Gym memberships bloom in January for a very easy to understand reason. It’s a new year, the slate is wiped clean (not really, but it certainly feels that way) and if you’re looking to embark on a journey of self-improvement, why not make your timeline run for a wide-open, end-to-end calendar year? It’s a relatable sentiment.

One of the largest walls that stand in the way of building a routine made to last is trying to do too much, too soon. Sure, you want results and you want ‘em fast. You’re fired up. You’re ready to go to the gym for two hours every day after work and damn it, you MEAN it this time. This level of drive is fantastic, but it’s like tires on a Bugatti. You can only go max speed for a short time before the tread wears off. This is why you should start by doing LESS than you initially expect to do. Make it stick, and then add more as it becomes easier to keep up and until your actively desiring to add in new habits and practices. Here are 5 simple ways to get the ball rolling on your fitness that are also easy to maintain and build from while effectively avoiding burnout:

1. Start a food journal. 

Awareness is one of the biggest steps to take when you’re getting your nutrition under wraps. Before tailoring your macros, before setting goals on your calories, before you cycle your carbs or follow a specific protocol like Keto or Paleo, you should learn to pay attention. Just by writing down what you eat, you’ll start to take notice of things, like “Woah, I crushed a whole bag of chips during a movie last night without even thinking,” or “I went a whole day without eating because I was swamped with work.” Just by increasing awareness, your habits are likely to pivot in ways that count.

2. Get the gym membership, commit to going for an excessively reasonable frequency, and do ANYTHING.

Start with 2 days a week. There are very few people who would have a legitimate excuse to not make time for this frequency. Just get there. Once you’re there, don’t stress about learning anything beyond what you’re comfortable with. Hop on the treadmill. Pick a machine or two to learn. Eye the squat rack and think “Maybe I’ll google that one first.” Whatever you choose, feel good about it. Stick with twice a week until you feel like that third day wouldn’t be so difficult, maybe even easy. Own the two, grow into the third. Repeat.

3. Incorporate a 10-minute mobility routine at home.

Mobility is important for longevity, whatever your goal is. It’s less sexy to talk about for some because it doesn’t burn body fat or build muscle, at least not directly. But if you value feeling good while you move, owning your body positions, and avoiding pain/injury, put the work in to get more mobile. Google a few good stretches or active mobility drills to practice for both lower and upper body (or ask your friendly neighborhood Pantheon coaches for suggestions) make a list, set an alarm for the same time every day to remind you, and devote 10 minutes to moving better. It could save you much more discomfort in the long run than you might expect. 

4. Build a sleep routine.

Arguably the least sexy, but easily one of the most important. Sleep is one of the top influences in your body composition. Studies suggest the health of your sleep can be even more impactful than how much you exercise due to effects on hormone controlling mechanisms like muscle growth (1) and appetite regulation. (2) Begin creating a stable pre-bed routine that looks the same every night. Getting away from screens 1-2 hours before you plan to be asleep, reading a book instead of watching Netflix in bed, picking a time to shut the lights off and sticking to it, etc. Pick one, practice it. If you’re a chronic under-sleeper and your average lands you decently under the recommended 8-hour mark, try to add one hour to your current habits. Still short? Add a second hour after you master the addition of the first.

5. Hire a coach!

Of COURSE, we put this one in, right? After all, coaching is our product. But here’s the deal, whether you work with a member of the Pantheon team or not, having someone to be accountable to is the single best place to start. Coaches know more about many of the things that are confusing or intimidating you from exercising and can help dramatically reduce the potential stumbles. Yes, of course, you can begin exercising all by yourself! However, just like paying your mechanic to fix your car, you can also bypass the massive time investment of learning and applying a brand-new skill and accumulating years of experience by hiring someone who has already done it and is ready to assist you. Everyone benefits from having extra eyes on them. I, myself, intermittently utilize outside coaching when I have a goal I’m extra serious about.

Whatever you choose to start with, ask yourself, “How confident am I on a scale of 1-10?” Find a 10, smash it, and reassess. Add more 10’s. Repeat. Start thinking of yourself as a fit person. Build it into your identity and flourish. Happy New Year.



By: Zachary Hughes, CPT, CPPS, Pn1