Starting Your Fitness Journey Is Scary: Here's How to Crush Your Fears

POPSUGAR Photography | Benjamin Stone
POPSUGAR Photography | Benjamin Stone

Starting your fitness journey and beginning a healthy lifestyle is crazy intimidating. If you've never worked out before, chances are the thought of going on a run, heading to the gym, or signing up for a fitness class sounds absolutely terrifying.

We've all been there. Anyone who you look to right now as your inspiration or goal had a day one, just like you. And myself included! Just a few short years ago, I was wheezing my way around a middle school track, purple-faced and in absolute agony. Shaking and collapsing through my first Chaturanga push-up in "beginner flow: intro to yoga" classes. It IS scary and it is intimidating, but there are so many ways to get yourself out the door, boost your confidence, and work your way toward a stronger, healthier body.

Start Small

Don't set crazy expectations. Unless you're a superhuman with a bionic body, you're not going to hit the track and run six-minute miles. That's OK! If you're running a 15-minute-mile pace, guess what? You're running. If you're the slowest person in your class or workout group, guess what? You're still working out. Can't keep up with the pack at SoulCycle? You showed up. That's what counts.

You don't have to dive into HIIT classes or CrossFit (but you totally can!) right away — you can start with simple things like step goals, and just start to move more. The more you move, the more comfortable you'll be with your body, and a (very positive) domino effect will ensue.

And I can't emphasize enough how important the idea of "going slow" really is, especially when it comes to running or cardio-based classes. It doesn't matter how fast you go — just go.

Use the Buddy System

My favorite part of the early stages of my fitness journey was when my friends or family would take me to a new class. My BFF took me to SoulCycle for the first time, and even though I was nervous, she totally put me at ease. My mom signed me up for my first race, and I loved walking with her (I told you, I wasn't a runner!). I went to my first barre class with a friend who was also brand new to it, and we couldn't stop laughing at how much our legs shook throughout the class.

Friends can help you feel more comfortable, but they can also push you past your roadblocks and challenge and encourage you to be better. They can hold you accountable and ensure you stick to your plan of getting fit and healthy.

Set a Goal

One of the easiest ways to get going is to pick a target and give yourself a deadline. And I'm not talking weight loss — set a bucket list goal or an endurance goal. Mine was a little crazy (I decided "run a half marathon" without any running experience was a good idea), but you can make yours as simple as "run a mile without stopping, no matter how slow."

Maybe you want to try five different fitness classes or work out once a week for a month. Maybe you want to run a 5K! Set your goal, and start working toward it.

Try a Little Bit of Everything

Just because you hate running doesn't mean you hate fitness. Think yoga is too slow? You might love boot camp. Maybe it's not the workout itself, but the way the studio or gym structured that workout.

Never judge a workout by your first attempt (unless it's amazing, in which case, by all means . . . keep going). There are so many nuances that contribute to your overall experience, and you never know how it might feel with different people in the room.

Try something like ClassPass, or join a gym with a lot of studio classes. You'll get a little taste of everything before you find the workouts that light you up inside. And trust your gut — if you hate it, don't force it — but don't be afraid to push yourself a little bit.

Start at Home

If you haven't noticed, we have tons of at-home workout videos and beginner workouts at POPSUGAR Fitness — there are so many styles of exercise to choose from, and it's all from the privacy of your own home. Too scared to hit the gym? No equipment? That's OK — try a beginner bodyweight workout or learn some beginner-friendly exercise moves. Try a fun, at-home workout video that's short and sweet and makes you feel good — it's the best kind of icebreaker. And don't forget to check out all our favorite beginner fitness tips.

Bribe Yourself

Whatever works, right? Sometimes a gorgeous pair of sneakers or a beautiful new pair of leggings you've been wanting is exactly what you need to get yourself to go to the gym. Tell yourself that you can only wear your special new gear if you're wearing it to the gym. My mom even has a fancy, expensive body wash that she reserves for her "post-long-run showers" to give herself a treat after she's logged some extra miles. One catch: try to *not* make these rewards food-related, as you don't want to set up a potentially unhealthy cycle with indulgent food and exercise.