How to Start Working Out

I made quite a long post to the Reddit sub r/loseit a few days ago about basic bodyweight movements for those who say they don’t have time to work out or don’t know where to start. The post got a lot of traction, way more than I could have ever anticipated, so I thought I would share it with all you lovely readers as well. This is more or less my beginners’ guide on bodyweight movements, basic workout equipment, and how to get started.

The post:

“My apologies, this is way longer than I intended, but oh well. There is no “TL;DR” (Too Long; Didn’t Read) for getting healthy.

Please note, this is all my personal opinion/experience/information, I am just trying to help because I see these two phrases on here often, so if you disagree that’s totally cool but don’t jump down my throat.

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Ok first thing, I have seen this sentence over and over in r/loseit, “I don’t have time to work out,” and it is incredibly frustrating. Please stop lying to yourself. (I’m not being an asshole, just keep reading)

People have this crazy idea that you have to pay hundreds of dollars for a fancy gym membership and work out for hours at a time to lose weight or make progress with whatever you are striving for. Absolutely. Not. True.

There is a whole world of workouts that require only your body, some floor space, and like 5 minutes of time. Since I have seen this topic come up so often lately, I’ve put together a list of some bodyweight movements and other exercises you can do with very little time and/or money. Most of the descriptions below are from the awesome app/website Fitocracy, which I have recently joined as a way to track my workouts.

– The Bodyweight Squat: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, weight on the heels. Bend the knees and lower the upper body until thighs are parallel to the floor, or further for full range of motion. Reverse by driving down on the heels until you return to a standing position. Edit: I AM SO SORRY TO WHOEVER READ THIS EARLIER and saw the note “do not let your knees go past your toes”. That is a mistake and someone was kind enough to point it out. Here is some more, better information on properly doing a bodyweight squat with a great video.

– The Plank: Lie on the floor face down, with your back and legs straight, feet together and your elbows under your shoulders, resting on your elbows. Your body should be straight. Hold this position as long as possible (I recommend starting with 10-15 seconds and building up from there).

– The Wall Sit: Sit against a wall, slide down bending the knees getting into position with upper legs parallel to the ground. Hold. (I recommend starting with 15-20 seconds and building up from there).

– The Kneeling Push-Up: Kneel on the floor with your knees shoulder-width apart. Lean forward until the palms of your hands are on the floor. Lower your chest to the floor slowly, and then push yourself back up. Repeat. Eventually you can work your way up to a regular push-up, but to be honest with you, I’m still not there (and that’s ok).

– The Leg Lift: Lie on the floor, face up. Your feet should be together, your legs should be straight, and your arms should be by your sides. Lift your feet an inch or two from the floor. This is the start position. Keeping your legs locked, raise your feet until they are directly above your pelvis. Exhale as you lift, keeping the stomach tight. Your legs and torso will form a right angle at this point. This is the finish position. Pause briefly, before reversing the motion exactly, inhaling as you go down. Pause again in the start position and repeat. At no point should allow your knees to unlock, and your heels shouldn’t touch the floor until the set is completed.

– The Side-Lying Leg Lift: Lie on your side with your legs stacked and your head resting on your arm. Tighten the muscle in the front of the top thigh and lift that leg into the air. Hold for one count, lower to touch the bottom leg and then lift again. You can also use ankle weights or a resistance band.

If you have a kettlebell (I highly recommend purchasing one, preferably a solid iron one and not sand or whatever other crap they try to advertise as “for girls” or some other bullshit), there are a few more easy movements to add. Note on purchasing a kettlebell: I have fibromyalgia so I was scared and only bought an 8lb one. I regret this decision immensely. I would really recommend trying a 15lb one, just start slow with your reps and build up.

– Goblet Squats: these can be done with a dumbbell or kettlebell, I have added descriptions for both. Hold a single dumbbell vertically in front of your chest with both hands, cupping the top half with your palms facing up. Squat as low as possible, flexing only your knees and hips, and then return to a standing position. // Hold a single kettlebell in front of your chest with both hands. Squat as low as possible, flexing only your knees and hips, and then return to a standing position.

– Kettlebell Swings: Video is the best way to explain, and this one is directly from the Crossfit YouTube channel.

There is also the kettlebell clean and the kettlebell snatch, but I am still working on those myself so I won’t give you advice on them.

Additionally, don’t get discouraged if the number on the scale is not changing like you want it to. Muscle does weigh more than fat after all, and losing FAT is more important than losing weight in general (assuming that is your goal) – this is called body recomposition. I would recommend investing in a body fat monitor as well, so you can track your “real” progress. I have a little handheld guy from Omron, but if you’re willing to make a splurge-ish purchase, there are some decent scales out there with a body fat monitor built in, just read the reviews cause you definitely get what you pay for in that area.

Having said all that, remember that “abs are made in the kitchen”. You can’t eat like shit and still lose weight (well I suppose it’s possible, but not realistic). Personally I have had great success with a low carbohydrate (pretty much zero sugar) /moderate fat/high protein diet called the slow carb diet. Paleo and keto are also effective for moving towards a healthier lifestyle, but do the research and figure out what works for you. (seriously, please do your research, I’m not a doctor and don’t know what will work for you or what is best for your specific situation).

Finally, hopefully no one will see this part because posting it is terrifying, but here is the first progress pic I’ve ever shared on reddit. From the unhealthiest I’ve ever been, March 2013, to Valentine’s Day 2014, the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been. It’s been a long, painful, exhausting bumpy fucking road, and I’ve got a long way to go (about 40 lbs more), but progress is progress and I’m stronger every day. (See photo below) If nothing else, this progress picture is a great demonstration of body recomposition. The weight difference between these photos is only 10 lbs.

Left: March 2013. Right: 14 February 2014.
Left: March 2013. Right: February 2014.

“Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

Hope some of this was helpful to someone.”

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  1. Olivia

    way to go girl! You look fantastic. Keep up the hard work!


  2. susan

    Inspiring! Thank you.


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