How I Went From Never Working Out to Exercising 378 Times Last Year

The secret to building a workout routine? Consistency.

Photographs courtesy Dija Atta.

Changing your body takes hard work, persistence, and dedication. Here’s one local’s story. Want to share your Transformation Story? Email

Who: Dija Atta (@goalgetterdija), 39, a pharmaceutical industry professional from South Jersey

Why I wanted to make a change: “On December 25, 2016, I received a black Nike Pro Hyperwarm pullover with matching leggings for Christmas. At the time, this was the cutest fitness gear I had ever owned in my life, so I did what any other normal woman would do when they get a new outfit: put it on immediately and go somewhere for everyone to see me in it! There I was standing outside in 12-degree weather in my new outfit, ready for a run. I took off feeling great, powerful, and cute. Halfway down the street, my breathing got heavy, my gait slowed, and what were initially minor aches now became full-on leg cramps. It was in that moment, alone in the cold, that I realized that this was the absolute bottom for me. I made the decision right then and there to become a better runner, which ultimately blossomed into something that I could have never imagined — my mission to complete 362 workouts by the end of 2017!”

Starting weight: 171

Ending weight: 144

Height: 5’5″

How I designed my exercise plan: “At the beginning of the year, I set a number of workouts for the year, based on the categories of workouts I want to do (i.e. run, stretch, strength, cross), how often I want to do them each week, and minus what I call a ‘flexibility factor.’ The ‘flexibility factor’ gives me permission to complete 90 percent of my planned workouts. This approach lets me achieve my goal without feeling guilty if I miss a workout. Ninety percent is, after all, an A, right? This was transformative because I didn’t feel like giving up after missing one workout. My regular classes include SoulCycle, Flywheel, or a spin class at a local gym. I take a Solidcore class at the earliest and most grueling hour, because I need to get that one over with early. I do full-body strength training sessions a few times a week, one of which is with a personal trainer with distance runs scattered throughout the week (I’m currently training for the Broad Street Run). I also take anything Alexis Rose teaches! I know it’s a lot but I take rest days too.”

Image courtesy Dija Atta.

How I got started working out: “I think most people (myself included) take for granted that not everyone can start out by committing to working out three to four days per week, especially coming from a sedentary lifestyle, which is where I was when I started. In late 2016, I spent a lot of time building my workout regimen one day at a time. I worked out only one day a week until I proved to myself that I could do more. Subsequently, I added additional workout days (one day at a time) until I made my way to where I am now. I made sure that I placed the right workouts on the right days and times of the week to increase the likelihood that I would actually do them. It worked, but it was very tough. I wanted to give up so many times, but I got through it with support from family and friends — and of course cute workout clothes!”

“I am a working mom with a family, a full life, and a very demanding job, but I make time to wake up and work out because it is an important part of my self-care ritual.”

How I changed my diet:  “I have been a regular meat-and-potatoes girl all of my life, but I cut out red meat from my diet about two years ago. Last October, after watching What the Health, I shifted to a plant-based diet. I no longer eat dairy products or meat (including seafood). Overall, I think that diet and exercise have contributed to taking my energy to another level.”

What else changed:  “There were many things that changed, but what stands out the most is the confidence that I have in myself. I was never the first person who came to my mind when I thought about fitness or working out. This mindset contributed to my inconsistency over the years. Since I did not see myself as someone who could stick to a workout regimen, I didn’t. Now, after working out more than 450 times since January 2017, I am literally the first and only person that comes to mind when I think about working out. This has been the biggest key in my long-term success.”

Photographs courtesy Dija Atta.

What I want everyone to know:  “This is something that everyone can do! In the end, I got to where I am one workout at a time, one day at a time, and so can you! I am a working mom with a family, a full life, and a very demanding job, but I make time to wake up and work out because it is an important part of my self-care ritual. As a byproduct, I am a better, happier, and more confident person. Do yourself a favor and say yes to working out today!”

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