How to Exercise When You’re in the Worst Shape of Your Life

How to Exercise When You're in the Worst Shape of Your Life

Writing about my weight and fitness level is a pretty touchy, uncomfortable subject for me, so I thought I’d just jump right in and make it my first post.  Nothing like starting with the hard stuff, right?

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve never been mistaken for a supermodel.  Even as a teenager, I had thick thighs and a decent sized caboose, although I was really pretty active.

My weight has yo-yo’d since college.  I’ve gained and lost, only to gain again.  After having a baby, I was at the highest weight and worst shape of my life.  I was miserable, nearly unrecognizable to myself and had no idea where to start to get myself back.  Today I’m going to share with you a few things that helped me get started when I decided it was time to exercise again.

Disclaimer: See your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve last exercised.  I am not a medical professional and all of their schooling trumps my experiences.

This post contains affiliate links. Simply put, if you use one of my links to purchase an item, I receive a small commission, at no extra charge to you.  I only promote products that I have used and believe in.  Thank you for supporting this site!

Just do it.

I made excuse after excuse for why I couldn’t start exercising post baby.

I was tired.

The baby needed a nap.

The baby needed to eat.

There were other things that needed my attention, like showering…or maybe binge watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix.

I could keep going, but what it really boiled down to was that I was scared of failing.

I was hormonal, I was uncomfortable with so much about my body and I was scared to death that I would start something and not see it through.Click To Tweet  But just thinking about exercising wasn’t going to shed pounds or inches.  Moving my body was, so I just did it.  And it got easier (and still does) every time I exercise.

How to Exercise When You're in the Worst Shape of Your Life

Start slow.

Baby steps are important when taking on exercise if you haven’t done it in a while.  When I decided that I needed to start exercising, I was recovering from major surgery because Little Miss was born via c-section.  My doctor told me that moving (mainly walking) would help me along in my recovery, so that’s what I did.  (Note: If you are recovering from a c-section, follow the instructions given by your doctor, especially concerning exercise!)

I remember that first walk.  We had been home from the hospital for a few days and we loaded Little Miss up in her stroller and set off down the street.  I barely made it 4 houses down before I had to turn around and come back home in pain.  Turns out the main cause of the pulling sensation I was feeling was the glue from my incision sticking to my skin.  Whoops!  But regardless, I tried walking again a few days later and got a little farther.  Then I got a little farther the next time.  Now I can go miles at a time and that sad little first walk is a distant memory.

Start small.

When you’re ready to begin a new exercise program, start small.  If you decide that you want to start lifting weights, don’t go rack up 150 pounds on the bench press the first day.  Start with some small hand weights and work your way up.  I know that sounds silly, but it’s sure tempting to just jump in feet first and hope for the best.

Increasing the difficulty and duration gradually will not only prevent you from hurting yourself, but it will also prevent you from giving up so easily.  There’s nothing quite as discouraging as popping in a workout DVD (ahem, Insanity) and barely being able to make it through the warm-up.  Not that that’s ever happened to me or anything…

Swimming is a fun way to get some aerobic exercise that is easy on your joints and muscles.

Find something you enjoy and keep doing it.

You’re much more likely to stick with a form of exercise if you enjoy it.  Walking became my go-to form of exercise, especially early on after I had Little Miss.  All I had to have were my sneakers and a stroller and we were good to go.  Walking became part of our evening routine and I loved having that time to get to talk to my husband and just be outside.

As I got more comfortable with exercising and began to get some of my strength and stamina back, we began to bike as well.  I started biking right before I got pregnant, so I had to quit just a few months into it.  It took a long time and some frustration to get used to being back on my bike, but I love it so much that it was worth the extra work (and pain in my backside).  I also enjoy yoga and try to do at least a little bit every morning.

So find something that you enjoy and just stick with it.  It might be Zumba or another class that you can take at a gym, find on YouTube or DVD.  Maybe you really want to run or swim.  Maybe you really enjoy boxing or martial arts.  There’s no wrong answer here.  Try several things and see what you like.  You might surprise yourself with what you pick.

Don’t get discouraged.

