The Ultimate Guide for Restarting Your Fitness Journey (5 Steps to Respawn Today!)

LEGO Star Wars characters, with one on the floor.

Today we’re going to tell you exactly how to restart your fitness journey.

Whether this is the first time you’ve had to “respawn” or the 50th, you’re in the right place.

We help folks restart their exercise or nutrition routines as part of our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program…and we’re really freaking good at it! Today, we’ll share with you the same strategies we deploy with them.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Let’s do this.

Why It’s Okay to Start Again

The Iron Giant with a flower

So you fell off the wagon already.

Welcome to the club.

It’s called “being human!”

There are like 7 billion of us.

A gif saying "Welcome to the Club"

So how did I know you probably fell off the fitness wagon already?

Because statistically speaking, MOST people have already abandoned or missed out on a lot of the resolutions they’ve set for 2021.[1] Seriously.

However, have no fear. Since we treat life as a videogame around these parts, we’re all very comfortable with restarting or “respawning.”

First, we must…

STEP 1: FORGIVE YOURSELF

A LEGO and her dog

I heard a podcast interview recently about a man who had made a huge realization through seeing a therapist.

Specifically, their therapist asked them “Would you talk to somebody the way you talk to yourself?”

I bet the answer is a RESOUNDING “No.”

Nobody deserves that kind of abuse.

We’re often our own worst critic and our own worst enemy:

"I'm kicking my ass" from Liar Liar

Do you know that voice in your head, that one calling you a loser or a failure?

Treat the voice in your head like a roommate. You don’t HAVE to listen to their advice!

“Oh you think I’m a piece of s** and that’s why I can’t stick with a workout routine? I disagree strongly. I might have some faults, but I’m here, and I’m still trying! So, thanks but I’m good. I’m just gonna get back to work.”

You’re reading this, which means you’re trying. Forgive yourself. Then move on.

STEP 2: ASK WHAT WENT WRONG?

A LEGO scientist

Your goal of working out 2 hours a day and only eating Keto failed after three weeks.

Congratulations!

You conducted an experiment that did not have the results you expected.

That’s neither a good nor a bad thing. Like any other experiment, it just… IS.

So write down specifically what your experiment entailed. 

What did you try to do?

  • I was going to exercise every day.
  • I was going to run a mile each morning.
  • I was going to eat strictly Paleo every day.

Look at your list: this is a combination of variables that don’t work for your lifestyle.

SIDENOTE: Learning from the millions of people that have come through Nerd Fitness over the past decade, my guess is that your experiment didn’t work out for one of two reasons:

  1. Your goals were too vague: “I should exercise more this year” – For how long? How often? What kind of exercise?
  2. You tried to change ALL the things: eat 1,800 calories a day (instead of your normal 3,000), go running 5 days a week (when you don’t exercise at all now), and get 8 hours of sleep a night (normally you get 5).

STEP 3: CHANGE A VARIABLE IN YOUR EXPERIMENT

You’re reading this guide, which would lead me to believe you’re interested in trying again to lose weight and get in shape.

To avoid getting the same results, we need to change the variables in the experiment to try and get different results.

You know…

For your next attempt consider adjusting one of the following variables.

Remember, any good experiment has accurate measurements for their changing factors! You don’t just put “some uranium” in a nuclear reactor. You know the exact amount.

We need to be exact with your variables.

Let me give you some suggestions:

  1. Change the exercise variable: Did you actually enjoy the exercise you attempted? If you discovered that you hate running, great! Never do that again. “Exercise sucks,” so I would pick something you actually enjoy.
  2. Try a substitution rather than additionADDING a brand new exercise routine into a busy schedule can be really challenging. Fortunately, you can focus on substituting or adding in a way that doesn’t take up more time: nutrition! How you eat is 80-90% of the weight-loss equation, and you’re already eating every day. So focus on substituting a vegetable for fries once a week, or swapping sparkling water for soda. You can also keep a food journal and change up your breakfast twice a week.
  3. Adjust your “win scenario”: I get it. You were able to train in your home gym for the first few weeks of this year, going for at least an hour. But THEN…work got busy. And you only had 30 minutes, which wasn’t enough time to get through your workout. So why not set the win scenario at “30 minutes,” or “15 minutes,” or just “1 exercise”? Lower the bar!

