Get Off the Couch! How to Take the First Step in an Exercise Program

Get Off the Couch! How to Take the First Step in an Exercise ProgramHello!  Many times I hear people say I would start on an exercise program, but I don’t know how to get started.


Or they might say I don’t have time or I’m too busy.  Well, today I’m going to answer the question “How do I start a fitness program?”  It’s really not that difficult to get started.

The hard part for most people is sticking to a program once they get started.  I’ll also be covering ways to help you stay on a program after you’ve started.

Another thing I’d like to emphasize is this, please make sure you get checked out and cleared by a physician before beginning any type of exercise program. This is of the utmost importance, especially if you haven’t worked out in a while.  One of the biggest obstacles people need to get over before starting a workout program is their mindset.

Mindset to Start an Exercise Program

1. Simplicity – Your fitness program doesn’t need to have a bunch of fancy charts or worksheets to be effective.  You also don’t need to hire a personal trainer to get in good shape.  You can start out with simple, uncomplicated exercises and progress from there.

2. Goals – To make sure you’re progressing and moving forward with your fitness you need to set clear, concise, and realistic goals.  These can be something as simple as doing 10 push-ups this week and setting a goal to do 12 next week.

3. Learn From Past Behavior – If you tried a workout program in the past but it didn’t work out for you don’t get down on yourself.  Try and look back and identify why it didn’t work.  This way you can focus more on correcting those shortcomings going forward.

4. Self-Discipline – This is something you have to look inside yourself for. I served 20 years in the US Army so I learned this trait very well.   However, it doesn’t matter what your background is, we can all employ self-discipline if we want something.

It basically comes down to how bad do you want it, how hard are you willing to work for it, and how much are you willing to sacrifice for it.


Not falling into traps of excuses is definitely something you want to avoid in getting fit.  Below are some of the more common excuses people use that prevent them from reaching their goals.

1. Not Enough Time – I think this is probably the biggest excuse I hear from people as to why they don’t work out.  My answer is pretty simple. We all get the same 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week.

If you look hard enough, Most people can squeeze 30 minutes out of a day somewhere to exercise.  Whether it’s in the morning or evening, many people can find the time somewhere.

2. Too Fat – No matter what size you are, it’s never too late to start working out.  The only way to remedy the situation and be less fat is to burn more calories than you consume.  And it’s really difficult to do that without exercising.

3. Too Old – You’re never too old to exercise.  You may not be able to exercise like you did when you were younger, but everyone should exercise at least a little bit.  In fact, the more you exercise, the better chances you have of extending your lifespan.

4. Too Tired – A lot of times this is because someone isn’t getting enough sleep.  You should make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night, preferably 8.  By working out, you can also sleep better which should make you less tired during the day.

5. Not Athletic Enough – You don’t have to be athletic to work out.  Many exercises have simple movement techniques that just about anyone can learn.  By learning these basic movement patterns you can burn calories and get in shape.

Exercise Intensity – Moderate

Some people wonder how hard should I go when I’m first starting to exercise?  You should aim to keep your heart rate at 50% – 75% of your Max Heart Rate (MHR).  The number you come up with is known as your Target Heart Rate (THR).

For example, if you’re 40 years old then your MHR would be 220-40 (age) which is 180.  Then 50%-75% of 180 would be 90-135 beats per minute for your THR. This is the range your pulse should be at while exercising.

Another way you can gauge if your exercise is moderate enough is the Talk test.  While working out it should be a little difficult to carry on a conversation with someone, but not impossible.  If you can talk easily you should pick up your pace or intensity.  Conversely, if you can’t talk at all, you should slow down a bit.


150 minutes of moderate intensity per week is a good starting point if you’re just beginning an exercise regimen.  You should start out there for at least 2 weeks.  Then gradually increase the frequency after that if you want to challenge yourself more.  However, 150 minutes per week is enough to get in pretty decent shape.

Developing Good Workout Habits

Below are some ways you can develop good workout habits to help you reach your goals.

1. Enjoyable – Choose some activities you like to do as part of your exercise program.  If you like to do something you’ll be more inclined to stick with it and keep yourself active.

Get Off the Couch! How to Take the First Step in an Exercise Program2. Build Up Slowly – One problem a lot of people have is they try to move too fast when starting a workout program.

What I mean by that is, they try to regain back everything they’ve lost over several months or years in one workout.

When this happens they get disappointed and frustrated and end up quitting before they really get started.

I tell people to look at it like this.  You didn’t get overweight or out of shape overnight, so you definitely can’t get back in shape overnight either. You have to take it one workout at a time and be patient.

3. Plan Around Obstacles – If you know you like to work out at a specific time of day, but you have an obligation you need to attend to at that time, plan to work out at a different time that day.

For example, if you like to work out in the evenings, but know you have a PTA meeting that evening, plan to work out that morning.  That way you don’t miss a workout that day.

4. Scheduling – Having an organized workout schedule is very important to your success.  Pick a time that works well for you and if possible try to exercise around the same time each day.  Some people prefer mornings while others prefer evenings.

