Trying a new workout can come with a wide range of emotions—excitement, nervousness, frustration, confusion and hope that this will be something you can stick with. However, many times it's not smooth sailing from the very beginning. New workouts can also feel awkward for a variety of reasons. If you're in a group class, it can be a struggle to follow along with the instructor when you aren't familiar with the exercises. On the weight room floor, you never really know if you're doing the exercises correctly and the next day you're so sore everything hurts. On the treadmill, you have a hard time pacing yourself so that you can hit your distance or time goals. If you had big expectations that this activity would become your latest fitness obsession and find yourself struggling, it's not uncommon to feel disappointed after those first few workouts.|
How do you know if these feelings are just because it's something new or if it's because this workout isn't a good fit, though? You don't want to give up prematurely, but what if it's time to move on and try something different? By asking yourself these five important questions, you'll be able to decide if you should stick with it or ditch it.
1. Do I enjoy it?
It's normal that you might not like an activity as much at first as you try to get the hang of the basics. For the first few weeks, your mind is likely filled with thoughts of what move comes next or where your knee should be in a proper lunge. As you get more comfortable with the workout, you'll gain confidence in your body's ability to perform and can then decide if you're actually enjoying it. You might not love every moment, but do you feel good about yourself when it's over?
"Sure, some workouts are difficult at first and it takes a bit to get the hang of it," says Jeanette DePatie, creator of EveryBODY Can Exercise. "Overall, if an exercise routine is boring or uninspiring or you hate it, dump it. If you don't love it, you won't do it, [so instead] try something else. You might not find your workout Prince Charming right out of the box. You might have to kiss a few fitness frogs before you find something right for you, but finding a workout you love and will stick with is worth the effort."
Personal trainer Sydney Eaton reminds her clients that fitness is not "one size fits all." "If you hate a specific type of workout you're doing and dread making yourself do it, that's not sustainable" she explains. "Luckily, there are so many ways to stay strong, healthy and fit. Rather than force yourself to do something you don't enjoy, explore other options—go hiking, take up tennis or rock climbing, join a dance cardio class or yoga studio. There are too many ways to be fit and get a good workout for you to hate what you're doing."
2. Have I overcome the learning curve?
Depending on the activity, it could take a few weeks or even longer to become comfortable with the terminology used during class, proper technique for the exercises or how to adjust the intensity so that you can finish successfully. Those awkward feelings don't necessarily mean you don't like the activity or that it's not for you, though—it might mean you just need to give it more time.
I was unfamiliar with yoga when I decided to give it a try about a year ago. Even now, I'm still learning many of the poses and consider myself to be the newbie in class. I don't beat myself up about it or compare myself to others; I try to rise to the challenge and do my best every class. Having a positive, learner's attitude has made the experience enjoyable instead of frustrating.
If you like your group exercise class but feel like you're struggling, ask the instructor to help you for a few minutes after class one day. If your strength workout isn't giving you the expected results or you aren't sure you're doing the exercises properly, consider hiring a personal trainer for one session to get you on the right track.
3. Is this workout helping me reach my goals?
Think back to why you decided to try this workout in the first place: Did you just want to find an activity you enjoy, or was there something more specific you hoped to achieve? If you wanted to gain the strength to do five pushups in a row or be able to run a mile in 12 minutes or less, is this workout moving you closer to those goals?
"Whether your goals are better strength, cardiovascular fitness or flexibility, it's important to be able to identify whether your workouts are leading to this goal," advises personal trainer Emma Green. "Improvements won’t happen every session, but week to week, you should be seeing progress, especially if you're a beginner." If you aren't seeing progress, then it might be time to find an activity that is better-suited to your specific goals.
4. Am I recovering well?
When you put new demands on your body (such as a challenging new workout), it's expected that you might feel more tired or sore than usual. While it takes time for your body to adapt to the new activity, those feelings shouldn't go on for more than a few weeks. "If you are not going into each session feeling refreshed, it's an indication that the workout may be too high in intensity, too long or you're going too frequently for your current recovery capabilities," says Green.
"Some soreness is normal, particularly when an exercise is new or you've taken a long break from working out," she explains. "However, if you're finding that you’re constantly sore, it's a sign that you're either pushing too hard or that the exercise just isn’t for you. If this soreness is painful, rather than just uncomfortable, it's important to rest and visit a doctor to determine whether [you have] an injury."
Discerning the difference between muscle soreness and pain from injury can be difficult if you're not a regular exerciser. If you have trouble getting up from a chair the day after a tough workout, does that mean you've done something wrong? Typically, sore muscles are tender to the touch, might feel achy at rest and the onset of soreness is 24 to 72 hours after the activity. Stretching and active rest (taking an easy walk instead of sitting still) will make the soreness more manageable.
Pain from injury, on the other hand, is typically sharper and comes on either during the activity or soon after. It could be in the muscle or joint, and probably won't get better with stretching or rest. In that case, it's time to see your doctor.
5. Would I miss any part of it if I quit?
Perhaps there are parts of the workout you enjoy, but certain things you really dislike. In that case, explore your options before giving up completely.
Your "no pain, no gain" instructor isn't quite what you were looking for? Try the same class with a different instructor, since all teaching styles are slightly different. You like your Pilates class but nagging lower-back pain during some of the movements is making you want to quit? Talk to the instructor to see what kind of modifications they can provide. Often, there are easy ways to change exercises to make them more comfortable.
You were a little ambitious when you signed up for the advanced circuit training class at the gym? It might be time to switch to the beginner version so that it's not such a struggle to keep up. Don't consider that a disappointment, but rather a smart choice to keep you healthy and safe.
You've been running for the past two months and you're beginning to think the whole running thing just isn't for you? Try walking instead. You can still get a good workout and time outside in the fresh air, which is why running appealed to you in the first place.
Your time is valuable, which is why you need to make the most of it. Although you might not love every second of your workout, you should feel a sense of accomplishment and look forward to the next session. If the thought of doing it again brings up negative feelings, it might be time to move on to something new. The good news is that the possibilities are endless, so don't be afraid to experiment until you find an activity that works well for you.