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Get Motivated to Get Back Into Working Out!

"If you’ve found yourself in an exercise slump... it’s never too late to get physically strong and fit again."

Most of us have gone on a fitness hiatus at one point or another — maybe work and/or family life has gotten incredibly busy, or we're recovering from an illness or an injury. Whatever the reason, it is never too late to get back in the fitness game. On today's live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, learn some great ways to motivate yourself to get physically strong again. You'll get Dr. Nancy's top 6 tips to get you back on a regular exercise plan, as well as some nutrition and workout recovery tips. 

Video Highlights

  • 02:17: Why We Need Regular Exercise
  • 05:31: Tips to Get You Motivated
  • 06:01: Ease Into It
  • 09:17: What’s Your Endgame?
  • 10:59: Be S.M.A.R.T. About It
  • 18:43: Use The Buddy System
  • 20:30: Do What You Love, And You’ll Never Work(Out) A Day In Your Life
  • 22:43: Try “Temptation Bundling”
  • 25:56: Warm-Up and Stretch
  • 29:15: Wrap-Up

Why We Need Regular Exercise

At Smarter Nutrition, we’re constantly touting the benefits of regular exercise. Let’s do a quick recap of those benefits.

First, the not-so-good.Not exercising can lead to or contribute to a ton of health issues, including:

When youexercise regularly, which should includecardio,strength training, andflexibility, it will help you do the following:

For a lot of us, working out after a long absence — or even a short one — is easier said than done, but the health benefits are too good not to take that first step back into exercise class, onto the elliptical at the gym, or even the bike path behind your house. 

Tips to Get Back You Motivated

Ease Into It

This one is important, especially if you’re someone who used to go pretty hard at the gym before your hiatus. Depending on how long you’ve been out of the exercise game, your body might not be able to do what it used to, so remember to start slow. Ideally, as a minimum, you want to do 150 minutes of moderate activity every week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a mix of the two.

Try to get in 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week, and additionally you should be doingat least 30 minutes of strength training 2 times a week. You don’t have to buy dumbbells or equipment for this! Strength training can be planks, pushups, wall sits… any exercise that uses your body for resistance. 

Now, if you’re someone who is extremely busy and that’s why your physical health has fallen to the very bottom of your priority list, that amount of exercise can seem daunting and maybe even overwhelming. Even if you’re recovering from surgery or an illness, that can seem like a bit much. 

So, start slow. Ease back into it. Work out 2 or 3 days a week to start. 

You want to feelexcited about working out again, and you want to feel like it’s something you can accomplish. Plus, you’ll give your body an opportunity to adapt, and you’ll avoid the possibility of fatigue and overtraining. Starting slow will also minimize your likelihood of dropping out,sustaining an injury, and going on another fitness hiatus. 

Slow and steady wins the race!

What’s Your Endgame?

Many of us are better at accomplishing our goals when we have something specific to work toward. If getting physically strong and healthier is your goal, why not give yourself a deadline by signing up for some sort of event or activity? There is stuff going on year-round no matter where you live. 

A few options would be:

  • 5 or 8K races
  • Fun runs
  • Charity walks
  • Mud runs
  • Spartan or obstacle races
  • Or look for a 90-day body transformation challenge

Even if one of these events is not happening in your area, you could find one close by — or even far away, and make a vacation out of it! 

How cool would it be to one day run a marathon in Paris, London, or New York City?

Be S.M.A.R.T. About It

For those of you who are not familiar with the acronym, S.M.A.R.T. goal setting might be an excellent way to get motivated and start yourself on the path to getting physically strong again.  

S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-oriented

There are tons oftemplates available online for you to fill out to help you define your S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Here’s how it works:

  • Specific — This one is exactly as it sounds. Be specific about your goals. Write down the who, what, where, and when — what is it that you ultimately want to accomplish in terms of your physical fitness? An example would be, “I will lose 10 pounds by December 1st” or “I will run a 5K three months from now.” Something like “I will get healthy” is a little too vague.
  • Measurable — How do you plan on tracking your progress? Will you lose 1 pound every week? Do you have a goal weight in mind? This category should feature some sort of measurable number. Let’s stick with the 5K example we just used. An example here would be, “I will run 3 times every week and participate in strength training twice every week.” See? Numbers. 
  • Attainable — You want to be realistic about your goal. It’s probably not the best idea to sign up for a 5K that’s taking place this weekend if you haven’t worked out in months or even years. Maybe running 3 times a week and doing strength training 2 times a week is too much for you right now, so tweak your goal to fit your lifestyle. And be realistic about it — what are youtruly going to be able to accomplish? This is a good opportunity to also check in with what you might need or need to do in order to reach your goal. Do you need any gear? Would it be helpful to schedule your workouts in your phone or on a physical calendar? Write that down in this box: “I will be able to run a 5K in three months. I will need new sneakers and will schedule trainings on my calendar.”
  • Relevant —This one gets into the “why” of it all.Why are you running that 5K, or why do you want to lose weight? An example would be, “I want to lose weight so I can lower my cholesterol and improve my cardiovascular health.”
  • Time-oriented —We’ve touched on this a little bit already, but this one has an even more specific goal-date in mind. Find a 5K that’s 3 months from now and sign up. For example, you could say, “I will sign up for the Christmas Fun Run on December 14th.”

