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How To Start Working Out When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

How To Start Working Out When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

What do you do when you’re trying to start a new workout routine?

Maybe you’ve been training your entire life and just want a new exercise to keep things fresh. Or maybe you’re getting started with exercise for the first time and don’t know how to start working out. Either way, starting a new training routine is something we all deal with from time to time.

For example, I recently added sprint training to my workout routine. There’s just one problem: I’ve never done sprint training before.

In this post, I’ll outline the strategies I used to get started with a new workout routine and how you can use them to kickstart your own training.

Decide what you want to be good at doing.

I’ve written previously about how important a sense of purpose can be, and that holds true for exercise and training as well.

The more specific you are about what you want to become good at doing, the easier it is for you to train for success. In my case, I want to become good at 400m sprints. That’s a clear goal and it helps provide direction to me in the process.

If you’re confused about how to start working out, then make a decision. It doesn’t even have to be the “best” decision. Just choose something that you want to become good at doing and start moving in that direction. There will be plenty of time for adjustments and optimization later.

Ask someone who has been there.

In the beginning, I had no idea what a typical sprint workout even looked like.

How did I find out? I asked people who did know. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Everybody is a beginner at some point. The people around you are your greatest assets.

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I went to my strength and conditioning coach from college, my old teammates who had done sprint training, and a friend who ran track competitively. I asked each of them for suggestions and programs for 400m sprint training and for general sprinting tips.

My hope was that by asking five different people instead of just one, I would get a more well-rounded view. As expected, everyone pointed me towards different programs and routines.

While all of this different information might seem conflicting and confusing at first, it’s important for the next step.

Get the main idea, skip the details.

This is where most people give up and never get going with their new routine (don’t worry—it’s happened to me as well).

Fitness is one of the worst industries if you’re looking for clear advice. It seems like everyone has a different way of doing things and they are all convinced that their way is the only way.

As a result, it’s easy to stress out over the details of a new workout routine. Should I do 5 sets or 6 sets? Program A says I should rest for 90 seconds, but Program B says I should rest for 60 seconds. This website says to work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but my friend did it on Tuesday and Thursday. Which one is right?

Let’s all take a deep breath.

Here’s a little knowledge bomb for you: the details don’t matter in the beginning.

You’ll have plenty of time to figure out technique, rest periods, volume, training schedules, yada yada yada. When you’re starting a new workout routine, the only thing that matters is getting started. Get the main idea, stick to the schedule, and the details will begin to fall into place.

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Here’s how I did it with my sprint training:

I read each of the resources and workout programs that my friends sent me. Then, I wrote down the common ideas from each program.

Here’s what they looked like:

  • run sprints that range from 200m to 500m
  • rest for 2 or 3 minutes between sets
  • run between 3 to 6 sprints per workout
  • do sprint workouts 2 or 3 times per week

Did I leave out a lot of details? Yes. But with the main ideas above, I could go to the track and get my first sprint workout done.

And in the beginning that’s the real goal: make it as simple as possible to get started.

Go slow.

Most of the time when we decide to start a new workout routine it’s because we’re motivated to do it. It’s great to have motivation, but as I’ve mentioned before, it can be a double-edged sword.

Why? First, because motivation fluctuates. This means you can’t rely on it. That’s why you want to build good habits instead of getting motivated.

But secondly, motivation can fool you into biting off more than you can chew (I wrote about why this is an issue, and how to avoid it, here).

In the beginning, you want to start slow. Remember, the goal is to get in the habit of doing the workouts, not to do intense workouts.

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Here’s how I started with my sprints:

The first workout, I did 3 sprints of 200m at 50% intensity. It was easy and slow. I was simply trying to get my body used to running again.

The second workout, I did 2 sprints of 400m with 3 minutes rest in between. Again, this wasn’t a particularly taxing workout.

In the beginning, you want the workouts to be easy. This is true for the first 3 or 4 weeks. Your only goal is to stick to the schedule and build the capacity to do the workout. Performance doesn’t matter.

