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How to Ensure Success when Beginning a New Workout Routine

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

  • This post is for everyone, regardless of whether you work a Monday-to-Friday 8 to 5 job.

  • We’ll go deep into misconceptions regarding motivation, fat burning, and goal setting.

  • Stick with me here, you’ll be on your way to achieving whatever wellness goals you’ve got.

Monday Morning. You know what your “Monday” is. That’s what I’m referring to.

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Mondays have such a stigma that multiple artists have written songs about them. Seriously – google it! Most of them have some sort of negative stormy connotation with rain and dreariness and bleh.

“Monday Monday (da-daa-da-da-da-da) Can’t trust that day…” (The Mamas and The Papas)

So why trust it with your new fitness plan? Your courageous self deserves a reliable day to begin.

That said, Mondays – and any day of the week for that matter – can be glorious and exciting. It really ought to be.

I try to think of every day as being full of potential and opportunity to flourish, in whatever task I’ve been given, and to help uplift whoever is in my path.

Any day can “start-over” as soon as you choose. Rough morning? Begin anew when you arrive at work. There is a solution to every problem, so take time to reposition yourself. This ever pays off.

Sometimes 2 pm can be a good time to re-start. A number of experts actually recommend this as a means to avoid procrastination and get back on track to achieve one’s goals.1

Speaking of goals – Beginning a new exercise plan, healthier way of eating, you name it…

What’s the best day?? Let’s walk through your week.

I’m going to spell this out from the angle of “worst-case-scenario” to help you see that you really can achieve these goals and there is no room for excuses if we don’t make room for them.

Mondays – we pretty much covered that.

The weekend is OVER. Alarms are necessary. You spill your coffee on your console at the same time you realize the gas tank still hasn’t learned to fill itself up. To top it off, your secretary forgot to tell you about your meeting that started 5 minutes ago and you accidentally grabbed your kid’s lunch. Oops.

Let’s not add an extra early alarm to this day. Next up! Tuesday.

Hello Tuesday. You’re looking shiny and new! We made it through Monday.

What you got?

This day seems like a good fit for beginning, yeah? Well, maybe.

If your best day is Tuesday, then I say GO for it!

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Maybe you didn’t get the grocery shopping done or meal prep you planned to over the weekend. Sometimes Tuesday can feel like there’s a bit of a deficit. You might feel unprepared for beginning.

If this is you – don’t worry about starting just yet.

Let’s Talk a Bit About Timing

You probably know the time of day that you exercise best. For me, it’s mornings.

Consider this: “your future self cannot be trusted”. – Kevin Kruse, Forbes

I’ve found this to be remarkably true with my clients. And myself.

“I’ll work-out later” becomes “tomorrow” easier than that chocolate cake went down.

Stop living in “tomorrow land”. Set a time and stick to it. Set your future-self up for success!

“I love working out first thing in the morning because even if I have a crummy day at the office, I still got something really great done that I can be proud of.” - my Mom

How often do you prioritize yourself? Often this means sacrificing elsewhere. (Not family)

For me, it means my ‘early morning lounge’ time is just not in the daily budget. (It is on Sundays!)

I love me some coffee-sipping, feet-up reading time.

Logistically, with a little one, this means waking up just early enough, before she starts beckoning the breakfast fairy.

Like it’s her job.

But here’s the thing:

If I lounge with my coffee every morning, I almost certainly will skip my workout at least HALF the days of the week.

And I’m a trainer!

Lesson: Know thyself.

Timing is Key

In the morning, our blood sugar is naturally a little elevated. It’s called the “dawn phenomenon”, and it’s not uncommon for people to feel like they’ve got some fuel to begin burning.

For most healthy folks this is okay.

Note – I am talking about an overnight fast, not an 18 or 24+ hour fast. That’s a very different story and can be very dangerous – I don’t recommend that at all.

Speaking of working out in a fasted state - research indicates that it can impair some performance factors.2,3,4

If you’re planning a speed or threshold workout, I recommend – at minimum – eating at least a snack, no less than 45 minutes before beginning. Ideally, you’ll have had a solid meal a couple hours beforehand.

Contrary to common belief, exercising in a fasted state does not necessarily maximize fat loss to a greater extent than exercising in a non-fasted state.5

Interestingly, research suggests that working out while fasted actually increases proteolysis (burning protein from muscles) during moderate intensity exercise (about 60% VO2 max).6 The results in this study were less significant than the golden factor P<0.001, but there was an increase in muscle burn in fasted versus non-fasted persons nonetheless.

And this makes sense: if we starve our bodies of resources, we end up pulling from muscle reserves on our way to resorting to fat for fuel. Essentially, exercising while fasted means a greater amount of muscle is more likely to be burned than in an non-fasted state.

