Are you having a hard time getting back in shape?
We asked experts to share some great tips that will help make a difference.
Dr. Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) | Team Chiropractor, Blackthorn Rugby Team |
Owner, Montgomery County Chiropractic Center
Set your goals and identify your actual intentions
Starting a new workout program can be quite overwhelming. Over the years, the people that have the most success in continuing with their new workout program to get back in shape have set goals.
Goal setting and identifying what your actual intentions are is essential in making the changes part of your regular routine.
When some people start a new program, one of the major problems is that without identifying what your actual goal is, you don’t know how to accomplish it.
Is your primary goal weight loss? Do you want to be able to run longer and not be out of breath? Do you want to become stronger for a sport?
Each goal needs to be defined so that you can then begin a program that helps you achieve that specific goal. A Doctor of Chiropractic can perform an evaluation and help you determine how to achieve these goals, and help you find ways to make them a part of your regular routine.
Have a regular checkup
Many people start a program, and a few weeks later get bored or pull a muscle, it will discourage you, and will hold you back from achieving your exercises.
We recommend regular checkups with your doctor to help prevent any setbacks from muscle or tendon injuries and keeping a journal to help make sure you are achieving your set goals. Just because you saw someone doing an exercise at the gym, doesn’t mean that exercise is good for you to do.
Focus on the type of exercises that best fit your goals and intentions
For building strength, nothing beats traditional weight training with free weights to build muscle strength. If losing weight is your main goal, a combination of 10-12 repetition light to medium weighted resistance exercises will help you build lean muscle mass. This will help you lose weight even when you are not working out.
Building lean body mass helps speed up the metabolism, which will enhance your body’s way to lose weight easier, and keep it off. Combined with 35-45 minutes of low to medium impact cardio 3-5x a week and reducing junk food from your diet, you can achieve sustainable weight loss.
A normal goal for weight loss that will stay off over the long run is losing 2-3lbs. a week. Fast weight loss gimmicks and diet pills are not sustainable, and sometimes can be very dangerous to your health, and are not recommended.
Dr. Tom Biggart
Physical Therapist | Athletic Training and Strength and Conditioning Coach | Owner, EBM Fitness Solutions
Prioritize movement assessment
If we are looking to get back into shape, I am assuming we were once in shape. Do not make the mistake of jumping back into whatever activity or routine you did before. This is a one-way ticket to come see me as a patient.
What every person needs before starting to get in shape or back into shape is an assessment. It is actually irresponsible of trainers to train people without some form of movement assessment prior to starting a client on an exercise program.
Nowadays, assessments can be done in-person or online so there is no reason not to do one. What a person wants and what their body needs are often not the same when starting a new plan. The plan will move those things closer together, but it takes time.
The assessment is often a reality check for the client. It shows them where their weaknesses are and why it is important to start slow.
Study and learn how to do the exercises correctly
Everyone is in a hurry to get going and to see results. That makes sense. That being said, having people focus on how they do their exercises will yield better outcomes and help to foster better compliance with their program.
At the start of the program, focus on mastering big movements instead of isolating muscle groups.
- Learn how to squat and hinge at the hips.
- Learn how to stabilize the lumbar spine using core stabilization movements.
- Learn how to make sure your glutes (butt muscles) are working properly. Hint: in most people they do not. Even people that are fairly fit.
- Learn how to properly engage the upper back (shoulder blades) when performing different upper body movements.
- Learn how to hold proper posture during all movements.
All of these ideas are incredibly important and easy to gloss over in the beginning because they are not sexy or Instagram-worthy.
Build a strong foundation first, then add all the other fancy stuff after.
Related: Best Fitness Books
Personal Trainer | Weight Loss & Wellness Coach | World Champion Powerlifter
Getting back in shape depends on a variety of individual factors such as the person’s age, past athletic experience, preexisting injuries or limitations, and degree of deconditioning.
What everyone has in common is that they should start slowly. You don’t want to start off so gung ho that you get injured and have to delay getting in shape or get so sore that you get discouraged and don’t want to continue.
For example, to improve cardiovascular shape one could start with walking until out of breath and then increase the distance or pace each day. You could then add in jogging for a part of that and then increase the amount of running.