It seems like this is the exact opposite of what most people do. The typical approach is to go from sitting on your couch to doing P90X for six days every week. With a switch like that, it’s no wonder that most people give up after a week.

Don’t miss workouts.

If I could summarize everything I’ve learned in 10 years of strength training, it would come down to these three words: don’t miss workouts.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, here’s what our workout calendar usually looks like:

  • Workout consistently for a month or two.
  • Get sick. Miss multiple workouts. Spend the next month getting back in shape.
  • Workout consistently for a month or two.
  • Schedule changes. Life gets crazy. Miss multiple workouts. Spend the next month getting back in shape.
  • Workout consistently for a month or two.
  • Travel. Vacation. Time off. Miss multiple workouts. Spend the next month getting back in shape.

And on and on.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with your schedule changing or taking vacation, but you need to have a system to make it as easy as possible to get back on track. This is especially true when you’re just getting started with a new workout routine.

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When I started my pushup routine, I managed to get 17 consecutive workouts in before I missed a day. And I got right back on track after that one day off. In total, I did 93 pushup workouts over the course of 8 months.

The individual impact of each workout has been very small, but the cumulative impact of sticking to that schedule has been huge. (I’ve doubled the amount of pushups that I can do.) And it all comes down to not missing workouts.

I’m planning on applying this same strategy to my sprint workouts and I suggest you do the same.

Pick an exercise and get started.

There are more exercises in the world than I care to count, but I think you can list the important ones on two hands.

  • Clean and Jerk
  • Snatch
  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Bench Press
  • Pushups
  • Pullups
  • Sprints

Pick one that you would like to be good at and get started.

Remember, you don’t need to worry about the details in the beginning. Just get the main idea, start slow, and don’t miss workouts.

And now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to hit the track.

This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

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James Clear

James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

8 Weight Loss Tracker and Exercise Apps for Your Fitness Goals

8 Weight Loss Tracker and Exercise Apps for Your Fitness Goals

Are you frustrated by the fact that you haven’t been able to lose weight? Have you ever wondered if you don’t actually know how many calories you eat in a day? How much exercise do you ACTUALLY get, and why doesn’t anything seem to be working? A weight loss tracker can help you answer all of these questions and more.

How can we start to see results and have the momentum to keep moving forward? The answer is simple:

Have a game-plan and know exactly what is going on inside your body.

If you really want to excel at your fitness goal, then you need to have a game-plan for success. You need to know what will keep you motivated, how to simplify things, how to be more efficient at your goals, and even find what you enjoy the most.

You can start by checking out Lifehack’s Busy Yet Fit Course, which will help you get into the groove of working out, even if you have a busy lifestyle.

If you’re blindly trying to chase your goals, then you probably feel about as hopeless as a carpenter with a butter-knife. So, it’s time to stock your toolbelt for success!

I am about to show you the top weight loss tracker apps that will be game-changers for you. From nutrition trackers to step counters, these apps are sure to set you on the fast track to your fitness goals.

Keep reading to find the apps that might just shoot you past your plateau and into the lifestyle you dream of.

1. MyFitnessPal

    When it comes to the best weight loss tracker apps, this one takes the cake (The Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Vegan cake that is).

    MyFitnessPal is the best all around calorie counter that I have found on the market. This app is free and has almost all the calorie counting resources available to you. Not only does it seamlessly estimate the daily calories needed to hit your goal, but it also gives you the methods to track it.

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    Just enter the ingredients of each meal you eat, and it will add up how many calories you eat. It can also scan product barcodes and automatically enter those calories for you.

    Going a step beyond that, this app also tracks your macros (according to your own customized goals) and nutrients. Furthermore, you can input a desired weight to track your weight loss journey.

    While that all seems impressive enough, this app also tracks exercise calories and can sync to Fitbit, MapmyRun, and other apps to measure your exact energy ratio.

