Exercise For Beginners Who Hate to Work Out

Hello, my name is Cheryl and I HATE to work out. At 38 years old, I can officially (but not proudly) say I have never had a successful exercise routine as an adult. Why am I ready now, you might ask? At 35, I noticed that my normally active lifestyle + relatively healthy eating habits weren’t cutting it anymore. My metabolism started to slow down and my muscle tone was decreasing. At 38, I realized that I had stopped buying pants because I wasn’t the size or shape I wanted to be. I gained that dreaded armpit bulge (you know the one, between your bra and your armpit). My clothes weren’t fitting well. I want to share my experience in how to exercise for beginners in hopes of inspiring other non-exercisers to dip their toe in! If I can do it, you sure as hell can.

Exercise for beginners guide


Gaining the Motivation

First off, WHY do you want to start exercising? There are so many reasons to exercise, but you need to find your true motivation. Be honest with yourself. If you are heading to your 20 year high school reunion and want to look bangin,’ so be it…but remember that this needs to be a lifestyle change in order to keep that bangin’ body. Here are my top reasons for starting to exercise:

My personal reasons to exercise

Dress the Part- Beginners Exercise Attire

When I started my fitness search (I am not going to use the word journey- this isn’t The Bachelor), I still had my sports bras from HIGH SCHOOL. I have had two children- do you think my boobs have changed much? Yah. As for pants, I had one pair that I reviewed for a blog post and they were blue snake print and wore out in a hot minute. Eek. Time to shop.

Workout Gear Review
This was my workout face in 2015, apparently.

I hit up Target for the basic black pants which were fine, but they didn’t really make me proud to put them on. I feel this is an exercise for beginners outfit. I felt a little stereotypical SAHM with the spandex, ya know? I like to feel fashionable. I then tried Lululemon because I had a gift card. I feel that this store is either for teens looking to show off their cute, perky booties or for people who already know what the hell they are doing. PS- nothing fit me. I have love handles. And a butt. What am I doing wrong?

A friend of mine introduced me to a newer company created by a mom of two named Lisa Kahley called Game Set. They sell a carefully curated collection of stylish yet functional workout gear. Things that I would actually wear and feel proud in without sacrificing support and performance. AND MOMS CAN WEAR THEM. They have high rise leggings which are the first pair I have worn that rise above the muffin top. The pants have some of my favorite detailing that I shop for in my everyday wardrobe- moto styling, leopard and camo prints, tie dye and florals.

Leggings from Game Set

There are three ways to shop Game Set- on their website 24/7 (I seriously would wear any item on the website, and there are great sales), via pop-up boutiques, or through a curated Style Box that is based upon a thorough questionnaire that details your personal style and workout preferences. Me? I need all the help I can get when just starting out. I have no clue what to wear where.

Yoga attire from Game Set

Lisa sent me a pair of camo leggings with a slight sheen- they were just different enough from my everyday camo leggings that I felt ready to move in them. She paired it with a “Dreamer” tank in the softest material ever and featuring reflective letters. It is like she knows me- I am a total dreamer, head always in the clouds. I took it is my dream is to be in shape and I am working towards that when I put the shirt on.

Game Set Outfit

I am thrilled to have found a place for both advice on what to wear and high quality pieces that don’t compromise my personal style or function. PLUS they offer free gift wrap so your order truly feels like a gift to yourself. Which it is.

Finding Ways to Exercise for Beginners

What Hasn’t Worked

I tried to join a gym at 35 and the treadmill was the only piece of equipment I knew how to use so I started there. Pounding pavement and sucking air while staring at the same (indoor) scenery? No thank you. I was too intimidated to join the classes because there were SO MANY and everyone already knew what they were doing. Honestly, every class I have taken in the past I faked a coughing attack and pretended to have asthma so I could blissfully sit out the rest of the class in the locker room. I knew it wasn’t for me.

Pure Barre

I has the opportunity to test out a barre class in Lincoln Park for a blog post. I hauled my ass there and didn’t bring the proper mat or socks (strike one). I couldn’t figure out what the hell they were talking about and how to do the moves perfectly (strike 2). The owner came up to me and told me she was afraid I wasn’t going to make it but was glad I actually did (strike 3, I’m out). Although this might be good exercise for beginners, I didn’t appreciate the attitude.

Spin at SALT Fitness

I then tried spin last year at SALT Fitness as a part of a friend’s event. I loved the music and the fact that the lights were off so no one could see my efforts (or lack thereof). I experienced a huge sense of accomplishment by simply completing the class, but it knew it wasn’t for me long term. I WISHED I loved it because I felt the instructor was motivating and the music was SO MY JAM. Unfortunately, I knew it wasn’t something I could maintain and enjoy for an extended period of time. Why? Because it hurt my butt. Bad. And everyone just seemed SO enthusiastic and on a high…and I ran to Whole Foods for a smoothie so I could regain some blood sugar.