To build the strength they could start with bodyweight exercises such as squats or pushups, cheating as necessary, before using weights.
In doing any exercise, they should always use proper form
They should also make sure they work on flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular fitness. They should support the training with proper nutrition of protein, carbohydrates, and good fats, hydration, and at least seven hours of sleep a night. Once they reach a certain level of fitness, they can start to tailor their program to their specific goals.
For example, if they are aiming to lose fat, enter a 10K, prepare to hike ruins on vacation, etc., they can add in exercises or protocols which will enable them to accomplish their goals.
With a positive attitude and the discipline to exercise regularly and eat well, they will get in shape and be able to achieve their goals.
Rachel Piskin, M.F.A.
Former Professional Ballerina, New York City Ballet | Co-Founder, Chaise Fitness
Clean out your home of unhealthy food choices
If you’re looking to get back into shape, start with your home. Set yourself up for success and clean out your fridge and pantry of any junk food or your “trigger” foods — foods that you know are impossible to resist! Get the whole household on board to help hold each other accountable.
Then head to the grocery store and stock up on replacement foods. For example, instead of ice cream for a late-night treat have a natural fruit pop without added sugar, etc.
If you clean out everything and then have an empty house you will be more focused on what you don’t have, so replace it with healthy choices. When hunger hits, you have something ready to grab that knock your diet and goals off track.
Have a clear weekly workout plan
If you’re looking to get back into shape, going to the gym without a plan is one of the biggest mistakes I often see. It can be overwhelming and distracting to go to the gym without a clear workout plan. You will spend half of your time figuring out what you want to do instead of using your precious time you have carved out for the actual workout!
Create a weekly gym plan for yourself that becomes standard practice.
For example, Monday’s is cardio either on the treadmill, bike or elliptical. Wednesday’s you do upper body and ab work with machines and free weights. Friday you do a circuit workout between cardio bursts and lower body. You will maximize gym time with this approach and see results much faster.
Remember to incorporate strength training
People often focus too much on cardio and the idea of losing weight, burning fat, etc. What they don’t focus on is building a balance in your workouts between cardio and strength training. It is that balance between the two that allows you to see great transformation.
Focus on form and technique, not just the number of reps and minutes logged on the treadmill
To see results you do not need to work out every day. In fact, if you do not give yourself the proper rest between workouts you will start to compensate form and use your muscles improperly which brings on the risk of injury.
One day a week pick a cardio workout that is out of your normal routine, such as a high energy dance class. In a sense, this tricks yourself into adding in extra cardio that feels less like a tough workout and more like a fun activity! It allows you to switch it up week to week, keeping the long term goal of weight loss more attainable and increasing longevity.
Try a circuit move that also involves some strengthening exercises
The combo of cardio and strengthening will help keep your heart rate up and steady for longer intervals than just doing cardio bursts. Here’s one example: Perform a circuit of three moves, 1 minute long each with 10 seconds rests in between. Jumping jacks. Plank hold. Mountain climber runs. Repeat 3 rounds.
Corporate Wellness Expert, Naturally Healthy | Yoga Instructor |
Mindfulness Coach | Holistic Nutritionist, B.A. | Fitness Trainer
Introduce new healthy habits every week. Most of us look for instant gratification and we go all out when trying to get back in shape only to lose steam within a couple of days and give up.
Getting back in shape is a process and its best done slowly as you outline weekly goals.
Here are a couple of habits to incorporate and steps to take when beginning this process:
Start the morning right
Start by eating a healthy breakfast every morning that includes protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs. Starting the morning right wins the day! Meaning if you eat a healthy breakfast each morning, it will set the tone for the rest of your day and you will no longer have the cravings or urgent to resort to junk food.
Introduce an exercise or workout that you enjoy
First, decide if you prefer to exercise alone or in a group. If you like dancing, try a Zumba class; if you like being outdoors, start walking or swimming. Try a boxing class, cycling or pilates.
Whatever you choose, make sure you enjoy the activity because it will give you something to look forward to and you will stick to it.
Yes, start drinking plenty of water because many times the body confuses thirst for hunger causing us to eat more. How much should you drink? Divide your weight in half and that’s the number of ounces you need to drink daily.
