Beginning something new is nerve-racking, and it’s hard to know where to start. Whether it’s a new task at work, a new course at school, or a new recipe for that upcoming dinner party, we all need to be guided in some way — starting from the very beginning — to understand what, when, where, how and why.
Finding the motivation to start is also paramount. At work, it’s easier because we are paid to meet our boss expectations. At school? Easy, too! If we wish to succeed and get our degree, we have to work for it. The same goes for that new recipe: we’re hungry and know that by perfecting a delicious recipe we will be rewarded.
One area it’s not easy to find motivation is fitness. But, why is that? Motivation comes from our brain and its way of perceiving efforts and, as humans, we generally tend to avoid tasks that demand strenuous effort. In fact, efforts are identified as threats by the brain because they require the use of energy and our most basic survival instincts tell us to minimize this type of effort unless there is a tangible reward on the other side.
The most basic example of this is the to-do list. How often do you find yourself checking off the easy things first to get them out of the way and see your to-do list dwindle down? These small tasks don’t trouble you much because they require little effort and you feel that quick reward of fewer items on your list.
How to find the motivation to work out
Knowing this, you can trick your brain into turning that threat into a reward. To make this work, you have to link exercising with a reward-rich event in the present. Focusing only on long-term benefits, like weight loss or muscle gain, isn’t the most effective way to reward your brain and stick with regular workouts.
Ask yourself, “What will a quick, intense workout give me right after it’s over?” Maybe you fixate on feelings of happiness, accomplishment, pride, and empowerment. Perhaps you think about how you might be sluggish now, but you’ll feel energized after. Or, maybe you consider rewarding yourself with a bath, a sit in the sauna, or another non-food related reward. It can be anything that suits your interests, lifestyle, and needs.
Making time to work out
Now that we talked about finding your inner motivation let’s discuss the specific actions that need to take place before finally being ready to start training for the first time — or after a long break.
First and foremost, remember that working out can be done quickly and efficiently — that’s one of the advantages of choosing HIIT-style workouts like the ones in the 8fit plan. But, even though some of these workouts are only 10, 15 or 20 minutes, plan an extra 10 minutes into your schedule to factor in the time it takes to get ready and cool down.
How to prepare for your workout
Stop overthinking it, just do it! Put on your sports clothes and sneakers and get ready for a warm-up followed by your workout. After this first workout is in the books, you’ll feel motivated to do a second, a third, a fourth, and the more you do, the easier it becomes.
Here’s how to prepare for your workout:
Set up your space: If you train from home, make sure you have the space you need to move without breaking anything or injuring yourself. Find an area of your home with enough space to do planks, walking lunges and jumps. Wooden or carpet floors are excellent surfaces to exercise on, but if you train on concrete floors (like in a garage) or tiled floors (maybe in the kitchen), consider buying a rubber mat — it’s better for your joints and limbs.
Get equipment: 8fit workouts don’t always require equipment, but some exercises require light weights. If you follow the 8fit workout program, take a moment to preview your session before starting to make sure you have all the props you want or need (a mat, chair, coffee table, wall, light weights, etc.). Make sure all of your equipment is nearby so you can have a quick, effective workout.
Put on your sports clothes: Wear clothing that allows you to move easily without restrictions. Choosing a sleeveless shirt and short pants help sweat evaporate and keeps you comfortable throughout the training session. For women, a supportive bra is, of course, a must.
Hydrate: Say hello to your new best friend, your water bottle. Bring it everywhere with you — the car, the office, and, obviously, the gym. Having a water bottle with you at all times ensure that you’re adequately hydrated for your workouts. During your at-home workout, keep it nearby, so you don’t have to press pause and grab a glass mid-workout.
Keep a towel close: Whether you’re training from home or at the gym, having a small towel to wipe away the sweat is always helpful. It’s hygienic, and it can also prevent you from slipping.
Remove distractions: Turn the TV off and make sure you won’t be distracted by phone calls or messages. If you are at home, it helps to tell your roommates or family that you need some time to yourself and to keep the door closed.
Pick a playlist: Music is a great motivator. Start your playlist while you’re getting dressed or preparing your space, that way you’re pumped up and ready to go when the warm-up begins.
How to exercise for the first time
Now that you’re dressed, hydrated, and your space is ready, it’s time to kick things up a notch and start your workout. Here’s what you need to know about your first workout:
Warm up: Doing a proper warm-up before your workout is essential. It’ll prepare your body and mind for intense exercise. At the beginning of each 8fit session, a warm-up is encouraged — don’t skip it! Your muscles and joints need to warm up gradually to avoid injury. Another part of the body that appreciates the warm-up is your circulatory system because it’s better able to send blood and nutrients to the active areas of your body.
Proper form: It’s important to move with the right technique. When it’s time for your first workout, make sure the level of difficulty is appropriate. It’s better to choose a more manageable level than one that’s too difficult so you’re confident that the movements are correct. Execute proper form and you’ll avoid injuries and maximize the benefits of your workout.\
Intensity: The level of intensity you put into your workouts is tied to efficiency and your results. When it comes to 8fit HIIT workouts, you should work between 70% and 90% of your maximum effort. In other words, push yourself enough to reach a certain level of discomfort; it’s entirely normal to be short of breath and sweaty.
What to do after your workout
Great job! Pat yourself on the back and soak in those positive vibes and happy endorphins. Plan to do this whole workout thing again as soon as possible so you can feel these feelings on a regular basis. Before you hit the shower, here are some post-workout tips:
Stretch: I always recommend adding a short stretching session at the end of a workout, it can be only 3 to 5 minutes… a few minutes well invested! Aim to stretch the body parts you used most and hold each position for at least 20 sec. Again, a certain level of discomfort is OK; I find that breathing helps to overcome this. On top of that, stretching and breathing will cool you down and prepare your body for the recovery phase of the workout.
Eat, but only if you need it: You don’t always need to refuel right after a workout — it all depends on where the exercise fits into your meal schedule. For example, if you plan to eat a complete meal one to two hours after you’re done working out, you don’t have to eat right away or drink a protein shake. Instead, drink plenty of water and wait until it’s time to enjoy your next meal. The same thing goes for if you work out after dinner. Once your workout ends — stretching included — jump in the shower, drink water or enjoy a lovely herbal tea, and go to bed. One instance where you might need to eat directly after a workout is if you train first thing in the morning on an empty stomach — same story if your goal is to gain muscle mass. For those muscle-builders, it’s recommended to eat carbs and protein within 15 to 30 minutes after your training session.
Again, hydrate: Water should always be your first choice of beverages — there’s no better way to hydrate. Sports drinks are generally recommended only when your training session last more than one hour and your body needs those mineral salts.
Make it a habit
As you can see, there are many things to do before, during and after your first workout to maximize your well-invested time and effort. It’s nothing complicated, it just takes a bit of time, and like most things, the more you do it the easier it becomes. Once you introduce this new healthy habit into your routine, you’ll feel the benefits and rewards.