Anything is Better Than Nothing! – A Guide to Getting Started

I like to close my eyes and picture my ultimate fitness goals.  But when I open them, look in the mirror and think about where I’m currently at, I often think “Why bother?!  I’ve got so far to go!” And putting all modesty aside for a moment, I can do some really amazing things! I’m an internationally ranked athlete, professional circus performer and am in pretty great shape.  Yet our societal standards have dictated that no matter how good/pretty/fit/talented/rich/whatever you are that you can always do better. That you SHOULD do better. There’s always a next level to reach, another pound to lose, another competition to win and always someone on Instagram doing better than you are. 

It’s not a bad thing to be progress motivated, but when that gets in the way of enjoying the journey, being proud of ourselves and finding happiness, we might need to reexamine our priorities.

One issue that many perfectionists and highly progress motivated folks struggle with is procrastination. “I’m afraid to try because I might not win.”  This is where the “Anything is Better than Nothing” philosophy comes in!

EVERYONE. HAS. TO. START. SOMEWHERE.

I am extremely privileged that I was put into gymnastics at the age of 3 and was raised in a very active family. I never had to make the decision or find the motivation to get started – it was done for me. Not everyone is so lucky to be raised with fitness as a priority so it can be overwhelming to figure out how to get started. It is very easy to find excuses not to exercise. “I don’t have enough time. I can’t afford that trendy gym membership.  I can’t fit into my old workout clothes.  I’m too tired.”  The reasons not to work out can be limitless!  I challenge you to reword those excuses and empower yourself to do something; to do ANYTHING! Instead try to tell yourself, “5 minutes is better than no minutes. I can work out anywhere.  I can exercise in anything.  I can summon enough energy for even a light workout.” If you give yourself the gift of starting small, a 5-minute walk will slowly turn into a 20-minute walk. A 20-minute walk might turn into a 30-minute jog. And before you know it you might be challenging yourself to run a marathon! No matter what your goals are the most important part is to just get started. You will learn and adapt, and your goals will likely change along the way, but you’ll never find out if you don’t challenge yourself to begin.

Some Ideas for Getting Started and Finding Motivation!

Adopt a dog!

Of course, there are many factors to take into account before adopting a dog than just wanting to be more active. If you have been on the fence about bringing a pup into your life and have the time and resources to care for them, DO IT!  I absolutely love spending time outdoors, but it isn’t something that I make a lot of time for in my everyday life.  There is always a “to-do” that gets in the way of going for a walk. When you have a dog in your life, going outside for a walk turns into a “to-do”! Going outdoors and getting your heartrate lifted for even 20 minutes at a time can make a huge difference on your fitness level, physique, mental health and overall wellness. (And don’t even get me started on how much dogs can reduce your stress and anxiety!)

Find a workout buddy

Trying new things can be really intimidating – especially when you are going at it alone. I’ve taken hundreds of different fitness classes, yet I still get nervous when going to a new one. “What if I put my mat in the wrong place? What if I mess up and look stupid? What if it’s too hard and I embarrass myself?” There are so many “what ifs” that can keep you from trying something new.  Finding a friend who wants to embark on a fitness journey as well is a great method to make these new and unknown spaces feel safer.  Making plans to go to a class with a friend will also help with your accountability.  It’s much easier to bail on a class if you were going alone, but if you told your friend that you will meet them there it would be a huge let down if you canceled and you will be much more apt to take the risk and give it a try.   Try making a post on social media reaching out to your community asking, “who wants to try the new dance fitness class with me?!” and I bet you will be surprised at how many people are looking for the same support and comradery that you are!

Make exercise into a game

One of my young students was working on her physical fitness but had a hard time focusing on her goals since she had just started binge-watching Friends and it was all she wanted to do in her free time.  We decided to make a game out of her television habit to help her stay motivated! We assigned an exercise to each character of the show and when they came on screen, she had to do the designated set. Rachel was 2 pullups, Chandler was 3 pushups, Phoebe was 5 sit-ups, and so on. When you make exercise into a game it ceases to feel like a chore, and you will start to associate working out with fun and joy instead of pain and boredom. 

Keep a journal

I like to create monthly “Fitness Chore Charts” to keep me on track and record my progress. This month I made a chart with four categories across the top: elbow rehab, stretch splits, stretch back & handstand drills.  Then along the left side I wrote the days of the month, 1-31. Then each day I record if I did a “light” “medium” or “heavy” workout for each category that day and marking a dash if it was a rest day.  I love being able to look back at the work that I put in and notice how great an effect even a light workout done consistently will help me reach my goals. It is also very gratifying to check a box or to give yourself a “gold star” when you complete one of your “chores.”

Set yourself a challenge

If I’m feeling in a rut or lacking motivation, participating in a challenge never ceases to get me back on track.  When I want to participate in a challenge I either find an existing challenge or I set one of my own.  Sometimes local gyms have challenges that you can participate in or use for inspiration.  Instagram is a great resource to find different fitness challenges.  I have participated in many yoga challenges that have really helped me improve my flexibility.  As I come to the end of the current month, I will keep an eye out for any challenges starting the next month by searching hashtages like #fitnesschallenge #yogachallenge #septemberyogachallenge #handstandchallenge and so on. Challenges usually span anywhere from 5 days to the full month.  A full month yoga challenge would have a pose assigned to each day of the month.  As a participant you post a picture of yourself daily doing that day’s pose and tag all of the hosts, sponsors and specific challenge hashtags.  Very supportive communities spring up around these challenges because you are able to see other participant’s progress and they are able to cheer you on in return. Posting to social media is a great way to keep yourself accountable and find support from a community.  If you have more specific goals, you can make a challenge for yourself.  A few years back I was really into rock climbing and wanted to get stronger, so I set myself a month-long pull-up challenge.  My goal was to do a total of 1,000 pull ups in one month.  I made a chart with a slot for each day and logged how many pullups I was able to do each day.  I would periodically post my progress to social media to receive support and encouragement from my community.  My challenge was so successful that I actually inspired a bunch of my friends to join in and do the challenge with me!

Celebrate the small victories!

Unfortunately, there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to working out. All bodies, minds and personalities are different so try not to get discouraged if you don’t find your groove right away! Make sure to experiment and find what works for you.  It’s important to celebrate the small victories and appreciate yourself for the work that you put in.  Sometimes even just finding the motivation to get out of bed in the morning can be a challenge. I try to say to myself every morning “Good job Paula! You got up out of bed and that is the first step!”

Author: Paula Kidwell