It really doesn’t matter which time you choose.  However, being consistent with the same time helps your body adapt to changes a little easier.

5. Journaling – When you do exercises write down your results each time you finish.  This way you have minor goals to shoot for and exceed the next time you do that exercise.  It also helps your self-esteem and self-confidence by seeing on paper what you accomplished.

6. Accountability – If you can work out with a friend and be accountable to each other for showing up and working hard that’s great!  Even if you can’t find a friend to work out with you can still have someone check in with you to ask if you did your workout.

Doing this helps you stay accountable to yourself and miss less workouts. There’s also online fitness communities you can join and find a partner there to be accountable with.  You and your online buddy can share success stories and help motivate each other.

Get Off the Couch! How to Take the First Step in an Exercise Program7. Social Engagement – Some people prefer being in a social environment to work out such as a gym, exercise class, etc.

That’s fine and you should choose the environment that makes you most comfortable.


For people who prefer that route there are many different types of classes they can take that involve physical activity.  Dance classes, tennis, fencing, rock climbing, etc are a few options.

8. Family and Friends – Let your family and friends know you’re starting a workout program.  Ask them to be supportive and encouraging as you embark on your journey to be fit.  Having strong social support makes it much easier to be successful.

There are also many fun activities you can do with family and friends that help you burn calories.  Some of these include Badminton, Volleyball, Bowling, Ultimate Frisbee, Horse Shoes, Interactive video games such as WII, etc.  Just about anything that gets you up and moving can be considered exercise.


Below are some safety tips to follow to lower your risk of injury when first starting a fitness program.

1. Warm-Up – Warming up before any workout is definitely important to help prevent injury.  You should warm up for at least 5 minutes before any physical activity.  This gets blood flowing to your muscles and tissues to reduce your chances of strains, sprains, or pulls.

2. Cool-Down – Just as important as warming up is cooling down.   Cooling down after exercising helps bring your heart rate down gradually. This helps prevent against heart problems and blood pooling in your extremities.

3. Hydration – Staying hydrated before, during, and after working out is extremely important.  This will help lower your risk of cramping and becoming dehydrated.

4. Pain – If you notice any pain while exercising, whether it’s sharp or dull, you should stop immediately.  Rest for a little while and if it subsides you can try to start again very slowly.  If you feel it a second time you should stop exercising altogether and seek medical attention.

There is a difference between pain and discomfort or soreness.  Pain is usually brought on while doing a movement.  Where as discomfort or soreness is normally milder and like an ache you feel after working out.

Listen to your body and don’t overdo it, because working out through pain will many times lead to an injury.

Summary – Getting started in a workout program is more mental than anything else.  It all basically comes down to how bad do you want to be in better shape than you are now.  You really have to want to change and take that first step, because no one else can take it for you.

Once you’ve crossed that hurdle, you can go as far as you want, like the old saying goes, “the sky’s the limit.”  There’s no shortage of exercises or activities to do to get in shape.  It all depends on what your preferences are.  Now, I didn’t list out specific exercises to do in this blog because everyone’s goals are different.

I have exercises covering the 9 components of fitness on my site so you can use some of those if you like to get started.  If you’d like more information on those key areas of fitness you can visit my blog here.  So when are you going to get off the couch and get started with your workout?

If you have any experiences with your own workout program you’d like to share feel free to let us know in the comments.  Or, if you have any comments or questions please let me know and I will get back to you. Thanks for reading and let’s get started!


10 thoughts on “Get Off the Couch! How to Take the First Step in an Exercise Program”

  1. Thanks for all the information in this post! It was very helpful. I’m one of those people that struggle to get into a routine when it comes to fitness. Usually, after a week or so I’m starting to feel a huge lack of motivation to continue. Your article has given me some idea on how to keep things interesting and hopefully develop a new fitness habit! Thanks.

    1. You’re welcome Christian and I’m glad you found the information helpful on ways to stay motivated. Take care,


  2. Being an on and off personal trainer for the last 20 years, I’ve have to say I have heard the excuse I don’t have time many times. The technique you have listed here are easy to follow. I really advocate these types of techniques as they encourage health of well-being as well maintaining physical fitness. Great informative article.

  3. Great advice on how to get started in an exercise program. It is very difficult for busy people to do this and the only way to get this right is to schedule it into your day so you make time.

    It is something we all have to do, so your advice on finding something you enjoy is good, otherwise, you are not going to keep up the with program.

    1. Hi Michel,

      Yes I agree scheduling exercise into your schedule makes it more likely you’ll actually do it. You’re also exactly right about doing something you enjoy so you’ll want to do it more often. Thanks for your response!


  4. Haha I always tell people, when looking to engage in a new workout regimen, the best thing to do is just fo follow Nike (Just do it). Excuses, laziness, and reluctance aside, nothing will ever get done if you don’t just go do it. Great article, hopefully it kicks some people in the fanny (mentally), and motivates them to go and start their training regimen.

    1. Hi Wil,

      Yes I agree, the best thing for people to do to start exercising is follow Nike’s slogan and Just do it. That’s really the only way to get past excuses. Thanks for commenting and have a great day!


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