like something you have to dredge yourself through each day. Instead, it should be something that’s genuinely enjoyable and energizing. You’re far more likely to stick with something that you actually like doing. If you enjoy being around other people when you exercise, maybe hitting the weights at the gym or taking a class would be a good option. If you prefer to workout solo, maybe jogging or biking would be more your speed.
If the workout you’ve chosen is inconvenient, it’s not likely to be sustainable over the long term. Maybe you love nature walks – and that’s great! But if the closest hiking trail is a half-hour drive away, it will be more challenging to find time to do it on a daily basis. Instead, try going on a walk around your neighborhood on weekdays, and save the nature walks for weekends, when you have more time.
Your fitness level
You want a form of exercise that will challenge you, but not to the point where you get injured or discouraged. Assess where you’re at, and figure out what’s doable for you right now. Maybe your long-term goal is to run every day, but you haven’t gone on a jog in years. You might start out with walking and gradually increase your pace until you feel comfortable with an easy jog.
Be sure to take into account what you’re hoping to achieve with your workout. Are you trying to lose weight? Do you want to build muscle? Are you simply hoping to improve your overall health? This will impact the kind of activity you choose. If you’re not sure which activities are best suited for your goals, go to a gym and talk to a trainer, do some internet research or talk to others in your circle who maintain regular workout routines.
Your personal tendencies
No one knows you as well as you know yourself. When trying to choose a form of exercise, try to be as honest with yourself as possible when considering whether it’s something you’re likely to stick with. If you hate being outside in the cold weather, maybe jogging isn’t for you (unless you live in a temperate climate). Or maybe you can find an alternative during the chilly months, or run on a treadmill instead. Don’t underestimate the importance of your personal proclivities and preferences.
If you’ve tried maintaining a weightlifting routine in the past, for example, and it just hasn’t worked out, maybe lifting simply isn’t your thing. It’s easy to think that there’s some problem with you that has caused you not to be able to maintain a workout regimen in the past — maybe you lacked “willpower.” And it’s easy to feel like giving up on a particular type of exercise makes you a failure. But that is not the case! It could be that the kind of exercise you tried in the past just isn’t a good fit for you, for any number of reasons. Rather than forcing yourself to keep trying something that historically hasn’t worked for you, give yourself permission to let it go and try something new.
There is no “perfection”
We see advertisements on TV, online and in magazines all the time claiming to hold the secret to the “perfect” workout. The one that will bust belly fat and give you that flawless thigh-gap (as if that’s something we should be aspiring to). And we’re made to feel like if we’re doing something different, we’re failing at exercise. But that’s not the reality. Everyone’s body is different. There’s no single form of exercise that will be right for everyone. There’s no one workout to rule them all. And believing that there is can lead to all kinds of self-judgment, and can get in the way of your ability to find a workout that is genuinely well suited for your unique needs and desires.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remind yourself that you can be as flexible as you like when it comes to your workout routine. Choosing to jog now doesn’t mean that you have to stick with only jogging for the rest of your life. Something you enjoy today might start to feel boring a year from now, and that’s ok. You always have the freedom to switch to something different, at any time. And that’s perfectly fine. It doesn’t mean you’ve given up. Rather, it means that you’re being wise and paying attention to the shifting and evolving needs of your body.
— Sarah Cooke