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As such, bodybuilders and those concerned with preserving muscle mass should consider a solid meal at least 45 minutes before exercising. (This group includes those who have a faster metabolism and consequently a harder time keeping weight on, as well as those 65 and older when muscle loss called “sarcopenia” is heightened.)

Additionally, be sure to refuel with appropriate amounts of protein post-workout. Here’s how!

Research does support high intensity interval training (HIIT) as an optimal way to lose fat, especially over time.5,7 It exceeds the fat loss expectations of the historically common "steady state" approach of extended periods of low to moderate intensity endurance training.8

I specialize in HIIT training. My clients love the diversity and alternative method of shifting frequently between anaerobic and cardio. It keeps things fresh and more fun. Also: results.

Fun Fact: Did you know that athletes who train frequently have a greater ability to store fat in between their muscle cells? Especially in trained endurance athletes. This means they can pull fuel more easily, for longer periods of time, and at a more efficient rate than untrained persons at the same intensity.9,10

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*If you’re diabetic, and especially if you’re on medication, be sure you have a snack before exercising to minimize the risk of fainting from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Regardless, be sure to always check your blood sugar level before beginning exercise. Check with your Dietitian or MD for special medication requirements, and for clearance on new routines.*

Exercise Timing: What's Best For You

Maybe you’re a night-owl and have the most energy after work to exercise. Great!

You might not need to set an extra early alarm, unless you want to do some meal prep before you head to your job.

It can be more difficult to make a healthy meal choice when we’re hungry, and post-workout is one of these times. At the end of the day, you’ve already conquered so much, and likely, you’re tired.

Preparing meals ahead of time can help cut stress and improve food choices, paving the way for achieving your health and wellness goals.

Here's How:

For my early-bird friends: try to prep the night before, for the next-day’s breakfast. (Count me in!)

The night-owl tribe preferring post-work exercise might prep in the morning for today’s dinner.

For those that have a busy home-life or struggle in the early or late stretches of the day, you may benefit from bulk prepping only a couple times a week – so that it lasts a few days. (I'm here too.)

This minimizes stress and can improve time management, including giving yourself more time to relax or prepare for the day.

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Actually Exercising: Three Easy Steps to Ensure Success

1. Set two alarms. Know your snooze schedule and don’t give it the time of day.

Intentionally set the second alarm at a different time than your snooze interval.

Example: Alarm 1: 5:00 am. Snooze interval is every 10 minutes. Set Alarm 2 for 5:07am. Get it?

2. Set out your clothes and shoes. Know the forecast and GO anyway. Or Gym-it

Key programming note: clothing placement is critical. You must not be able to avoid them.

I had one client tell me that the best location was literally in front of their bedroom door.

For the night-owl, maybe you bring them to work and change before you leave the office.

Or, leave them just inside the door for when you get home (assuming no one moves them).

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Once clothing placement is established, you have three choices:

  1. Put them on and GO. Good job you!

  2. Step over them. Lazy slob move. Boo.

  3. Pick them up and put them away. Okay, high-fives for organization and cleanliness. But face the facts: you just put your goal in a drawer.


How about Houston, 32°F with wind chill “real feel” of 24°F. Yep -- ran 4 miles in it. Twice.

Make like Nike in the 90s and "JUST DO IT"

3. Don’t Give Yourself a Single. Other. Option.

The problem that a lot of folks face isn’t motivation, it’s OVER THINKING IT.

Just don’t give yourself another option. Make a do-able plan and don’t look back!

So, you’re feeling sleepy, moody, hungry, whatever. You know what?

Exercise naturally boosts endorphins and can improve cognitive function.11 Those feel good hormones play a vital role in improving and balancing mood and energy levels.11,12

The jury is still out on whether exercise suppresses appetite in a measurable and reliable manner for various people.13,14,15,16 And while Yoga has numerous reported benefits for health, mood improvement and well-being, Johns Hopkins reminds us that it does not take the place of moderate to vigorous exercise.17

Buddy systems can also help us achieve our goals. Accountability!

This is part of the reason people hire me – I do the thinking and hard work game-planning. They show up and do their best. By the end of the session they’re refreshed and stronger!

This could be you.

Okay Hump-Day. It’s Wednesday

You’re almost half-way to the weekend!

The main reason I don’t recommend starting routines on Wednesdays, is because sometimes this day is “only halfway there”. Technically, if you’re having this thought in the morning, you’re not yet halfway. Sorry.

Depending on your week this could be a good thing! Deadlines for instance -- more time.

If you surf the Wednesday-wave like your famous, then start on Wednesday!