Keep a log
This is one of the bests tools for accountability and will allow you to celebrate small wins as you go along. You can either use a journal or an app on your phone.
Physical Therapist | Founder, Click Physiotherapy
Getting back into shape is one of the best decisions a person can make! As a physical therapist, many injuries I treat are directly related to people having poor physical fitness.
The hardest part about getting back into shape is starting. You have to navigate things like motivation and overcoming that initial lack of energy.
Start with the ‘why’
Think of the reasons that motivate you to get fit. Write them down somewhere you can see them. Stick them to your bathroom mirror. When you are constantly reminded of the why, you will be encouraged to persevere.
When writing your why, don’t just include negative motivators. These are things like, I need to lose weight because I know being overweight is unhealthy. This is good, but some of your motivators need to be positive. This could be, I like the way I feel when I’m fit, etc.
Start with something achievable
Like dieting, lots of people try starting with unrealistic goals and set themselves up for failure. You may choose to start with a ten-minute walk a day. Remember you can always increase your fitness goals, but it’s hard to continue when you don’t hit the targets you set.
Watch how quickly you build your routine
As a rule of thumb, don’t increase your load by 10% every week. I would even suggest 5% every week if you haven’t exercised in a while. This is very important because it will help you to remain injury-free.
The biggest hurdle to becoming fit is sustaining an injury, so it’s important to think about this as you begin.
Whatever you start, whether it’s walking, boxing or running, increase this by no more than 5% per week. So if you started boxing for 10mins a day, next week you could try 10 and a half minutes, and build up like this.
These tips will help you on your journey of becoming fit. Remember, at first it seems like work, but soon you will love the benefits you see. You will begin to have more energy, sleep better and be happier mentally.
Certified Fitness Trainer | Wellness Expert | Life Coach
Having taught Emotional Fitness for over two decades, I have seen people set unrealistic and unhealthy goals for themselves. They came to realize that what they thought they wanted was very different from what they were ready to create for themselves.
As humans, we live in a constant state of fight, freeze, or flight. We get stuck in survival mode. Humans become burnt out from having too much stress in their lives, and at the rate they go, they will not be able to sustain their lifestyles for long.
So, they tell themselves, “Okay! I’m going to start an exercise program to keep up!” They work out super hard, and what happens? They quit or, worse, they get injured. Or they may hire a personal trainer who shames and punishes them for not working hard enough.
Unfortunately, programs haven’t trained our personal trainers to look out for adrenal fatigue, burn out, or stagnation. These well-meaning trainers have been conditioned by society that “No pain is no gain.” And that you always have to work harder and do more.
If these people continue to push themselves, they will eventually get injured and their body will force them to quit because, again, they are already burned out and have nothing left to give. The last thing they need is a kick-your-butt kind of program.
Consider a moderate exercise plan
Most people think that they have to work out for hours and hours to have a “Perfect Body.” Here is a way for you to get in and out of the gym in less than an hour.
Most of my clients are in and out within 45 minutes. We begin with 5 minutes of meditation and visualization. Next, we spend 10-15 minutes performing reconstructive exercises and Myofascial release. Then we perform 30 minutes of exercise with weights and cardio. The last 5 minutes is for stretching.
Step I: Visualization and Meditation (approximately 5 minutes)
It’s a fact that if you can see it, you can achieve it. I have experienced this in my own life, and I’ve had the pleasure of training many athletes. Not surprisingly, the athletes who have incorporated visualization techniques in reaching their goals have far surpassed the ones who didn’t.
Step 2: Myofascial Release and Reconstructive Exercises (approximately 10-15 minutes)
Most people begin their workout with cardio. While better than nothing, it’s actually a waste of time because it takes approximately 20 minutes of cardio to start burning fat. For the quickest results, perform your workouts first and then, if you can, cardio afterward.
For now, I must emphasize that myofascial release (massage, i.e., foam roller, yoga balls, etc.) and reconstructive exercise (working the smaller muscles to help create a solid foundation for the larger muscles) is the most important thing you can do for your body.
It builds stronger, freer muscles, resulting in a more efficient workout. If your muscles are tight and weak, it causes the surrounding muscles to lose strength and become imbalanced, which inevitably causes injury.
