Starting or returning to exercise: Seven easy steps!

Expert guidance from Kieren Payne, Founder and Owner of Altern8 Training in Sydney’s north shore. 

Always consult with your healthcare provider and get their clearance and advice before starting a new exercise regime. Everyone’s health is different, and this ensures your fitness journey suits your unique needs.

Well done for taking the first and hardest step towards change. Taking conscious ownership of your actions and their impact on your life is an essential step that most people overlook. Now is the time to take control and build new healthier habits and incorporate them into your everyday life.  

STAND UP AND SIT DOWN RIGHT NOW! Or if you’re already standing, sit down and stand up. You’ve more than likely just performed a near perfect squat (and yes, there is a right and wrong way to squat)! Now give yourself a pat on the back. You may not know it, but you’ve just given yourself a little dopamine release in your brain by achieving something positive, no matter how small that thing is. Acknowledging the effort, you’ve taken to do something positive for yourself is an incredibly important step in helping to form good habits! 

Let’s take this up a notch. Repeat the previous step (sit down and stand up) 10 times slowly and controlled…. I’ll wait. You’ve just performed your first set of 10 squats! Your leg muscles have been worked and your heart rate went up. On top of this you’ve just got your first taste of Progressive Overload… more on this later. 

Now pat yourself on the back again! Better yet, write “exercise” on some paper or in today’s date on your calendar and TICK IT OFF FOR TODAY! I know it may seem silly at first, but science has proven that consistently rewarding yourself like this will create dopamine cravings and enhance the likelihood of you continuing to exercise. 

When it comes to achieving remarkable results, consistency is the cornerstone. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes in this journey, change your mindset to prioritise consistency with your training and I promise you’ll start seeing the results. Decide specifically when and where you want to perform the exercises and choose a cue that signals your brain it’s time to move. It could be a certain location, putting on specific shoes, listening to certain music or watching a particular TV show. Find a schedule that works for you, reflecting on the times and situations when you’ve most enjoyed physical activity. Why did you enjoy it so much? Who were you with? When and where did you do it? Let’s create a plan that aligns with your preferences and maximises your chances of success. 

Examples may be: 

•  Every Tuesday and Thursday at 12:30 (WHEN) I’m going to put my black sneakers on and perform my training program in my backyard (WHERE) OR 

• Every time I’m at home (WHERE) watching Master Chef (WHEN), I’m going to do 10 squats. 

To help you build consistency, we I have created a simple training program that takes less than 2 minutes to complete and can be done anywhere. Start by choosing your exercises, from below. Choose one lower, one upper, and one core and perform each exercise 6 times and then you’re done for the day! 

Lower BodyUpper BodyCore
Sit to StandPush Ups (wall)Leg lowers
Glute BridgeSupermanCrunches

Now I want you to use progressive overload again, next time I want you to perform each exercise 7 times, then 8 times…. you see the pattern forming here. Once you can do each exercise 12 times, I want you to rest for 1-2 minutes and add a second set. This will vary from person to person in terms of where you start and how fast you progress. It’s important to note here that everyone is different and it’s essential you progress at your own pace, starting slowly and gradually challenging yourself to avoid burnout or injury. Our focus is on building good habits and consistency first, which will lead to results in due time. 

Life is full of unexpected challenges, but with proper planning, you can overcome them. Take a moment to consider what potential barriers might arise that could interfere with your scheduled exercise. By anticipating these obstacles in advance, you can create “if, then” scenarios to keep yourself on track. For instance, if you miss your Tuesday workout, make a commitment to make it up on Wednesday. It’s also essential to embrace flexibility and understand that missing a day doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Avoid falling into the “all-or-nothing” mindset which I see all too often. Instead, see it as part of the process of developing good habits. Tomorrow is a new day, and you can get back on the consistency train!