    If you want a one-stop map to success, then this is it! This will not only help you develop a game plan, but will also create a flexible plan to get you there.

    Get the app here!

    2. Fitbit

      I know you’ve already heard of this app, and for good reason. Fitbit has been helping thousands step their way to health since it first came out.

      While investing in a Fitbit may not be cheap, I believe it to be well worth the investment.

      Fitbit will track your total amounts of steps each day. For those of you who are competitive, this is the perfect app to keep you moving and motivated throughout the day.

      This app can also sync with other fitness apps, like MyFitnessPal, to measure your exact energy expenditure each day. It’s a keeper for sure, especially if you’re looking for a great weight loss tracker.

      Get the app here!

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      3. MapMyRun

        This is another one for the competitive, beginner, or exercise enthusiast. MapMyRun measures the distance that you run and even tracks your route. Furthermore, you can sync your daily results with MyFitnessPal to keep track of your daily calorie burn.

        If you want to go at it with a friend, you can challenge them in competitions that are sure to keep you both moving!

        Once, my husband ran for 2 miles just before midnight to beat me in a competition that was ending the next day. Talk about motivation!

        MapMyRun is perfect for those who like to challenge themselves, love to be part of a fitness community, or want a place for friends to hold them accountable to their goals.

        Get the app here!

        4. Zombies, Run!

          Are you having trouble pulling away from entertainment to go out and run? Then why not combine the two?

          ZombieRun is a fun app that is sure to get you moving if you are someone who is motivated by a good time. In fact, you might even have such a blast you will forget you are exercising!

          This app takes you through a storyline and makes you the hero. Each level will present a new challenge to help you progress and keep things exciting.

          You certainly won’t need to worry about your pre-workout. Imagining you are the hero in the story will be enough to keep your adrenaline pumping on its own.

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          Just be sure not to move too slow or the “Zombs” (as we runners affectionately call them) might catch you!

          Get the app here!

          5. Prepear

            Are you tired of sitting down for hours and trying to strategize what to eat? This app helps cut this time in a quarter and is a great addition as a weight loss tracker.

            Simply add online recipes into your weekly meal plan (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and it will organize all the ingredients you will need into a shopping list.

            With all your meal planning in one organized area, it will be easy to find which meal you plan to make for the day. This will keep your healthy recipes delicious. You will seriously never have to fret about meal planning again!

            Get the app here!

            6. Strava

              If walking is your health resolution, this weight loss tracker might be for you. Strava is sure to get you into healthy habits that you enjoy. In fact, you might start losing weight before realizing that you’ve even been exercising.

              This app enables you to track your trails and mileage, take pictures, and invite friends to join. It is a keeper for beginners and hikers alike.

              Get the app here!

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              7. Aaptiv

                If you find yourself at the gym and not sure what to do, then this app might be for you. Aptive gives you workouts to do and instructs you how to do them.

                While there’s nothing quite like the accountability of a personal trainer, Aaptiv is a great way to be guided through exercises without having to dish out tons of money.

                The online instructors will guide you through the movements and keep you focused on finishing the workout. This app is sure to make you a gym rat in no time!

                Get the app here!

                8. Freeletics

                  Here’s one for those of you always on the move! Freeletics is an incredible app designed for people who just don’t have the time (or motivation) to drive down to the gym. Freeletics provides online workouts designed specifically from bodyweight with no equipment needed.

                  You will be surprised at what a great workout you can get without any equipment.

                  That’s right, you work-travelers; say goodbye to your excuses because this app is bringing the trainer to you!

                  Get the app here!

                  The Bottom Line

                  These 8 weight loss tracker apps are sure to revolutionize your fitness goals. Guesswork will no longer be a part of your fitness journey. These apps are like carrying professionals around in your pocket all day!

                  Get ready to be motivated, informed, and ready to start achieving your dreams!

                  More Tips for Weight Loss

                  Featured photo credit: Gabin Vallet via unsplash.com

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