Getting back into an exercise routine after you’ve taken time off is difficult, so we’ve outlined 5 tips to help you ease in without losing motivation or risking injury.

  1. Take advantage of your environment

Use nearby places and common activities as exercise outlets. Could you walk to work rather than drive? Take the dog on one more extra lap around the block? Maybe you can utilize the stairs at your job, rather than take the elevator. Volunteer to pick up trash from your office or wash and clean windows and shelves during your workday. All of these ideas demonstrate using your nearby home or work environment to get back into exercise. Volunteering to do some extra activities around the office may also show coworkers that you want to improve work surroundings for everyone.

  1. Set a series of small goals and record successes

Every journey begins with a single step. Setting small, achievable goals will give you positive reinforcement and will motivate you to continue exercising. If you met your goal yesterday, you could do it again today, and tomorrow! Keep your goal small to start out. Over time, you’ll be able to increase your effort, and it will get easier to do more exercise. Don’t expect to go from zero to 100 overnight! Focus on what you can do right now, and break things down into achievable benchmarks. Every time you’ve had success, write it down or send yourself an email that explains what you accomplished that day. Organize all these records of success into one easily accessible place you can go back to when you feel discouraged. Small victories count!

  1. Don’t wait for the perfect situation

Don’t delay – move today! Your new exercise routine may not be exactly what you want it to be at first. But, performing some kind of exercise is better than doing none at all. No, you may not be able to move physically the way you did last year at this time. You may be tireder at first. You may feel like it’s not doing any good, or that you won’t be able to stay disciplined. The best thing you can do is to simply accept your effort, even if it’s not perfect. Any progress at all is still progress, and that is a great first step! Perfection isn’t possible, but an effort in some form is always something to make you proud.

  1. Get social support

It’s a proven fact: social support makes it easier for us to reach our goals. Instead of bearing the burden alone, join up with others. Signing up for an exercise class or another group activity accomplishes a few things for you. First of all, it provides a consistent schedule for your exercise. Secondly, the social support you receive in a group makes exercise seem easier. Third, you meet new friends and can develop new relationships.

  1. Join a competitive league

Sometimes group activities that have an element of competition can spur us forward to meet our exercise goals. Visit your local YMCA or community center to learn more about the activities they offer.