If you’re looking to start or restart a fitness habit in the new year, here is the best tip you’re going to get all month: start now. Yes, now, in the middle of the holiday season and end-of-year chaos. Yes, now, when nobody else is getting into it. Yes, now, even though you may not have even decided what exactly you want to do or how to do it. Now is perfect.
Starting now lets you figure out what you want
Even if you think of January as when you get your fresh start on fitness and life, you can think of December as your sandbox, the place where you test out ideas and mull over what it is you really want.
If you haven’t been to the gym for a while, head on over now. Check the place out, try out the machines, have a peek at the class schedule. Heck, take a class or two, with no promises to yourself about whether you think you’ll be back. If you haven’t joined a gym yet, drop in to a few different ones and take your time deciding.
Experimenting is valuable; it teaches you about yourself and about the thing you’re doing. Maybe you thought you were going to start couch-to-5K in the new year, but now you’ve fallen in love with the exercise bike. Maybe you were going to do a beginner routine on the machines at your gym, but you picked up a barbell on a lark and now you’re thinking you might want to spend some time learning to use the squat rack instead.
You’ll appreciate the mental health benefits
December is a stressful time for a lot of us, whether that’s good stress, bad stress, or a combination. I spend the last month of the year constantly slapping my forehead and going “oh right, I have to do this too!” where “this” is selecting a health insurance plan, or wrapping up a project for an end-of-year deadline, or attending a kid’s holiday concert. I know I’m not the only one.
At first, it may seem like fitting in a couple of workouts every week will add to the stress. But a workout is actually the easiest thing to put on your calendar: there’s no preparation and no homework. You just have to show up and do the thing. Literally schedule it if you need to, and keep that appointment with yourself. Exercise is stress relief, and settling into an exercise routine will likely reduce the total stress you feel in your life.
Starting your routine when you’re busy will also keep you honest. Are you really going to drive to that gym on the other side of town? If you manage to do it all through December, you know that routine is a keeper. On the other hand, if you find yourself skipping the drive in favor of going for a run in your neighborhood or doing some pushups and kettlebell swings at home, then maybe that’s what you’ll be able to stick to in the future, too.
You’ll beat the rush
Gyms get busy in January; that’s just one of the natural rhythms of the world. Instead of trying to snag a treadmill when everybody else wants one too, why not get started while you have the place to yourself? Learn your way around the gym when it’s just you and a few regulars.
Then, when it does start to get crowded after the new year, you’ll already know the ropes. Instead of wondering whether there’s a pair of 2.5-pound plates anywhere, you’ll know that the gym has two pairs and that you can usually find one of them on the very last bench rack in the row.
You’ll also have figured out your routine and your preferences by then. You know which classes you want to sign up for, since you’ve sampled them all; you know what to wear for cold weather runs, because you’ve been through a few. You know that it’s not the end of the world if you get a cold and have to skip a workout, because you have a couple weeks of consistency under your belt and you know you’ll be back. You’ll be confidently getting stuff done, and that’s because you started that process a whole month ago. Or, in other words, now.
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