Ask CF: How do I Start an Exercise Routine and Stick to it?

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Welcome to the latest edition of Ask CF! Every two weeks, we select a reader fashion question and answer it here on the site. Do you have a specific fashion question for us? Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn how to send it our way!

This week, instead of answering a fashion question, I decided to address a lifestyle question. Although this is normally a fashion column, I thought this particular question was too important to ignore and wanted to share my response with all of you. Next time, I'll be back to covering your style questions, but I hope this week's special lifestyle post is inspiring and fun!

Ask CF Question

Dear CF,

I've noticed a lot of your articles say, "And don't forget to exercise!" as if it's something most people already do. I know I've always wanted to, but I've could never bring myself to get started. Could you give us some tips on how to ease into a healthy exercise habit and on how to make it permanent? Thanks. :)


Needs Motivation

Our Response

Dear Needs Motivation,

Your question brings up a good point -- while everyone knows the importance of exercise, sometimes we need a little more support and guidance to get into a routine. I have compiled a few tips to help get you started on a new exercise routine and my tips on how you can make it a permanent one. Good luck and enjoy!



Step 1: Choose Your Workout Style

Crowd of people doing zumba

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One of the great things about exercise is that it is so adaptable to every lifestyle and preference. A lot of times people think of exercise as running on a treadmill or lifting weights at the gym. But you don't have to limit yourself to the gym to get a good workout. (And, of course, if your preferred place to work out is at the gym then by all means go for it!)

Here is a list of different workout categories. To help get you started on your workout routine, choose which type of exercise appeals most to you.

  • Circuit Training -- This type of workout includes things such as cardio, lifting weights, and strengthening your core. This type of workout is often done on one's own, so it's good for people who have the motivation and self-discipline to stick to a routine. If you're a beginner, I would advise having a professional help you get started. They can show you different exercises that will work for your needs and will show you the correct way to do them so that they are effective and safe.
  • Structured Classes -- This type of workout includes classes such as yoga, pilates, zumba, cardio-kickboxing, and spin. I love taking structured classes for a few reasons. First, since it is a class, you have the benefit of learning from someone who has been formally trained and therefore he or she can make sure you are doing things correctly. Second, taking a class also means that there is a set schedule. When you know you have to be at a class at a certain time it is easier to keep yourself accountable. Third, classes are social. If you like to interact with new people, a class can be a great way to facilitate that while you get healthy.
  • Activity  -- An activity type workout includes activities such as sports, bike riding, swimming, dancing, and rock climbing. What's great about these types of workouts is that it's easy to forget that you are working out while doing them because you are often concentrating on a different goal (for example winning a game, race, or contest).

Of course, you don't have to choose just one workout style. Switching up between these different categories is a great way to have a balanced workout routine and it also keeps exercise interesting. The main point is to know what you enjoy doing, and what will best motivate you to get out there and move.

Step 2: Get Motivated


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Once you've figured out what routine will work best for you, you need to find a way to stick to it. Here are a few ways to help you do that:

  • Find a Workout Buddy -- Find a friend who has a similar exercise routine and use each other for motivation. Having a friend to exercise with you will motivate both of you to get out there and keep you accountable.
  • Join a Class or Get a Trainer -- Again, this approach makes you accountable to another person. With a class, there is a schedule that helps motivate you mentally because you are expected to attend. With a trainer, you need to show up for both yourself and them.
  • Remind Yourself of Your Goals and the Benefits of Exercise -- You have already taken the first step to improve your health through exercise. These same reasons that prompted you to begin a workout regime should help to propel you through those moments when you are unmotivated.
  • Pay Attention to How You Feel During and After Exercise -- Pay attention to how your body feels during your workout and after you exercise. For me, I always feel so rejuvenated after a good workout even if my body is physically fatigued. If I was stressed before, I feel relaxed after. If I felt lethargic, I feel refreshed after. I try to remember these feelings when I'm unmotivated, and more often than not, these reminders help me get myself to the gym.

Step 3: Make Exercise a Priority


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Between school, work, volunteering, and internships, college students' to-do lists can get very long, very quickly. With everything we have going on, it is easy to put exercise further down on the priority list.

But listen closely: Don't exercise if you have time, make time for it! Plan it into your schedule. Make it routine. If you have 30 minutes to watch
TV, you have 30 minutes to exercise. Your health and well-being are important. Give your body the respect it deserves by making exercise a priority.


People jumping for joy

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Now that you have a guide to get you started, find a way to make it work for you. Let's take a pledge together to improve our exercise habits. Explore the different exercise types and find one that works best for you. Share this article with a friend to help you in your search for a new exercise partner. Share your progress, setbacks, questions, and experiences in the comment section. Let's use this as a forum to help motivate and encourage each other through this process. Together, we can help each other develop healthier lifestyles for the long term!

What do you think?

What's your workout style? Do you have a hard time motivating yourself to exercise? Do you work out regularly? How do you stay motivated? What are you favorite exercise routines? Do you have any other tips that might be helpful? Please leave a comment below to let us know what you think!

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