When you’re looking to start lifting weights, running, bike riding, doing yoga, or another exercise, just thinking about how to start exercising can feel intimidating. You’ve probably had that terrible thought in the back of your head: “I don’t even know where to start.”After all, scrolling through all the fitness posts on social media—or even seeing runners easily power up the hills in your neighborhood—can make it seem like working out comes so easily to those who are already in the thick of it. Nothing can be further from the truth. You can rest assured that the yoga teacher you follow on Instagram didn’t immediately pull off that handstand during her first class, or the CrossFitter didn’t bang out 10 pull-ups the first time they hung on the bar. And those runners you see going for hours? At one point, jogging nonstop for five minutes was probably a victory for them. And, for many people, even gathering the confidence to spend 10 minutes in a room full of other people fighting their own fitness demons is considerably harder than completing 10 pushups. Everyone starts somewhere.

The fact is that most of us are hung up on the minutia, the fears that we face in not being able to complete an exercise or embarrassing ourselves in front of other people, but now is the time to put those fears behind us and talk about the initial motivation and find the wherewithal to get off the couch, and use that fear as the fuel that drives us to get past the excuses and on with the exercise. If you can’t bear to look in the mirror, even to tell yourself that this isn’t the body that you want, then look inside your heart and think about what matters most to you—your family, friends, health, happiness, success, etc.—and start understanding that the following are just some of the aspects of your life that will improve.


Drop the Facade

Whether we accept it or not, our physical appearance affects the way that we interact with and treat other people. If you’re unhappy with yourself, you’re not going to be happy with others unless you’re the greatest actor in the world. But here’s the problem with that—everyone close to you can see right through your façade. By exercising and dieting and just working toward small weight goals and physical improvements, you can kill two birds with one stone and simply become a happier person. And don’t worry about the birds, because if this works, you’ll be killing them with kindness instead of stones.


Sleep Better

A lot of doctors and health experts will tell you that the cornerstone of a healthy and happy life is a routine of a good night’s sleep. Some may tell you six hours, others may tell you eight. There might not ever be a number that the so-called experts agree on, so just do the smart thing and aim for seven hours of sleep per night. “But I don’t sleep well, I have insomnia,” you might complain to the barista at Starbucks. First of all, too many people throw that “I” word out there all the time, as if they really believe they have a clinical sleeping disorder. Chances are you’re not suffering from insomnia and you just have a brain that keeps you up at night because you haven’t properly used all of your body’s fuel.

Do you know how to handle that and provide yourself with all the sleep you’ll ever need in one night? That’s right, by exercising. In case you can’t tell, there’s a theme here. The key to sleep is to be consistent and have seven hours each night. Sure, some nights you might have six and others eight, but what you can’t do to your body is have three hours one night and 10 hours another. It doesn’t work like that. The body needs consistency in everything, especially sleep.


Run, Forrest, Run!

If you’re hung up about how you look while exercising, or you’re worried that people might be laughing at you while working out in the gym, take another approach. Step outside your front door and take a look at where you’re standing. Then look off into the distance and pick a target. You don’t have to run across the continental United States like Forrest Gump, but you also can’t run 10 feet in front of you. Take a walk for 15 minutes to start out, and then as the days pass, add five minutes and then five minutes more. By just walking around your neighborhood or a mall or your school, you can promote better heart health.

After that, with a good diet, you can start focusing on burning more calories, and you can even extend your distances by several miles by adding a bike to the routine. The fact is that if you’re worried about the way other people are looking at you, you can still get things done by finding creative ways to get away from everyone.


Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier

You don’t need statistics and colorful graphics to tell you that you’re way more likely to avoid illness and disease if you’re exercising and dieting properly than if you’re spending your days on the couch, staring at a wall and wondering why you can’t find the motivation. At some point you need to realize that exercise and physical fitness are the keys to a longer, healthier and happier life, but you probably already know that. A great way to motivate yourself and be constantly reminded how your well-being affects others is to write a list of basic exercise goals—run for 30 minutes a day, do 100 pushups, take a cardio boxing class, ride a bike to the city limit, and so on.


Reap the ReWARDS

Another great way to push yourself to accomplish your fitness goals is to make a list of rewards that you can give yourself when you complete each objective. Is there a pair of shoes that you’ve been wanting or a dress that you’d kill for? Write each item down on a list and with them a specific exercise routine or workout that you need to complete in order to purchase it. But there’s a catch! You can’t write down that you want a brand new Porsche and make the objective that you have to complete 10 pushups. That’s cheating. The value of the reward should be indicative of the effort that you need to put forth. Set your goals for a month at a time, with the rewards being simple at first and evolving into bigger spoils.


Just do IT!

Goals and spoils aside, the point of exercising should be to have fun. Sure, no pain and no gain, and whatever other catchphrases you want to throw out there. But you’re certainly not going to want to consistently put forth the effort each day if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing and you’re not having fun. Pick something that makes you happy and figure out a way to turn that into exercise. It doesn’t have to be difficult. It just has to be done. Go out there and get it!


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