10 Tips for Starting (and Sticking To!) a Workout Routine

By Jessica Smith, REDBOOK

Want to get more active? Whether you're a gym newbie or a seasoned athlete, here are 10 easy ways to get on track.

1. Check With Your Doctor

Make sure you consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Why? Your doctor can tell you what types of exercise are best for you based on your personal health history or possible disease risk factors. Plus, they'll definitely applaud your efforts-and who doesn't like a cheering section?

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2. Every Little Bit Counts

There's no need to spend hours at the gym training like a professional athlete. Michele Olson, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and professor of exercise science at Auburn University, recommends, "Start out with just 10 minutes of some type of physical activity-walking, gardening or riding your bike around the neighborhood, and build up to three 10-minute bouts of activity a day." Splitting up your activity into three, 10-minute sessions a day can be easier to fit into your schedule, and it's just as effective as doing it all at once.

3. Find Your Motivation

We all want to look good in skinny jeans, but they won't be in style forever. When it comes to working out, it's important to find motivating factors like setting an example for your kids and staying healthy. Women should aim to protect their heart and bones, says Olson, and exercise is a great way to help prevent both heart disease and osteoporosis. So on those days when you just don't feel like sweating, consider the alternative: Is working out more painful than a heart attack?

4. Find the Right Workout for You

Are you a social butterfly? Then walking solo through the neighborhood probably isn't for you. Hate crowds? Then skip that Zumba class. Finding the right type of workout can go a long way towards helping you stay inspired to keep exercising, says Olson. You know your personality best, so look for a fitness program that suits it. Trying to force yourself to do something you don't enjoy won't help you succeed with an exercise regimen in the long run.

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5. Take It Slow

The best way to burn out is to try to do too much, too fast. Instead of trying to make up for lost time, ease into a new workout routine gradually. Start off by exercising 30 minutes a day (split into three 10-minute sessions, or done all at once), three days a week, Olson recommends. Once that becomes a regular habit, and you feel ready to do more, Olson suggests working your way up to five or six days a week, by adding one extra day every two weeks, over a two month period.

6. Step Away from the Scale

Stay inspired to work out by focusing on the results you can feel. Avoid focusing on the changes you aren't seeing yet-like a drop in your scale weight), and focus on the benefits you are noticing, such as your increased energy level from exercising, advises Valerie Berkowitz, a registered dietitian and author of The Stubborn Fat Fix. And while you may not see results from an exercise program right away, you may notice you feel better even after just one workout.

7. Reward Yourself

"Remember that getting fit is more like a marathon than a sprint," advises certified trainer Stacy Berman, owner of Stacy's Bootcamp in New York City. "By setting small weekly or monthly goals you'll be able to track your progress, which will keep you motivated to continue as you reach them." And once you've achieved a goal, no matter how small, celebrate it!

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8. Team Up

One study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia found that exercising with a partner could help you lose more weight with an exercise program than doing it alone. "Being accountable to another person can help keep you on track and motivated," says Olson. It's harder to skip your workout when you know someone else is counting on you to show up and sweat with them.

9. Plan Ahead

Found a workout partner? Great! Start booking your workout sessions together now. Creating workout 'dates' on your calendar gives your plans priority and structure, says fitness expert Tony Horton, author of Bring It: The Revolutionary Fitness Plan for All Levels That Burns Fat, Builds Muscle, and Shreds Inches. Plug your workout 'appointments' into your calendar to remind yourself not to schedule anything else during those important times.

10. Get the Right Gear

While you don't have to make over your entire wardrobe or spend a lot of money, buying yourself proper footwear, supportive sports bras, and workout clothes can make sticking with your program easier. If you aren't sure what type of shoe or clothes are best for your exercise plan, ask for help at a sportswear store. Employees should be able to advise you on what type of shoes or clothes work best with different activities.

And while function is important, fashion is too! Treating yourself to some stylish workout gear that makes you look good can help you stay motivated to put it on and workout, says Kate Brown, Community Director for Daily Burn. "When you look good, you'll feel good," says Brown.

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