Myofascial release builds a strong foundation on which a more powerful, vibrant physical experience will be built. Without a solid foundation, the house—no matter how impressive the structure—will not stand. Your body is your house.
Step III: Combining Weight and Cardio Training (approximately 30 minutes)
I have learned that unless you’re a professional bodybuilder who wants to gain a boatload of weight, you don’t need to push yourself super hard in your workout routine, especially in the beginning.
To save precious energy and time in my workouts, I super-set my exercises to cut my workout time in half. If I’m to train my back that day, I will super-set two exercises with back, then immediately grab a jump rope or do something that has to do with cardio, so that I can keep my heart rate up and keep burning.
Then I will work an ancillary body part, like biceps or triceps, or perform a core exercise like a plank to allow my heart-rate to come down.
Step IV: Stretching and Recovery (approximately 5 minutes)
After every workout, incorporate stretching and meditation. When you do this, you allow your body time to recover and settle back into its natural groove. By adding breathing and meditation, you will be more balanced. Believe me, your unconscious remembers everything you do.
If you are straining your body and denying it recovery, it will retaliate, it will resist you and it will super hard to come back to the gym because all the body will remember is pain.
So, there you have it. A safe and simple way to add exercise back into your daily routine. I always find when begging a new routine, I must start slow. I remember when I couldn’t get myself into a gym for over 5 years because I was burned out. When I came back, I would ride the recumbent bike for 5 minutes, not a second more; not a second less, and then I would leave.
After a month of that, I rode that bike for 10 minutes, not a second more; not a second less. Eventually, I stayed longer and began incorporating more exercises into my routine. However, it took a moment.
Remember to take your time until you feel ready to enhance your workouts to the next level. Your body will be glad you did.
Certified Personal Trainer | Nutrition Coach | Co-Founder & VP Operations, Livekick
Commit to morning workouts
If you’re not a morning person, creating the morning fitness habit may be hard – I do admit. And it may always be a struggle to get going without a cup of coffee or some pre-workout. However, once you’re up, there are fewer distractions on the way to the gym than there will be, say, after your workday.
When 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening rolls around and you’re tired and less motivated from a long day or one of your colleagues has invited you out for a drink, it’s going to feel pretty easy to skip the workout.
If you can just get yourself to show up for whatever you have planned in the morning, it will happen and you won’t regret it. Push through that moment of challenge right when the alarm goes off and you consider “Maybe I’ll skip…” and get yourself out of bed and to the gym, and you’ll be set for the day.
If you get your exercise done in the morning, you can simply roll with whatever comes up later in the day without feeling bad that you missed another gym session. You’re far more likely to be consistent with your training if you get it done early in the day rather than delaying.
Tips to start incorporating morning workouts
Do workouts from home
With so many fitness apps popping up like Livekick, Sweat, ClassPass Live, and more that allow people to exercise from home and don’t require equipment, this shouldn’t be hard! And sometimes (i.e. during a blizzard), it can make all the difference as to whether or not you get that workout in.
If all you have to do is roll out of bed and open your computer or an app and know you can hop in the shower immediately after, you’re far more likely to get it done than if you have to commute somewhere.
Trust that the more times you choose to get out of bed, the easier it’ll become
Every time you listen to the voice that says, “Get out of bed,” instead of the one that says, “Five more minutes,” you’re more likely to create a lifestyle change.
No one can help you create a habit – it simply happens due to repetition and consistency. It’s one moment of resistance that you can choose to overcome – no one ever arrived at their morning workout and said, “I’m so mad that I’m here.” Once you’re there, you’ll be so glad that you did it. Fight through that one sticky moment.
Set out your workout clothes the night before
I like to even go so far as to put my socks into my sneakers and fill my water bottle so that no matter how half-asleep I am, everything is there and ready for me and I don’t have to wander around, bumping into lamps as I find a sports bra.
Thea Boatswain, MS, CPT
NASM & AFAA Certified Personal Trainer | Fitness Specialist, Elan Fitness and Nutrition | Health Coach
Take it slow
The more you rush the process the better chance you have at getting frustrated and quitting. Set yourself up with small attainable goals that you can accomplish.
