Feeling inspired to improve your fitness but don't know where to begin? Don't get overwhelmed just yet, Taylor Hynes, a certified strength and conditioning coach and director of Player Performance and Wellness for the FC UNITED and Team ONE lacrosse clubs, told INSIDER. Once you decide to start your fitness journey, Hynes said the next two steps are pretty simple.
When it comes to starting your new workout routine, Hynes said there are two questions you need to answer. "Identify why fitness and exercise is important to you," Hynes said. "Why start at all? You have to have this part very clearly answered, as it defines your purpose throughout. The days you feel weak is where the 'why' becomes most important." The second important step? "Define what fitness will mean for you," Hynes explained. "You could describe a goal here, but in many cases that can be too ambiguous. Instead, unpack your ideas of 'fitness.'"
Hynes noted that many people feel intimidated to start improving their fitness because their perception of "fit" is unrealistic and feels unattainable. "If you find yourself in this category, know that fitness is not an appearance. It is not an attitude. It is not a trend. It is a series of choices you make every day of your life that provide a healthy and sustainable balance to your longevity."
Hynes said that once you have those two questions answered, then you can start implementing changes into your daily routine - like exercising with friends, taking the stairs, or eating healthier.
"It's important to remember that none of those changes work unless you value your current self enough to strive for a healthier self through clear goals and rationale," Hynes said.
Your workout should reflect your goals
Since fitness means something different to everyone, Hynes said you need to tailor your workouts to your specific needs. "If you want to be more cardiovascularly fit - meaning you want to improve skills like running, hiking, climbing, cycling, or swimming - then your exercise should involve longer durations of work periods with shorter rest opportunities," Hynes said. "This is the most effective way to appropriately stress the muscles of the heart and lungs."
But if you want the shape of your body or the movement of your body to change, Hynes said she prefers weight and resistance training. "You have to build some muscles to get the 'toned' body that everyone seems to attach to fitness," Hynes explained. "Strength- and repetition-based exercises will force the body to develop musculature to new movement and cause the appearance of the body to become firmer, 'cut,' and athletic."
Start eating food with intention
Hynes told INSIDER that proper nutrition is absolutely critical if you're serious about getting fit, but she kept her advice on how to eat healthier simple. "The easiest nutrition advice that I may offer is that food should always be eaten with a very intentional purpose," Hynes said. "This guides me to select foods that fill a specific daily need." Hynes also recommended making sure you're getting all your nutrients. "Eat the rainbow every day," she said.
Hynes also said it's best to avoid alcohol and frequent sugar ingestion.
Make time for fitness if it's important to you
As you begin thinking about fitting workouts and healthier meals into your day, you may feel like you don't have enough hours in the day. But Hynes said it's as simple as deciding to make space in your day to commit to your fitness. "You don't have the time to start because you have not made the time to start," Hynes said. "I promise, if it is important to you, you will find a way or
Hynes said it is crucial to make a schedule for the first two to three weeks of your journey so that your brain understands its permanence and priority in your daily life. She added that it's important to keep in mind that fitness doesn't come overnight.
"Fitness is a series of decisions made to support long-term well-being," she said. Hynes said that if you stay committed to your schedule, you will see results.
Take precautions to stay safe
Instead of being worried about not having enough time for exercise, you may be eager to jump right in and hit the gym hard. Although enthusiasm and motivation are key components of starting your fitness journey, it's also important to be safe, Hynes said.
"If you are going to start training in a gym or running, find proper footwear that is a smart price but is also capable of taking care of your body on the worst of your days," she recommended.
Hynes also added that you absolutely need to make time for injury prevention when you work out. "Always warm up for 15 minutes prior to exercise and always cool down with some sort of muscle-relaxing exercise."
Always remember why you started
There might be times where you don't feel particularly motivated, but Hynes said it's important to remember why you began in the first place on those days. "Always defer to your 'why,'" Hynes said. "Your answer has to be both strong and vulnerable enough to compel yourself to commit to a version of yourself that you cannot yet see. If this answer is too weak, then you will struggle to reach your goals."
Hynes also stressed the importance of staying present and focused on where you are now rather than where you used to be. "If you are trying to get back into shape, this is where identifying your 'why' and redefining your 'what' are crucial," Hynes said. "Do not compare yourself now to an earlier self."
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