What to Do if You’ve Never Worked Out

So today, I thought it would be fun to talk about starting a fitness plan from scratch. It’s one of the common requests I received on the annual blog survey, and it’s something that was very overwhelming to me when I was first getting started in my own fitness journey.

Back then, when I walked into the gym, I did cardio, then arms and abs because those are the areas I wanted to “tone.” Little did I know at the time: that’s not exactly how it works. It wasn’t until I incorporated different types of cardio and a balanced muscle training split that I started to gain momentum towards my goals.

3 things to do when you're starting your fitness journey

Here’s How to Start a Fitness Routine

(Please keep in mind that these are general recommendations. Always talk to a doctor before making any fitness changes and honor your body)

1 – Build Up Your Cardio Base First. Before strength training, I recommend making sure that you can get in 30 minutes of moderate steady state cardio, most days of the week. You may not be able to start with 30 solid minutes out the gate, and that’s ok!! Start off in small pieces and build up from there. For example, try to walk for 10 minutes most days of the week. The following week, add in a couple of minutes. Continuing adding until you get up to 30, working at a moderate intensity. (This means that you are at the happy medium between sprinting your heart out, and taking a nap. You should feel like you’re working, but that you have more to give.)

2 – Incorporate Intervals Into Your Cardio. After you build up your cardio base, you can start adding in gentle intervals (working at a faster pace for short bouts, followed by recovery), hills, and strength training. For strength training, always start with LIGHT weights, especially if it’s your first time ever. I highly recommend this weights 101 post! Also, meet up with a certified personal trainer to make sure you are set up with good form. Even if you just meet with them one time, it’s worth the cost to prevent injuries.

3 – Change It Up. Do something different every 4-6 weeks. Assess your training plan every 4-6 and see what changes can be made. Not only will this keep boredom from kicking in, but it will also help to prevent plateaus. If you’re body is constantly responding to stressors, change will result. Here are some ideas to change up your cardio, and your strength training

If you guys like, I’d be happy to set up a beginners fitness plan post for after your cardio base is there! Lemme know.

When you were fitness starting your fitness journey, what did you do? Was there any information you wish you would have known, or had to learn the hard way?

Have a wonderful night and I’ll see ya in the morning! <3



More: How to create a workout plan

An intro strength training plan

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  1. Jill H. on February 24, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Hi, I would love a beginners post if you have the time. Thanks–love your site! Jill

    • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:29 pm

      <3 i'll start cranking away on one! thank you for reading :)

  2. Julia on February 24, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    I am really hoping you’ll write a beginners routine! I used to take working out seriously. I slacked when I got married and completely gave up when I had kids! I’m getting back into it and my focus since January was building my cardio base (I have your book and got the idea from it.) I’ve achieved a cardio base, and I did a circuit workout two weeks ago… and suffered some super annoying side effects of doing that.

    So beginner plan, please, please, please!

    • Janice on February 24, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      I echo Julia and Jill’s comments; a beginners fitness plan post for after my cardio base is established would be fantastic.

      Love Caro’s picture. That little love has come a long way since you all rescued her. Thanks Gina, for everything you do for all of us!

      • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:27 pm

        thank you so much!
        i will definitely get cranking away on it 🙂

    • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      i totally understand that! things get crazy. i will definitely start working on one

  3. Julia @ Lord Still Loves Me on February 24, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    Snooze is like a college hit around here! I’ve been meaning to give it a shot! We must live a lot closer to each other than I thought. I’d still love to meet you before you move from San Diego. I’ve loved following your blog ever since before I moved to SD. Now that I attend San Diego State, it’s been so much fun to see all of the places near to me!

    • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      i would love to meet up one of these days! i don’t live super close to hillcrest but am there a lot for doc’s appointments

  4. Susan on February 24, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    yasss, I’m from denver (where snooze is from originally!!) and am now out on the east coast – nothing compares!!

    • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      AHHHH it was the best!

  5. Ashley v on February 24, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    I started my fitness journey in 2011 by doing the couch to 5k program. I literally could not run half a mile without feeling like it was a marathon. It was perfect for me and completely changed my life (sounds corny but is so true)! I’ve found that a lot of people feel guilty for not liking running and tell me they keep trying to like it, but it’s not for everyone! I have a friend who loves the elliptical, and I make it about five minutes on that thing before I’m desperate to get off. I’m grateful that I fell in love with running and that it didn’t put me off of exercise the way the elliptical or yoga do. It’s so important to find what you like and to keep searching for that thing until you land on it!

    • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      that is SO true. and it’s funny how things change over time. i used to love the elliptical! now i can’t understand how i stayed on that thing for 45 minutes

  6. Jenessa on February 24, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    I love Snooze! The breakfast tacos are my favorite and wish I lived closer. Enjoy!

    • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      i can’t wait to try them!

  7. Gigi on February 24, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    I’d LOVE a beginners workout. I’ve recently started going to the gym during my lunch hour at work so have built up a modest cardio base and am ready for the next step. Though I have worked with a personal trainer before and it was fantastic it’s just not in my budget at the moment. Actually, what I would really love is a beginners version of the Winter shape up programme if that’s possible with the facebook group etc – I attempted the WSU this year but it was just too hard for me!

    • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      i will definitely include more beginner options in the next shape up 🙂

  8. Alycia on February 24, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    I would absolutely love a beginner plan! I honestly don’t even know where to start, but I have to do something.

    • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      k i will start working on it!

  9. Mary on February 24, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    OMG I miss snooze so much!!! I lives walking distance from there in hillhurst, and we seriously went as often as possible. We’d put our name in, walk down to Starbucks for coffee, walk back and be seated. I love love love that place.

    • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      omg, it was amazing. i want it every day

  10. Gretchen on February 24, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    I would love a fitness plan for the stage after establishing a cardio base. I’ve has some health challenges that prevented me from working out for the last 2 years. I’m back to establishing a cardio base, but really need to start over with the rest of my fitness routine. I would love to try your plan.

    • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      perfect! i’ll get it ready to go in the next few weeks 🙂

  11. Erin @ Her Heartland Soul on February 24, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    Ahh that breakfast looks amazing!!

    • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      it was everything!

  12. Jenni on February 24, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    I would so love to see a beginner’s fitness plan!!

    • Fitnessista on February 24, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      k i’m on it! after i launch post baby bod, i’ll start cranking away on it and will post on the blog!

  13. Kathy on February 24, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    SNOOZE! I live in Denver and even though it’s been around and even though they recently opened a bunch more locations in Denver, there’s always a wait no matter the location! My first ever “beginner fitness plan” was joining the cross country team freshman year of high school. Ironically I didn’t really start to enjoy it until after high school! I also worked as a lg/swim instructor at the Y, so when I began to enjoy working out, I started going to classes and learned so much! Small classes are also great, since the instructor is able to spend more time and also correct form, and isn’t as expensive as a personal trainer. So long as you have a good instructor of course!

  14. Teri on February 24, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    OK I’m making the two hour trip to San Diego just to go to this restaurant! I’m totally serious! The art of hollandaise sold me. EEEEK!

  15. Sue on February 25, 2016 at 2:54 am

    Two years ago I was in the best shape of my life and then life happened…..and I need to get started again. Would love a starting point again. Thank you so much for all the effort you put into the blog and us readers. Your energy amazes me. I live in Denver and have not heard of snooze but definitely am going to look for it. Thanks again!

  16. Jen on February 25, 2016 at 3:29 am

    I played sports through high school, but wasn’t every really fit or healthy. Then in college we’d go to the gym, but still not fit or healthy. Finally after years of yo-yo up and down, I got a trainer. I signed on for two sessions a week and finally got on the right path! I’m happy to say she is actually one of my closest friends now, and I’ve continued to be. I had a small blip in fitness after pregnancy, but I’m on the path now. After baby it became much harder because trips to the gym are impossible with our schedule, so in July I started my journey with Beachbody and the 21 Day Fix Extreme. Best thing for me now…and I’m on my last week of Hammer and Chisel with my husband- we both feel amazing!

  17. Sue R on February 25, 2016 at 4:51 am

    I’d love to see a Beginner’s fitness plan post. Love your blog so much! Thank you for sharing so much of your life with us.

  18. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on February 25, 2016 at 6:35 am

    Great advice! We often forget that a lot of people are beginners and have no clue where to start!

  19. Andrea on February 25, 2016 at 7:59 am

    I would love a beginner’s fitness plan as well! I have fallen out of my routine over the past years, and now that I’ve found my motivation again, it would really help me get back on track! I love your blog <3

  20. Lynnlee on February 25, 2016 at 8:01 am

    I would love a beginner’s routine post too! I definitely wish that I had known about taking it slow and building up endurance…I took my first spin class (way more intimidating than my normal treadmill) last June and it was definitely too much at the time, I ended up in the hospital for 4 days with Rhabdomyolysis and the doctors that treated me said they are seeing a huge increase in cases because of people starting to workout for the first time or after a long break and overdoing it or pushing too hard. It’s taken until now for me to be able to start back to exercising and I’m definitely back to square one- I’ll be taking it much slower this time!

  21. Amy S on February 25, 2016 at 8:08 am

    I never played sports as a kid, and I honestly disliked gym class all through high school. During my senior year of college, I tried Pilates and was shocked to discover I enjoyed it! After college, I decided to give running a try and loved the challenge, and had a blast doing 5ks and 10ks with friends. I had a turning point when I overtrained for my first half marathon and didn’t listen to my body – I finished the race, but ended up injured and unable to run for three months afterwards. Oddly enough, it ended up being a good learning experience because I realized that I simply needed to vary my routine. Once I could work out again, I tried group exercise classes, yoga, dance, strength training, you name it – and I fell in love with fitness! It’s been five years since that happened. Now, my perfect balance is no more than two running days a week, complimented by ballet, yoga, and group exercise classes. Even though I had to learn a hard lesson by getting injured/sidelined, I’m so glad that it led me to a place where I learned what works best for me!

  22. Tracy on February 25, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Sounds like your day ended on a high note after a crazy morning! Hope things settle down around there. Glad your mom is there for reinforcement! Enjoy! Snooze sounds amazing 🙂

  23. Sara @ saralouyoga on February 25, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Yes! Totally agree about the new fitness tips. Starting off my fitness journey with running was great for me because it gave me lots of motivation and endorphins and was relatively easy. Now that I teach and practice yoga almost everyday I absolutely must switch up routines to keep inspired…both in my home practice and with my students!

  24. Amy M on February 25, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I would LOVE more info on a beginner level program. I am currently losing weight. I have lost 15 pounds so far, about 50 more to go. I know I need to incorporate exercise in.

  25. Jessie R on February 25, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    I LOVE going out for breakfast/brunch!! The boyfriend does not :(. So it’s always saved for girlfriend dates 🙂 That brunch looks totally delicious, those pancakes, so jealous!

  26. Christine D. on July 23, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    Ok, girl, i am sitting in my car reading ur what to do if uve never worked out before post as motivation to drive to the gym i havent been to in mths! Ive gained 50 ibs after getting sober and at age 32 i was amazed to see that eating light for a few days hasnt just made the weight fall off like it used to. So here is to trying ur 30 min advice. Thank u for breaking it down bc ive been too overwhelmed to go back by myself. Im coming for ur weight training 101 post next bc this much extra weight just feels yucky.

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