Letting your mind go down those dark, twisty paths is easy when  you’re starting something new and it’s hard.  There are days that you’ll feel like you’re never going to reach your goals.  It’s tough. Plain and simple.  But don’t let that nasty voice in your head convince you that you can’t achieve your goals.

Sometimes it takes listening to a song that makes you want to take on the world (for me it’s “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten), a pep talk from a friend, a prayer when you feel like giving up, or just telling yourself to suck it up and get it done.  All of those methods have worked for me in the past when I start feeling discouraged and like giving up.  Sure, sitting on the couch eating Cheetohs and watching mindless TV sounds like an easier, more enticing idea, but in the long run you’ll regret it.  So don’t let yourself go there and don’t let discouragement keep you from doing the things you want and need to do for yourself.

Get a buddy.

Some people enjoy working out alone.  I do sometimes when I just need to clear my head, but other times I like having someone with me.  My mom and I are training for a 5K at the end of the month and running together helps push me and keeps me accountable.  It’s nice having someone there that is working toward the same goal as you.

I will caution you to find a buddy that is at or near your level of fitness.  My mom and I run at the same speed, so that works well for us.  If I tried to run with my husband, and I have, it doesn’t always go well for me.  I feel discouraged because I feel like I’m holding him back or he feels bad because he wants to go faster and I’m slower than a sloth in Jello.  There may have also been an incident where we were biking together and I pushed myself so hard to keep up that I may or may not have come very close to passing out.  So, really, find someone near your fitness level that you can work out with and encourage one another.  A buddy can be a wonderful tool for you.

Set a big goal.

Starting to exercise when you aren’t in great shape or if you haven’t exercised for a long time can be incredibly scary.  You might not really have any goals for yourself other than “Get fit,” or “Get healthy,” or “Lose weight,” or it might be all of the above.

One thing you can do to get yourself moving in the right direction is to set a big goal for yourself.  For me, I had been thinking about how cool it would be to do a sprint triathlon.  I’m not a bad swimmer and I enjoy riding my bike.  Although I’m not a big fan of running, I had run a couple of 5Ks, but I never pursued that big dream of a triathlon.  Finally, when Little Miss was well over a year old I decided that maybe that big goal could be a reality if I worked hard.  And I am still working hard toward it.

The key to setting big goals is having a plan.  If you need extra help in setting big exercise goals for yourself, I’ve created some free goal planning worksheets! Use them to get your mind around a big goal, break it into manageable pieces and get started on it!

FREE Exercise Goal Setting Worksheets to help you make your exercise goals a reality!

This hasn’t been an all-inclusive list, but I hope it gives you some ideas to start or re-start your journey toward better health and fitness.  I still have a long way to go, but I sure feel better and stronger than I did when I first began!

What other tips do you have for exercising when you’re not in good shape?  Leave a comment below!

How To Exercise When You're in the Worst Shape of Your Life | Looking to lose the baby weight or just shed a few pounds? Here are 6 tips for exercising when you're in the worst shape of your life.

How to Exercise When You're in the Worst Shape of Your Life | Tips for getting started with a fitness routine
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  • Reply
    Donna Aulerich
    September 6, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    You are my hero! Keep at it little sister you have a voice that can help yourself and others.

    • Reply
      September 7, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      Thank you Donna!

  • Reply
    October 31, 2016 at 9:50 am

    thank you so very much….I needed this much appreciated advice…I have tried to start exercising since January 2016. Now we are coming into November and still my thoughts are saying exercise but I still haven’t started….I will go down and start today…baby steps…thank you…

    • Reply
      Melissa Jarrett
      October 31, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      Hi Jean! Thank you for your kind words and I’m so glad that you are ready to start exercising! Baby steps were key for me when I got started. Good luck with your exercise!

  • Reply
    Shanna F.
    May 4, 2017 at 1:18 am

    This was awesome!!! Thank you for the boost! Gonna start walking in the neighborhood, and my heart has been thing me for 2 years to try gymnastics again at 46 years old. I even googled: gymnastics in your 40’s and actually found some positive info. Your article inspired me! God Bless♡♡♡

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