Often times we want the “get fit quick” answer when its really about figuring out what works best for you. The saying ” slow and steady wins the race” cannot be truer when wanting to get back into shape.
For example, if you want to start running again. Start with a brisk 1-mile walk, then a 2-mile run/walk, then a short 5K run and build yourself up to that 10-mile run you want to do.
Try something new
When a lot of people think about getting in to shape, the gym is the first thing that pops up into the mind. What’s great is that there so many new programs that take the need to drag ourselves to the gym all the time.
I personally like YouTube to find new workouts to do when I’m pressed for time. There are also great apps and trainers that will give you personalized online workouts to do in the comfort of your home.
Focus on one thing at a time
A lot of people want to change a million things about their fitness and eating regimen that they overwhelm themselves with new changes all at once. Try tackling and mastering one change at a time, instead of all of them.
You’ll find that not only are you better able to master that one task you feel more accomplished and are able to stick to your plan better!
Certified Personal Trainer | Health & Wellness Expert, Maple Holistics
The best way to get back into shape is to build up your base using calisthenics
Rushing back to the gym and trying to get right back into your old routine is not the most conducive way to get back into shape because you can get injured and get discouraged easily.
Working back up slowly starting with bodyweight exercises, light cardio, and a lot of stretching is the best way to get back into shape.
Building back your base is vital to avoid injuries and major fatigue.
Once you have spent just a few weeks constantly doing bodyweight exercises you should be ready to return to a more vigorous workout routine in the gym.
Nutritionist | Author, The Candida Diet
Phrases like “Abs are made in the kitchen”, “Fitness is 80 percent nutrition”, and “You can’t outrun a bad diet” are catchy ways to communicate the importance of nutrition in physical fitness, and at their foundation they are correct – diet will impact your ability to get back in shape.
Set a realistic workout and diet regimen
Being disciplined in these areas will over time develop into a lifestyle habit, but early on they may require extra focus and consistency.
A balanced diet is essential to getting back into shape and for some this can be the hardest part of the process. When trying to get back into shape, it can be tempting to try the newest fad diet or to restrict your calorie intake.
These diet patterns are not sustainable and will only temporarily enhance weight loss. Rather, you should focus on eating a diet void of excess sugar and processed foods, consume lean or plant-based protein, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
When trying to get back in shape find a sustainable and balanced diet pattern that works for your lifestyle. Trying to eat in such a way that is excessively restricting is not sustainable and will only lead to quicker burnout in the process.
Certified Fitness Trainer, EveryBODY Can Exercise | Professional Speaker | Author
- Understand what “in shape” means. Your final shape may not match your supermodel aspirations. That’s okay. Round is a shape. What is important is moving your body in a way that makes you healthier, stronger and feeling better about yourself.
- Take it easy. Doing too much too soon is a recipe for exercise disaster. You’ll either end up burnt out or injured. This is not a joyful or sustainable way to rebuild your body. Start slow and increase no more than 10 percent per week for either duration or intensity.
- Find your fun. If you’re taking the time to rebuild, why not spend the effort to find something you love? Fun makes it much more likely that you’ll keep exercising over the long haul.
- Find some friends. This might be a great time to find a new coach, trainer or workout buddy.
- Dial-in and find some new tunes. Nothing inspires like a great soundtrack. Find some songs that get your heart and your happiness pumping.
Ashlee Van Buskirk
Owner, Whole Intent
Establish detailed goals
When you’re starting down the path to get back in shape, you need to start out on the right foot. This means you need to establish your S.M.A.R.T. goals right off the bat.
Too often, people that are looking to lose weight or gain muscle will start out their fitness journey with a simple goal of “I want to lose weight” or “I want to bulk up.” Those goals are fine statements, but they’re full of loopholes and don’t make you accountable for your actions.
S.M.A.R.T. goals, on the other hand, are the perfect way to hold yourself accountable to your fitness plan. When you create a goal right from the get-go that’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART), you’ll eliminate your wiggle room and set yourself up for success.
For reference, here is an example of a S.M.A.R.T. fitness goal:
“I want to lose 15 lbs of fat every month, totaling 45 lbs lost in 3 months, by exercising at least 4 times a week and eating at least 2 healthy meals per day, to cultivate a healthier lifestyle.”
