How to know when you’re ready to start exercising

What you are getting yourself into: 1800 words 11-18 minute read

How to know when you’re ready to start exercising

Key Points

  1. There’s a difference between being physically and mentally ready, you may be physically ready but not mentally.
  2. It’s relatively simple to figure out whether or not you are physically ready.
  3. Depending on how committed you are, there is a different level that you can take your mental game to. Click on the “mental conditioning” link below to learn one of my personal secrets.

Where are you at now?


Can you remember the last time you felt uncomfortable in your clothes? You know exactly what I mean when I say “the shirt tug”. You know that little shirt tug you do when it inevitably starts to bunch up on you and look unflattering? I used to do it constantly. I still own oversized t-shirts.

Here’s a picture of me in my younger days, back when they called me “cousin pudgy”.

Maybe you’re in that place, unhappy with how you feel right now, how do you know if you’re ready to start exercising though?

I’m going to help you answer that question.

Are you physically ready?


Believe it or not this is the most straightforward question for you to answer. A quick google search of “How to know when you are ready to start exercising” will get some good results for things like:


Before you start

All you really need to double check on are these two things:

  1. If you have a medical issue, are very much overweight, or have had a previous injury you should most likely check with your doctor.
  2. If none of that sounds like you then you should be good to go. Even if you’ve had a previous injury, a good personal trainer can work around that.

What if you don’t know kind of exercise to start with?

Remember when you graduated high school? You might have already had an idea of what your dream job was but did you really know where you wanted to go to school? Even some of the most determined students apply to many schools and change their majors once or twice.

Here’s what you need to know: Do what you like to do for now.

5th grade hopscotch champ? Bust out that jump rope!

Avid marathon runner? Buy some running shoes!

Old school baller? Get yourself a gym membership or find a pickup game.

There is no perfect way to exercise. Everyone responds differently to different programs. The most effective form of exercise is the one you’ll actually consistently do.

Yeah you should do some sort of lifting and some sort of cardio activity but not everyone has to be in the gym 5 days a week doing the exact same thing.

Are you mentally ready?

This is a quick note about the change process. If you don’t want to read a little about this then skip to the next headline.

There are Five Stages of Change in the Transtheoretical model (TTM) for change.

Around 30 years ago, two well known professors of Psychology, Carlo C. DiClemente and J.O. Prochaska, published the 6 stage model of change based upon their personal observations. These were not just theories, they were observed in practice.

The TTM model has grown, here are a few highlights how from A article entitled: The Transtheoretical model;

  • Currently used by professionals around the world.
  • Is based on principles developed from over 35 years of scientific research, intervention development, and scores of empirical studies.
  • Uses the stages of change to integrate the most powerful principles and processes of change from leading theories of counseling and behavior change.
  • Applies the results of research funded by over $80 million worth of grants and conducted with over 150,000 research participants.

This model is a pretty big deal. I don't know about you, but I don’t have $80 million dollars to drop on research. 

Transtheoretical Model Non-Psychology Majors:

I don’t exactly jump at the opportunity to talk about psychology but I would be doing you a disservice by completely ignoring it. Here are some highlights of each of the six stages.

1. Precontemplation (Not ready)

People in this stage generally do not take action within the foreseeable future (6 months). I’ve heard things like, “My mother in law really needs to workout”. The mother in law wanted nothing to do with this.

Characterized by phrases like:

  • “Resistant or Reluctant”
  • “Unmotivated or Rebellious”
  • “Unready for help”

What to do here:

Get more information about the risks of being inactive. Will you really get better if you keep up on the path you're on? Start thinking about becoming more active.

2. Contemplation (Getting Ready)

People in this stage tend to take action within the next 6 months. They may be aware that they have a problem but they are on the fence when it comes to doing something about it.

Characterized by:

  • Seeking out new information about exercising.
  • They may have a mental “pros and cons” list.
  • Not ready to make a commitment.

What to do:

Get involved in some sort of activity.

3. Preparation (Ready)

People ready to go immediately or within the next month fit in this stage. This includes mentally and physically. They  may have already taken some significant strides in the past year. They might be exercising right now but probably don’t have a consistent routine.

Characterized by:

  • Starting to become more active, possibly walking or jogging.
  • Not currently planning anything, I like to call this freestyling.
  • There’s not a whole lot of consistency here.

What to do:

Make exercise and physical activity a regular part of your life.

4. Action

The first six months of starting a plan fit you into this category. You are not completely new to active and have a good start going. Nothing is completely set in stone though habit wise.

What to do:

Maintain exercise as a consistent part of your life. Even when it gets tough. Learn how to plan around obstacles and keep going.

5. Maintenance

This is where you would grow more confident in your new habit and be less likely to revert to your old ways. You are not making as many frequent changes as those in the action phase. Some research says this phase may last anywhere from six months to five years.

What to do:

Prevent yourself from burning out by mixing things up from time to time. Take breaks when you need to. Missing one workout every now and then won’t kill you.

6. Termination

In this stage you are established. If you got sick, hurt or stressed you would not revert back to your old ways.

What to do:

Focus on lifetime maintenance. Find something that works for you and stick to it.


What to do if you are ready:

Get started now.

Learn the fundamentals of exercise. Do what works for you. Some people need more structure than others. Some options include.

  • Looking for good youtube videos.
  • Playing around with something you read in a magazine.
  • Hiring a trainer.

The major focus is just to get started on something and create a plan. Make it a habit. I’m a little biased toward getting a trainer, they’ll get you where you want to be a lot faster than you could on your own. They will also hold you accountable.

What if you want to take things a step further?

If you want to push yourself to your limit then you need a little extra something special. A little secret of mine is my mindset.

An excellent book on mindset is In Pursuit of Excellence written by Terry Orlick, Ph.d.
Being able to get your mindset in a good place is extremely important.

What to do if you are not ready:


Here’s the good news, if you’re reading this then you’re most likely past the first few stages. 

The action of taking the time to read this means that you’re at least thinking of taking up a new activity. You passed the pre-contemplation stage!

In all seriousness everyone goes through different phases at different points in their lives. Someone may look like they’ve got it all figured out but we all have weaknesses.


All of this information is pretty straight forward, that’s the point.

Next time around I’ll write about “What makes people dissatisfied with personal trainers?” so you can avoid wasting a lot of time and money. In the meantime;

Think of someone whom you know that has been asking about fitness and getting started on a plan. Send them a link to this article and tell them to read this too so they can find out if they are ready on their own.

A wise man and personal friend once told me he couldn’t force his wife to workout, it had to be her decision.