The last thing you want to do is put your goal into one statement. Let’s stick with the 5K example:

“By December 14, I will be able to run a 5K. I will achieve this goal by running 3 times a week and doing strength training 2 days a week.” 

Make sense? 

Use The Buddy System

If lack of motivation has been your reason for not getting back into shape, find a workout buddy. Schedule times to workout throughout the week and stick to it. Chances are good you’ll be more likely to show up when you know someone is depending on you and holding you accountable. 

Working out with a buddy has proven to be so successful that one study showed only 6% of people who worked out with a friend stopped going to the gym versus a whopping 43% of people who worked out alone. 

Even if you can’t find a buddy to physically work out with, you can still find someone to help motivate you. Have your friendcheck in on you to see how your workouts are going and ask them to send you motivational messages via text message or social media. 

Do What You Love, And You’ll Never Work(Out) A Day In Your Life

If you hate running, why do it? There are plenty of things you can do to stay active, and we guarantee you’ll enjoy at least one of them. 

Take up Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Krav Maga, or some other form of martial arts.

Join a dance class like hip-hop or salsa. Zumba is another fun, high-energy option. 

What about indoor rock climbing?

Grab that workout buddy of yours and go for a hike. 

Better yet, grab a bunch of buddies and recapture your youth with one of the games you used to play — Capture the Flag, Manhunt, Kickball…

While we’re on the subject of nostalgia, hula-hooping, jumping rope, and jumping on a trampoline are fun ways to burn some calories, improve cardio, and build strength. Mixed in with your gym workouts, that may be enough to keep you on track.

Try “Temptation Bundling”

Have any of you ever heard this term? Temptation bundling is a phrase coined by a Wharton School professor named Katherine Milkman. She believes you should do things you enjoy and that offer instant gratification as a way to get you to do things you have to do. 

An example would be: 

You really want to binge the next season of your current show obsession on Netflix, but you have to get a workout in. Well, what if you worked outwhileyou watched the next season of your current show obsession on Netflix? Two birds – one stone. 

There’s a little bit of a catch. You can only accomplish both at the same time, meaning, you would only be able to watch your favorite show when you work out. If it ends on a cliffhanger, then you’ll just have to find time to work out again so you can find out what happens. 

See how temptation bundling works?

The idea is that you’ll be more productive — in this instance, because you won’t be watching hours upon hours of TV — and you’ll be happier and won’t be feeling guilt about watching too much TV or skipping your workout. But you still have to work-out hard for this to work.

That’s just one example. The possibilities are endless and you can use it to help you with other tasks: you can listen to your favorite podcast or audiobook while you’re working out, or only allow yourself your favoritehealthy sweet treat whenever you clean the house. 

Really, the road to physical health and well-being is 75% nutrition and 25% exercise, but that 25% is still vitally important. Plus, if you’re someone who has taken a break from working out and you’ve maybe gained a little weight, shedding those pounds by eating foods onDr. Nancy’s anti-inflammatory food list will make working out a bit easier because you’ll have more energy and you may actually be a few pounds lighter. 

Warm-Up and Stretch

It’s always important to warm up before a workout and to stretch after.

Some warm-up exercises you could do include:

  • A light jog
  • Jumping jacks
  • Some light shadowboxing
  • Shoulder rolls
  • Torso rotations — hold your arms out in front of you. Your feet should be hip-width apart. Engage your core and rotate to the right and then the left. Do this for 30 seconds or up to a minute.
  • Side stretch — reach both arms overhead and take hold of your right wrist with your left hand, then lean to your left for a nice side stretch. Inhale back to center, and repeat on the other side.

Whatever cool down stretches you do should coincide with whatever workout you did. If you went for a walk or a run, make sure you stretch the quads by bending the knee and taking hold of the foot. You can also come into a forward fold, either from a seated or standing position, to stretch out the low back, glutes, and hamstrings. 

If you did an arm workout using weights, make sure you stretch the triceps, biceps, shoulders, and neck. 

Dr. Nancy also highly recommends taking daily nutritional supplements like theSmarter Multivitamin andSmarter Curcumin to make sure your body is getting the necessary essential nutrients it needs to recover after every workout. 


If you’ve found yourself in an exercise slump, meaning you haven’t worked out in a while, either because you’ve been sick or you just had surgery, or maybe life has gotten too crazy, don’t despair. It’s never too late to get physically strong and fit again. 

Some of the tips we discussed to help motivate you are:

  • Start slow — ease back into working out by doing it 2 or 3 days a week
  • Set goals for yourself — is there a walk or fun run you could be working toward or a goal weight you want to reach?
  • Work out with a buddy — those who do have a much higher success rate
  • Do what you love — be creative and find an activity that you love doingandwill help get you physically fit. A few things we suggested included Zumba, salsa dancing, or martial arts.

Integrating cardio, strength training, and flexibility into your weekly workout routine will benefit your heart, joints, bones, and even your brain. You’ll feel better both physically and mentally. All you have to do is take that first step. You did it once — you can do it again!

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