The Best Ways to Start Working Out Again After Falling Off the Wagon

Working out is super easy, provided you live in a world without restaurants and friends and donuts and comfortable beds and Netflix and chill. This is why prisoners are usually jacked.

For the rest of us, "getting in shape" is a relentless cycle of starting a routine, giving up, trying to start again, and giving up again. As life goes on, the starting part becomes more and more difficult.

To find out what it takes to get excited about working out after falling off the fitness wagon, we spoke with George Pagan, a certified strength and conditioning coach. As founder and president of Fitlete, LLC, a company that provides tech resources to personal trainers, he knows a thing or two about committing to your fitness goals when the couch is perfectly comfy, thanks. Here's what he had to say.

Pexels/Ryan McGuire

Figure out why you stopped working out in the first place

Telling yourself you're gonna get back to the gym, and actually finding the motivation to commit, are two different things. To get your ass in gear, Pagan recommends thinking about what got in your way before. "Look back to see why you stopped the last time, and if it’s a simple fix, it’s easy for you not to make that mistake the second time."

Easier said than done, though, so:

Focus on consistency, rather than big results

Whether you're working out to lose those extra pounds, put on muscle, or avoid pooping your pants while attempting a yoga pose, Pagan says the first goal you should set is to simply stick with it.

"The biggest thing, regardless of whatever goal you choose, is gonna be consistency... Pick a goal that has to do with frequency in going to the gym," as opposed to getting Rambo arms.

Wikimedia Commons/US Navy

Find someone who will hold you accountable

To ensure that you stay focused on your goal, Pagan suggests getting an accountability buddy. Yep, you read that right: an accountabilibuddy.

"Get a good support system," he says. "If you have one or two people that you hold close to you, that start asking you questions about the gym... that's really gonna be a good motivating tool to continue to go to the gym every day, or however often you can."

And make sure you see that person every day

While the digital realm has made it easier to connect to a wider fitness community, Pagan stresses the importance of making sure that your personal support system consists of someone you spend a lot of time with already, at least when you're first beginning.

"The easiest way is to start with somebody that you see on a daily basis." It doesn't really matter who that person is, as long as they're willing: "You just want somebody that’s gonna bring it up and remind you on days that you tend to forget."


Make your goals personal to avoid falling off the wagon again

You're ready. You've shelled out the cash for a gym membership and acquired a consenting adult as an accountabilibuddy, but you still can't seem to get off your ass.

Maybe that's because you're setting the wrong goals. "It always comes down to motivation," Pagan says. "I’ve found the people that tend to do a little bit better make their goals really mean something, instead of it being something arbitrary -- lose weight or gain muscle." In other words, you might want to lose weight for your third wedding, or add muscle for an upcoming lead role in an action film. Whatever makes sense to YOU.

If you don't know where to start, just start

It's sort of like the old paradoxical cure for writer's block: start writing.

In this case, any sort of movement will work. "If you’re not really comfortable with the gym, I’d say the first step would be just to start going," Pagan says, though he also notes that if hiking or running outdoors feels more appealing to you, that's the route you should take.

Re-evaluate your daily schedule if you don't think you have time

As president, George W. Bush would go running six days a week, and he had plenty on his plate -- a dog, Dick Cheney, some other things, probably. So when he's faced with someone who claims her schedule is too full for fitness, Pagan advises, "Find a time that [you] can prioritize. Because the time excuse is a widely used one, that often does not hold true when you take a look and break down your day a little bit."

Remember, you can get a lot out of a quick workout. So get back out there, start the cycle over again, and don't beat yourself up when you fall off the wagon again. It happens to everyone.

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Joe Oliveto is a staff writer for Thrillist. Talents include making excuses to not go to the gym. Bother him abut it on Twitter.