SALT Fitness Class- exercise class for beginners

Core Power Yoga

I tried yoga at Core Power with another friend. I didn’t like the impersonal nature of the class as well as the number of people in it (crammed). Also- their beginner level yoga classes were all during the hours when my kids were out of school. They did not offer ANY classes at my level during the day. I probably didn’t give this place much of a chance but…Buh-bye!


I then took another friend’s class at SHRED 415 for a school fundraiser. My friend is a ROCKSTAR instructor- the way she multi-tasks blew me away. SHRED 415 is a combo treadmill/strength training class. Did I mention I despise treadmills? This class was HARD, and I would venture to say not exercise for beginners. I stuck with it and pushed myself to the point that I couldn’t walk for a week after. I can see how this would transform my body in a matter of weeks, but I would have to be dragged there kicking and screaming. NOT my thing but I applaud all the people who can make that happen!

What Has Worked

Kunadalini Yoga

I spoke with my therapist about my desire to work out and the reasons listed above but not being able to find the right thing. She suggested Kundalini Yoga, which deals with breath work (excellent for anxiety) in addition to spiritual work and poses. I finally felt a deep connection to my teacher (Jenny Arrington) who opened up and shared her story which was not a typical one. Jenny experienced clinical depression and eating disorders in addition to self-hatred. Seeing that someone who is now so healthy and helping others truly opened my eyes to the possibility that I could become strong as well. All of the women in my class are kind and empathetic, openly discussing struggles and challenges. I have been taking Kundalini Yoga through Jenny and her partner Tate’s company Rebel Human for about two months now- a record for me!

Kundalini Yoga with Rebel Human

Rock Climbing

This past summer, I attended Cheley Family Camp in Estes Park, Colorado. It was such a transformative experience for my kids and I- we all stepped out of our comfort zone in different ways. I discovered a love of rock climbing of all things- I was able to scale the face of a cliff even though I was nervous about doing so in front of a group. I loved the solo aspect of climbing, and how it incorporated every muscle in my being and 100% focus to propel myself up that rock.

Rock Climbing in Estes Park- unique form of exercise

Our guide told me that there were a few places in Chicago that had auto-belay, which meant I could climb solo without a partner. I tested it out at First Ascent and remembered why I loved climbing so much. It is such a thrill and no one is competing against you, and this can be exercise for beginners. You simply challenge yourself to be better each time. I plan on buying gear over the holidays and getting a membership- they have a daytime membership for $39/month which gives me access when my kids are at school. I can’t wait to scale those walls!

Personal Training

I hate to admit it, but we have a workout room in our basement. I should have ZERO excuses for working out, but honestly I just don’t know what to do with all the equipment and weights. What works? What will help me meet my body goals? How long do I do it for? I turned to a mom at my son’s school who owns Krystal’s Body Shop. She had NEVER pressured me to work out, but always told me to find what I love. Her approach is motivating without berating, and supportive while enjoyable- the perfect way to dive into exercise for beginners.

Krystal's Body Shop- a way to exercise for beginner is to hire a personal trainer

I asked her to come to my home and help me design a fitness routine that would help me meet my goals, a total exercise for beginners gameplan. And one that I would actually do. She is going to show me what to do and how to do it with the equipment I already own, monitor my form and create a monthly routine for me to follow.

What I am realizing is you need to find the program that works for your personality, your schedule, your specific goals and motivations. Maybe it is BMX bike riding. Maybe it is playing water polo. Maybe tap dancing. Try it ALL. Throw it all at the wall and see what sticks.

Unique Forms of Exercise

Here are a few forms of exercise that you might not think of. Try one, try them all, just find something that excites you and challenges you! Finding something that you don’t dread is how to exercise for beginners 101:

  • Swimming
  • Surfing (I SO want to take surf lessons but…Lake Michigan doesn’t have the best waves)
  • Cycling
  • Jumping on a trampoline (moms, this might be a toughie so work on those Kegels first)
  • Dancing (thinking of trying Salsa or busting out my old tap shoes)
  • Boxing
  • Sex (yep, get athletic with it!)
  • Laser Tag or Paint Ball with the kids (or friends)
  • Wrestling with your kids
  • Ultimate Ninja Warrior courses
  • Video games that simulate sports- we used to work up a sweat with the Wii!
  • Play with your dog (walk, chase, fetch, wrestling)
  • Kayaking
  • Skiing
  • Batting cages
  • Stand up paddle board
  • Aerial fitness
  • Martial arts
  • Fencing
  • Roller skating
  • Rowing

Cheers to challenging yourself with something new, and finding a way to exercise that you don’t hate!

Disclosure: I received attire from Game Set for review purposes; all opinions are honest and my own as always.