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People often go one of two routes when they’re thinking about starting a new exercise regimen: 1) They immediately jump into something; or 2) They get overwhelmed by trying to figure out where to start. A little forethought can go a long way in both of these scenarios.

“Starting a workout plan may be difficult if you don’t know or first think about where to begin,” says Michael Raymond, NASM-PES, Dynamic Personal Trainer at Life Time Sandy Springs in Atlanta, Ga. “Do I focus on cardio or on lifting weights? Should I try a certain class? Do I need to stretch? All of these are valid questions.”

While there are many ways to approach a plan — and doing something is almost always better than doing nothing — Raymond and Caleb Herman, regional center of excellence lead and Dynamic Personal Trainer at Life Time in Des Moines, Iowa, urge their clients to consider a few things before beginning a new routine.

“Falling ‘off the wagon’ is a common struggle for many exercisers,” says Raymond. “It’s just so easy for life to ‘get in the way.’ My goal is to help clients fend off any barriers they can from the get-go.”

These are the things Raymond and Herman suggest considering if you’re starting — or re-starting — a fitness routine:

1. Don’t try to take on too much too soon. While it may be tempting go “all in,” it’s easy to get frustrated, burned out, or feel like you’ve “fallen off” if your plan is not realistic for your lifestyle and starting point. “I suggest picking up to three new changes at a time,” says Raymond. “You could add to them every week or every month depending on how you progress. The key is to get in the habit of them and figure out how they work in your schedule.”

2. Make your goals SMART. Life Time trainers often recommend choosing goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. “For example, if a client comes in saying ‘I want to lose weight,’ I may encourage them to reframe that goal to be ‘I want to lose this number of pounds by this date,’” explains Raymond. (Read more: “Goal-Setting That Sticks”)

3. Connect with a Dynamic Personal Trainer. This could simply be during a one complimentary session when you’re getting started, or on an ongoing basis depending on your needs. “Meeting with a trainer allows you to understand all the tools you have at your disposal,” says Herman. “They can explain the features of the club to utilize for your goals, how to use equipment on the workout floor, and help you overcome any barriers, so you’re set up for future success.”

4. Remind yourself of the purpose of your efforts. If you’re connected to the “why” of the actions you’re taking, they’re much more likely to stick. “Make sure your goals have meaning and purpose,” says Herman. “Ask yourself, What is important to me? Why am I doing this? For example, perhaps you’re making changes so you can be around longer for your loved ones. That can propel you into action at times when motivation wanes.”

5. Take advantage of all the club has to offer. “The resources that come with your Life Time membership are amazing,” emphasizes Raymond. From the tools and machines on the workout floor to guided training options, fitness classes, and spaces like the pool or pickleball courts, there’s enough variety to make sure your routine never feels stale and to be able to cross-train and recover effectively.” (Learn more: “9 Surprising Things Included in Your Membership”)

6. Go on the journey with a buddy. A workout partner can hold you accountable and make your efforts more fun. This could be a friend, spouse or partner, family member, coworker, or even a Dynamic Personal Trainer. (Read more: “7 Ways to Be a Great Workout Partner”)

7. Envision yourself how you want to show up. “Picture yourself going to the club and how you will feel once you’ve completed your workout — or once you’ve achieved your goal,” suggests Herman. “That will help stir motivation within you.”

For ideas for where to start, explore these plans:

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Your First Week of Workouts at Life Time

A Dynamic Personal Trainer’s seven-day guide to jump-start your fitness if you’re new to or restarting a club routine.
Read More
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The Back-to-Fitness Workout Plan

A 30-day program to help build all-around fitness and get you back into an exercise routine.
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The Beginner Group Fitness Class Plan

How to use the studio to jump-start your fitness journey.
Read More

Keep the conversation going.

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Callie Chase
Callie Fredrickson

Callie Fredrickson is a content editor at Life Time.

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