If you have visited any social media sites over the past couple of years, you have most likely swiped past more than a few pages dedicated to health and fitness. These can span from Certified Personal Trainers and bodybuilders to health coaches and people who simply want to share their own journey of health. If you do not consider yourself particularly savvy in this realm, you can feel easily overwhelmed. Which program is right for you? Do you need a coach? How important is nutrition? It is easy to get lost in a sea of questioning. Many times, it is the reason why so many people do not take control of their health. It is difficult to know where to start. Take a look at some simple fitness essentials you can use to kickstart your wellness journey.

1) Start Slow

Oftentimes when you have a large goal, the initial response is that the more you do at once, the faster results you will see. When you are just starting, however, this could not be farther from the truth. Unfortunately, it is a mistake most newbies make, leading to potential injury early on, driving the goal right off the track. Many who experience this give up on these dreams of a fit life. Starting slow is the key. If you are coming off of a rather sedentary lifestyle, start small with something like regular walks or jogs around town a few times a week. Set manageable short-term goals. Maybe your goal is to participate in your first 5K race. Once your body has gotten used to its walking routine, alternate between running and walking. You will find over time that your endurance has improved, allowing you to run for longer periods of time, if not the full 3.2 miles of a race. It is this type of process that is best to follow when entering any fitness routine. Jumping into the overloaded deep end rarely works and only leads to disappointment. Just like learning to write, you need to learn the alphabet before forming words or sentences.

2) Shop Around

Do not be afraid to “date” different styles of workouts. Just like there are different people for everyone, there are workouts better suited for you than others. Especially today, there are hundreds of options to choose from such as online programs you can do at home, large box gyms with group classes, or more specialized workouts like CrossFit. There is a workout to match your unique personality.

If you do not like working one on one with a coach, do not sign up for personal training. If you find motivation surrounded by twenty other people with a common goal, group fitness classes may be right for you. There will be plenty of options in your area that meet both your ideal criteria and your price point. Do your research to find your perfect match and do not be afraid to mix it up! Your body can adapt to a workout in as little as six weeks, so keep your exercises diverse to avoid hitting plateaus.

3) You Get What You Give

One of the most commonly asked questions fitness coaches get is “How quickly will I see results?”. The answer: This depends entirely on you and your dedication and consistency. How badly do you want it? Staying consistent with a routine is the ONLY way to see results. You cannot give 50%. You must give 110%. If you took a test and arbitrarily filled in every answer, you cannot expect to receive an A for your work. You can only get an A with the correct answers. It is the exact same concept.

You must do the work and do it right to see the results in your body. Remember, this does not mean overloading your system. You must ease into your routine and continue to follow it, slowly increasing the intensity as your body adapts. The changes happen from the inside out. Once you are committed to your regime, you will feel your energy increase, find that you sleep better, and notice that you are getting stronger than ever.

4) Water, Water, Everywhere

Our bodies are made up of about 60% water. Staying hydrated and replenishing the body’s water supply is so essential to success in fitness. The more you sweat, the more water you need to drink to replace what is lost. Water is also helpful in post-workout recovery, helping muscles heal. It is not enough to just sip a bottle of water during a workout. You need to drink water all day to maximize your physical performance.

In fact, it is recommended that you drink 8, 8oz glasses of water per day, which equals half a gallon. This may seem like a lot to ask if you are used to drinking flavored teas, coffee, or sodas throughout the day. Try to swap out some of these sugary, caffeinated beverages for water and see the difference in how you feel and how much easier it will be to get through your workout. If you still feel like you need a little flavor, try squeezing some lemon or lime into your water for a boost.

5) You Are What You Eat

Have you ever heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen”? This is true and applies to your entire body, not just your abdominals. You can work out for hours a day at a high intensity, but if you are fueling your body with junk, you will never see the results you want.

Your fitness journey relies just as heavily on your nutrition as it does on the workouts themselves. The second most asked question in the industry is “What should I eat?”. This is a loaded question and there is honestly no fix-all that will work on each person. Everyone has their own dietary needs, allergies, avoidances, and no two bodies react to food exactly the same.

Diets that instruct you to cut out carbs or fats or dairy, etc etc, may not work as well for you as your friend that raves about it. Just like dating your workouts, it may take some experimenting to find what works for you. However, an excellent rule of thumb is to stick with foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. In other words, foods that are not processed. You will hear this method referred to as “eating clean”.

There you have it! 5 essentials for taking your first step into the world of fitness. It may seem like a whirlwind of information from the outside, but with this information, you can move confidently towards your goal. Remember, everyone has been in your shoes and there will be support around every corner. The road to wellness begins NOW! “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Are you ready?

Alyson Monaco is a professional dancer by trade, performing, teaching, and choreographing out of her home base of New Jersey. A former dance major at the Boston Conservatory, her love of how the body moves to lead her to become a Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor through AFAA. She is currently pursuing her teaching certification in dance. Alyson loves working one on one with people of all ages and ability, and truly enjoys helping people find a better quality of life.