This goal is Specific (fat weight loss), Measurable (lbs, days/week), Attainable (45 lbs in 3 months), Relevant (a healthier lifestyle), and bound by Time (monthly milestones). Anyone with this kind of goal has a harder time finding loopholes or ways to slack off and avoid a healthy lifestyle.
Eat healthily and sustain good eating habits
Fitness also heavily revolves around your diet. Even if you have the motivation to workout and hit the gym, that’s only half of the puzzle.
Getting back in shape means learning how to eat healthily and sustain those eating habits. It’s also important to remember that everybody is different and everyone has different nutritional requirements.
So, a diet plan that works well for your friend may not actually benefit you in the slightest.
Even though we’re all different and have different fitness goals, we would recommend you focus on integrating the healthier food groups into your meals. So, cooking dishes with vegetables, grains, meats/proteins, fruits, and so on.
While you should avoid the unhealthy fatty foods, like donuts, desserts, or pizza, that doesn’t mean you have to cut them out of your diet entirely. You can still have some pizza or ice cream sandwiches in your diet, just make turn them into the occasional treat to reward your hard work.
Related: Best Nutrition Books
Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant | Founder & CEO, Yes You Can!
Identify the obstacles that are weighing down your mind and body
We all have our reasons for losing motivation to get into or stay in shape. One of the hardest truths to accept is that fact that you have gained emotional weight. You need to look within yourself and realize how your emotions and physical well-being are connected.
Find what motivates you to take steps toward positive-thinking, meditation, and self-acceptance and commitment. Once you can commit, you’ll have the motivation to live healthier and make life-changing goals for yourself.
Start with small goals like going for nightly walks or taking the stairs in the morning, learning about portion control, and choosing to reach for healthier snacks over junk food.
From there, you’ll learn to create a habit of working out and eating better and soon enough it will become a lifestyle.
NASM Certified Personal Trainer | Founder, Final Straw Fitness
As someone who lost 70 pounds, gained back 30, and re-lost 20, I know what it’s like to feel that in shape feeling slip further and further away. I also know what it’s like to get back to it!
Understand that you are not the same person you used to be
What worked before, probably won’t work again, at least not in the same way. You will experience things differently the second time around. You’re older, your hormones are functioning differently, your body composition is different than it was, etc.
If you go into it with the “this is how I did it, so this is how I am going to do it” attitude, you are setting yourself up for a very stressful, most likely unsuccessful adventure. Instead, it’s best to acknowledge where you’ve been, where you are, and all you’ve learned along the way.
Take it back to the basics. Eat a little less, move a little more. Become aware of what you are putting in your body and the choices you are making.
Be accountable to yourself and do your best to stay on track. There is absolutely no need to go off trying all the latest trends and making crazy changes to your life.
If you can accept that it won’t happen overnight, but know (because you’ve already proved it to yourself) that it is possible, you will get back to whatever shape you are trying to be in. Take your time, and enjoy the ride!
Director of Communications, Fit3D
Get a body assessment
It is the most important part of starting a body transformation. Unlike a mirror, this will quantify your body & give you a solid foundation for knowing what programs make sense for your body shape & actual metrics. From there you can work with a trainer to talk about what mix of burning fat & building muscle makes sense for your personal goals.
Tracking your body composition over time is very important because often people lose weight & gain muscle in the process. The overall result of that is weight gain, even though one’s body shape is improving.
Having both your fat mass & muscle mass data can help one have a more accurate idea of how your body is changing, often preventing people from quitting programs right when they start to become effective.
There are various technologies to do this. You can either get a 3D body scan or a bioimpedance test which will give you data about your current self. The bonus of getting a 3D body scan is that you can actually see where your body is changing over time – thus validating any workouts you are actually doing.
Co-Founder, Vivio Life Sciences
Going to the gym. The hardest part is showing up. Getting in shape requires physical activity on a near-daily basis as well as clean eating.
Get a membership at a gym within walking distance and walk when you have time, also eat when you are hungry just try to eat nutritious foods without extra sugar or carbohydrates.
Getting in shape does not require extensive dieting and extreme exercise, it requires frequent activity and decent eating habits. It will take more time but as soon as you see the first notions of change both internally and externally it is easy from there.