1. If you're thinking: I'm not the sporty type
Look forward, not back. Many of us have negative thoughts about exercise because of past memories – coming last in the cross-country run at school, or that home workout DVD we couldn't master. 'Things that have happened in the past aren't an excuse for the future,' says our fitness expert, James Trevorrow. 'There are so many activities to choose from now – from dance classes that don't feel like workouts to hiking trails that take you through beautiful countryside – that there really is something for everyone.'
Reframe your thinking. 'Don't just move your body, move your mind, too,' says James. 'Think about the positives – how great you'll feel after you've worked out. The thing to remember with exercise is that afterwards, you never regret doing it.'
Celebrate progress. If you can't master something straight away, don't throw in the towel immediately. Recognise how far you have come – you've got more knowledge now than before you started, so imagine where you could be in a few months' time.
2. If you're thinking: Changing rooms make me cringe
Stop the negative comparisons, says fitness consultant Sarah Maxwell (sarahmaxwell.co.uk). 'Don't compare yourself to others or make judgments about yourself based on comparisons. Instead, take a closer look at the people around you. Chances are, the vast majority don't have perfect bodies, and even fewer are totally confident with their looks.'
Remember your common calling. Everyone else at the gym or pool – whatever their shape and size – has the same goal as you: to look and feel better. Use this as inspiration, to remind yourself that you're not alone. 'Tell yourself that you can do this, that you're in control, you're doing something good and positive, and nothing else matters,' says Sarah.
Plan smart. Still got a phobia about changing rooms? Choose a gym that has lots of individual changing cubicles so you'll have some privacy, or start with a beginner's home workout DVD until you're feeling a bit more confident.
3. If you're thinking: I'm not seeing results
Remember the feel-good benefits. Okay, so those spinning classes haven't got you to your Goal Weight yet, but we bet you're feeling energetic and inspired, and your thighs are firmer! Keep in mind the bigger picture: how you're reducing your risk of future health problems and gaining more energy.
Set small challenges. 'If you simply aim to "work out", you'll find it tough to stay motivated, so set yourself a challenge,' says James. 'How about doing a 5k run in eight weeks' time? Or learning five yoga poses by the end of the month? Steady progress will keep you motivated to do the next challenge – whether that's a 10k or another five poses.'
Do the toughness test. Stopped seeing positive changes? 'If your workout doesn't feel a little bit hard, you're not working hard enough,' says James. 'This doesn't mean always exercising at a level where you think you'll pass out, but you should be sweaty and breathless, and think, "Phew, that was tough" afterwards.'
4. If you're thinking: I can't spare the time or cash
Help yourself, help others. 'Making yourself a priority isn't selfish – you can't give work or family your all when you're not feeling your best,' says personal trainer Dean Hodgkin, Fitness Expert at Ragdale Hall and Energie (deanhodgkin.com). 'Get your family more involved, too – go on walks, bike rides or swims for healthy quality time together.'
Discover more zest. 'As you get fitter, you'll notice energy levels rise in every other part of your life,' says Dean. 'In other words, by taking time to exercise, you create time elsewhere.'
Be a bargainista. There are endless ways to get fit without fancy equipment or pricey membership fees – like borrowing fitness DVDs from the library, or browsing freecycle.org for a second-hand bike. Ask your local council if there's a free 'trim trail' near you. These consist of a dozen or so exercise stations, usually situated in a park or on a recreation route. Or check out walkingforhealth.co.uk for hundreds of walks across the UK in green spaces.
5. If you're thinking: I haven't got a clue what I'm doing
Keep it simple. 'Look for beginners' classes where there will be people at the same level as you,' says Dean. 'And remember there are lots of fitness activities that require zero skill – walking, climbing the stairs and hiking, to name just three.'
Don't go it alone. A work-out buddy can help to make you feel more confident. Choose somebody you can trust to be reliable and who is on a similar exercise programme to you.
Seek help. If you're joining a gym, ensure you get a proper induction where you're shown how to use the facilities. If you feel particularly intimidated in classes or using equipment when it's crowded, ask a member of staff when the quieter times are.
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