Starting anything new can be intimidating: taking on a new job, moving to a new city, starting a family—and yes, committing to a new workout routine. Even if you know it’s the right move, there’s one excuse that can linger in the back of our minds: I’m just not ready to start working out.
Especially in the season of new beginnings (and jam-packed schedules), it’s common to put off making moves and look to the first of the year for the motivation to finally start (or revive!) your fitness routine. (For the past two years, exercising more was the #1 New Year’s resolution among Americans who made them.)
But if we’re being honest, the holidays aren’t the only time we tend to stall on our fitness goals. How often have you found yourself waiting for the perfect schedule, the perfect setting, or the perfect mood to get started? The reality is, waiting for the stars to align won’t push you forward. Sometimes, you just have to do it anyways—wherever you are, with whatever you have.
Need support in taking that leap? Keep reading for 5 tips from the obé pros to start working out before you feel ready.
Tip 1: Know That Readiness Won’t Strike
You’re probably never going to wake up suddenly feeling motivated to work out. Not only is that normal—research from Harvard suggests it’s how we’re wired. Evolutionarily, humans are programmed to constantly seek rest to conserve energy between bouts of physical activity. This made sense for our highly active ancestors, but not so much in today’s mostly sedentary reality.
Translated to your workout routine, this means two things: 1) Don’t blame yourself for not feeling ready (it’s science!), and 2) don’t rely on your body to tell you it’s ready—you need to make that choice for it. As Lulu S. explains, “You have to take the reins of your own wellness journey.”
This applies to everyone, even fitness instructors! “When I was first looking into getting my yoga certification, imposter syndrome crept in,” says yogi Alex S. “I didn’t feel good enough, experienced enough, or ready enough. I kept putting it off and finding reasons it wasn’t ‘the right time.’ But when I finally stepped into my first day of training, my only regret was not doing it sooner.”
She’s not the only obé instructor to experience that “not-ready” feeling: “I was afraid to start working out with strength training,” admits Walter K., who is now a total Strength pro. “When I first lost 100 pounds, cardio was all I knew and it felt safe. Picking up heavy weights scared me, but I decided to just jump into it, and I’m so glad I didn’t let my fears stop me.”
For Spencer J. (and likely all of us), just the season itself can be a hurdle. “Honestly, the winter is always challenging for me—the cold and the layers and the darkness really do something to my mind. But, when I get up and start moving my body, I always feel better for doing something just for myself.”
Tip 2: Rethink Your Plans—And Excuses
Noodle on this: What are the plans you’re making about your fitness journey? If you’re planning to finally start working out once you get the right equipment, that big work project is over, or the new year starts, it’s an excuse—not a plan.
“There will always be life that gets in the way, or events that come up. Sometimes you just have to stop with the excuses and do the damn thing!” encourages Alex.
Often, we invent excuses or tell ourselves we’re not capable when there’s an underlying fear holding us back. Maybe you’re nervous about the way you’ll look taking a class, or if you can keep up the pace. But, remember that you’re not taking a chance to prove yourself wrong, either. And, with fitness specifically, you’re also missing out on all the amazing benefits, both mental and physical.
“One of the biggest lessons in my personal movement journey has been learning to get out of my own way,” says Lulu. “We can tell ourselves, ‘I’ll be ready when…,’ but the truth is you are ready now. Give yourself the green light to embark on the most priceless investment there is: yourself.”
To start fresh, dismantle the expectations you’ve already set in place. Instead of promising yourself you’ll finally work out once you have the right schedule, recognize that telling yourself you have no time is an excuse. With obé, you don’t need to commute to the gym or finish a grueling, hour-long workout to feel accomplished. Make a new promise to yourself: I’ll make time to work out, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day (aka the length of one mindless IG scroll session).
Tip 3: Remember, Motivation Comes Second
It’s easy to get stuck in a constant pursuit for more motivation, thinking we’ll commit once it finally reaches an imaginary threshold. But while we tend to believe we need to first feel motivated in order to take action, science flips the script. According to psychiatrist and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy expert David D. Burns, motivation actually follows action—especially when it comes to something new.
Turns out, just starting is the ultimate momentum builder in and of itself. So instead of thinking about working out, start working out. The more actions you take, the more motivated you’ll feel, and the more you’ll want to keep going. This creates an endless loop of motivation: Making even a little progress will inspire you to keep picking up steam, breaking your procrastination cycle.
“Starting before you’re ready simply means: Don’t overthink it, just follow your gut and do it,” says Walter. “Trust that you know all you need to know about this moment, and let the rest unfold.” (For even more ways to fire up your motivation, read this!)
Tip 4: You Can Start Small—But You Just Have to Start
No one has it all figured out at the starting line. Working out is not an all-or-nothing endeavor, it’s a step-by-step project. Think of it less as a leap of faith, and more as one small move in the right direction. “This journey doesn’t have a finish line or final destination,” says Spencer. “It’s a complete lifestyle change that will hopefully stick with you for the rest of your life.”
You don’t need to pick up a 20-pound weight tomorrow, or get through 10 sets of burpees. And you definitely don’t need a roadmap of every workout you’ll do for the next year to tackle your first one. Especially during the busy holiday season, downsize your expectations and meet yourself where you’re at.
“Set a small, achievable goal and commit to it,” recommends Alex. “There is always room in your day for 10-15 minutes of movement. Take pressure off of yourself by not even making ‘starting’ such a big deal.”
Commit to bite-sized classes so it’s easier to convince yourself you can do them. Block off 10 minutes on your calendar. Put on your workout gear (which already gets you primed for action) ahead of time. Pick out an Express class from our on-demand library. Maybe just a Stretch or a beginner-level class for today (pro tip: you can always choose a body focus like core, upper, or lower body). And if you’re feeling good after that, why not double it up? Follow this routine for a few days, and then pick a day next week to level up to a 28-minute class instead!
Tip 5: Hack Your Inner Dialogue
One way or another, everything boils down to your inner voice. Quieting negative self-talk is one of the most meaningful long-term mindset shifts you can make to propel yourself forward. Remember that only you can hear that criticism, and only you can choose to ignore it.
Walter’s advice? “Continue to talk about your goals as if you’ve already achieved them. Say them out loud. Write them down. Visualize your results. When fear creeps up the universe will remind you to stay focused. Sometimes through a friend, and sometimes through a sticky note on the refrigerator.”
Instead of seeing it as a chore, start thinking about working out as a daily self-care ritual you get to treat yourself to (our instructors can definitely help with this one). It’s the 10, 20, or 30 minutes you have just for yourself to blast the music you love and shake off all your stress. Suddenly, starting won’t feel so daunting. And eventually, you won’t have to “trick” yourself, because you’ll know how good exercise will make you feel.
Plus, you don’t have to make this mind shift solo. Helping you look forward to your workout is one of our biggest obsessions. With 9 different music genres to choose from, a bright, colorful studio that pulls in the positive effects of color therapy, and instructors who do every single exercise with you—we always want you to feel like you’re part of a celebration (so you’re always eager to start).
“Come as you are and work with what you’ve got,” says Lulu. “Remember you are never alone, the obé community is so strong and is always there rooting for you.”
One response to “5 Expert Tips to Start Working Out Before You’re Ready”
YES. I need to start training for the Chicago Marathon and for some reason, I have a weird mental block about it. I LOVE running, so it’s not like I view it as a chore, but for whatever reason, I just can’t get going. It’s incredibly frustrating. Then, I start thinking about how long I have until the actual date and it just snowballs that “not ready” feeling. Definitely need to reframe my thinking!