Expert Advice: How to Get Hooked on Exercise

Let's face it—not everybody loves to work out right off the bat. If you're struggling to stick with a consistent routine, we've got some tips for you.

Ah, exercise. In addition to building muscles, aiding weight loss, and fending off cancer, diabetes and heart disease, it releases feel-good endorphins, lowers stress, helps produce antibodies and enhances energy.

Still, there are lots of reasons why people don’t exercise regularly: they don’t have time, they don’t know how to begin, or, worse, they think they’re too out of shape to hit the gym. The trick is finding the right type of exercise for you—one that you can easily fit into your schedule and that is something you actually enjoy. To help you get in the groove, we’ve asked Philly fitness pros for tips and moves to help you get hooked on exercise in no time.

Don’t Overdo It

It sounds cliché, but starting with the basics—walking before running, covering short distances before long distances—is key for exercise newbies or more experienced exercisers who are trying to pick up some new moves.

Starting simple and perfecting form will also inspire confidence, avoid injury and allow an inexperienced exerciser to build one step at a time,” says Roger Dickerman, personal trainer and owner of Relentless Fitness in Midtown Village.

Find Something Fun

Audrey McKenna Hasse, our own BeWOW workout creator and owner of A.M.Fit on the Main Line, says to start by choosing an activity that you like to do (i.e. running, biking, rowing, swimming or dancing), then find a class or group that is already established and join in.

“In a city like Philadelphia there is definitely something for everyone,” McKenna Hasse says. It’s true—the fitness community here is constantly growing. “You are sure to find something you like from spinning classes, to water aerobics, to yoga or Pilates. The options are endless,” she says.

Use the Buddy System

If you’re starting a fitness program for the first time, a good way to break in is by starting with a class or finding someone to start with you. “I think the group dynamic is really motivating for people,” says Meredith Magoon, manager and coach at Philly’s Fusion Cross-Training.

Even if you don’t know anyone in a group fitness class on the first day, in time you’re bound to make friends. Knowing they will be at sessions and expecting you to be there is a great incentive to get to class.

Challenge Yourself

While staying within bounds of what your body is capable of, working up to something and doing workouts that increase in difficulty is a great way to stay motivated.

“People definitely seem to respond well to having the feeling of achieving something,” says Phil Clark of the Training Station in NoLibs. So pick up the pace, add extra reps or try something tougher if rewards are what you crave.

Get Moving

Ready to get started? Holly Waters, aquatics director and trainer at Sweat Fitness on Arch Street, recommends that people try three new classes when they are new to working out to see what they like. Or, create a goal-oriented workout that pushes the intensity minute-by-minute. You can start by walking for one minute, then running for one minute, then increasing to two minutes each, then three, and so on. You can do this with other exercises, too, she says; try doing one sit-up and one squat and keep building on it.

Dickerman always starts by teaching proper form for push-ups, lunges, rows and planks, since these are unavoidable fundamentals when it comes to strength. For cardio, he prefers sprints to long distances of any exercise. He says to start where you’re comfortable, whether swimming, running or biking, and follow this progression:

  • Start by warming up thoroughly until loose.
  • Begin by moving for one minute at a reasonable pace (let’s say 50 percent of full potential), then rest or continue moving slowly for one minute.
  • Next,  move for one minute at a faster pace (let’s say, 75 percent of potential), then rest or continue moving slowly for one minute
  • For the last two rounds, move for one minute as fast as possible, then rest or move slowly for one minute.
  • For each successive sprint workout, challenge yourself to get faster with each round or add a round until you’ve progressed to eight total.

>> This article first appeared in the Liberty City Press.