Know thyself. Make a plan. Don’t look back.

I’ll ask you what I ask my clients that struggle with routine development:

When have you ever exercised and regretted it?

The answer 100% of the time is “never”.

Your turn.

Moving on to Friday. I mean, Friyay!

It’s time to break into party plans because it’s the freakin’ weekend baby I’m about to have me some fun! Starting a new routine probably isn’t the first thing on your mind.

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Unfortunately, Fridays can be a double-whammy with being tired from the week and forecasting an extra meal with a side of drinks at happy hour.

Eh. Probably best to hit the gym or pavement, right?

Fridays are a good “day-two” --

a good day to keep on keepin’-on.

Fortunately, you’ve got extra pizzazz this day because it’s almost play time, and the world seems a bit brighter because of this.

You can smell the freedom of tomorrow, plus you’ll get to skip your alarm, so why not give yourself an extra push just one more day this week.

Win with SMART Goals

This is not a novel, new or innovative idea. It’s been around the block and back enough that we know it works. Making goals that you can hang your hat on means that they must be:

  • SPECIFIC – name it. Precisely. With gumption!

  • MEASURABLE – quantify it so that you can determine if it’s actually doable and done. Be bold!

  • ACHIEVABLE – don’t set yourself up for failure. Also, you’re an adult! Get off the kiddy train.

If you’re not a marathon runner or hate running, then pick a different activity! Power-walk and find a bench for some pushups, tricep dips, and throw in some squats. Bike to your favorite coffee shop – and back. You get the idea.

This activity should increase in intensity and/or duration over time as your ability increases. Because it will!

Think of it this way: What’s a reasonable place for you to start that you’ll actually begin?

  • RELEVANT/REALISTIC – Relevant to what you are purposing to do.

Lose weight? Increase your strength? Improve those lab values? Eat a meal as a family?

Realistic for you in that this is not outlandish but within reach, yet also a challenge. If this was easy-sauce then why’d you need to make a goal to do it, right??
  • TIME-BOUND: There are two parts to this.

  1. Get going. To do so, you need a start date (and time).

  2. To create a sense of urgency and to realistically complete this goal, also set a targeted end date and time.

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Ask yourself: When are you starting the next-great-challenge or “achievement-to-be”?

Part of the answer: After this one’s done. Because the next one will be greater.

“I think I can, I think I can…” NO. Let’s fix this right now.

“I KNOW I can, I KNOW I can…” turns into “I exercised today” a lot more often.

Complete this statement:

“I will exercise via_______at ___ time for ___ minutes and ___ days a week. Plus do________ at ___ time and day for ___ minutes on the weekends, starting ___(date).

Example: “I will exercise via jogging 2 miles at 5:30am, for 20 minutes, four days a week. Plus, powerwalking for one hour each day on the weekends at 8am, and finding a bench for pushups and squats at least twice per walk, starting Thursday, March 14th, 2019.”

Did you fill in the blanks?

This is an initial part of turning your goal into an action plan.

The next part of the SMART process is picking your end date. What are you trying to accomplish and by when?

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I also recommend writing down a prep plan we talked about earlier: setting an alarm and meal planning for instance, or creating a buddy system.

Thursdays! We haven't talked about this gem of the week yet.

I recommend starting new workout routines, healthy eating habits, or healthier lifestyle plans THIS day.

Why? Let me count the reasons.

  1. It’s almost Friday. Just one more day to go! You’ve gotten through so much already, you can see the finish line and this is invigorating. Your likelihood of waking up to that early alarm or exercising after work just might be higher.

  2. The amount of resources and gumption required to begin a plan on this day that will carry you through the rest of the week is likely less than it was on Monday. Tomorrow is party planning day and you only have one more day until you have all-the-time to menu plan and cook. Or, at least more flexibility with scheduling these, I hope.

  3. No one really has serious plans on Wednesday night, right? That means you can use this eve to get set up for success come Thursday morning. Pick an evening that works for you to prep. I suggest at minimum to prepare meals for the day of your new routine.

Wednesday might be a good time to get to the grocery store for some quick n’ simple, low-key meal beginnings.

You know you’re near the weekend so you don’t have to go all-out. Just enough to make a few meals before Saturday!

Programming note: cooking while moving watching is a win-win for me.

Especially when there’s wine involved.

Here are a couple of my simple, affordable go-to recipes that can be quickly made in bulk and easily modified for the whole family. Here's why they're affordable.

To Summarize:

Know Thyself. Make a plan that is SMART for you. Write-it-down. Stick to it and don’t look back. Fasting before exercise might decrease your gains. Accountability is key. If every other day of the week fails, try beginning on Thursday. Your Friday self will thank you for it.

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