This is a 10-year journey we’re on here, so the exercise itself is not nearly as important as building a routine of working out that fits into your life. Lower the bar for what a “win” scenario is.

Example: if you roll out your yoga mat for 1 set of 1 exercise, it counts as a win. Doesn’t matter if did a full hour workout or just a 5 minute set of push-ups. It all counts.

STEP 4: RESPAWN, GET BACK IN THE FIGHT

A LEGO at Blacksmith

When you play a challenging video game, you’re going to die. A lot. (I died literally thousands when playing Hollow Knight, one of my favorite games in recent memory).

What happens after you die in a game?

You respawn, and try again!

You’ve learned a new tactic or pattern. You have a new technique. You’ve uncovered a secret. Or you’ve just gotten better. So you try, again.

And again.

And again.

And when you finally succeed?

Nirvana. Adulation. Pure joy.

A gif of fireworks from Mario

There’s no shame in failing when it comes to weight loss. We have hundreds of stories of people who kept failing, but kept reading and trying, and then finally – something clicked.

And that next attempt is the one that changed their life’s path. Like Joe, who made like a dozen weight-loss attempt until he changed the right variable and got results:

Joe's before and after

So try again today.

Keep these things in mind when restarting your fitness journey:

  1. Change your nutrition variable – try calorie counting instead of Paleo or vice versa.
  2. Change your workout variable – try strength training instead of running.
  3. Focus on building the routine by making the ‘win scenario’ super small.

Write down your plan, and start executing.

STEP 5: SUPERCHARGE YOUR RESULTS

A LEGO Blacksmith

I know hacking your experiments to get better data isn’t exactly “scientifically smart” or “morally responsible,” but I’m the one writing this guide and I have more important stuff to say. So you’re just gonna have to deal with it.

Once you start your new experiment, here’s how you can stack the deck in your favor:

#1) Write everything down. Write down your workouts. Write down what you eat. Treat it like a science experiment, and you’re collecting data! Plan ahead. Be PRO-active (“I will do Strength Training Workout A at 4pm and tonight I’ll have roasted chicken and bacon-wrapped asparagus) instead of RE-active (“What should I do for exercise right now?” and “Ah, what’s for dinner? Oooh, Burger King!”)

#2) Recruit allies to your team. Don’t go this alone, as you’re more likely to succeed based on the people you spend time with and hang around. So recruit allies. Start spending more time with healthy people that empower you (even virtually), rather than unhealthy people that enable you and drag you down. Join a running group online. Find a lifting “accountabilibuddy,” or someone you can check in with.

#3) Hire a professional. There are two types of coaches worth the investment:

  • An in-person trainer if you are looking to supercharge your form on specific exercises like Olympic lifts, squats, deadlifts, etc. An in-person trainer can be good for people that need the accountability of somebody they’ve paid to meet them in the gym. Although to be honest, with the ongoing pandemic, gym availability and safety can be hit or miss.
  • An online coach that represents mobile, worldwide accountability. I’ve had a coach for 6 years and it’s changed my life. Knowing that I have a workout and nutrition strategy to follow each day is game-changing.

GET BACK IN THE FIGHT

An old mandrill named Rafiki once taught me: “Yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it, or learn from it.”

Okay maybe he taught that to Simba in The Lion King, but I too learned the same lesson:

"The Past Hurts" from Lion King

TO RECAP:

#1) Forgive yourself. You wouldn’t talk to somebody else the way you talk to yourself, so have some freaking compassion. You’re trying.

#2) Identify what experiment you JUST tried. Write down what you believe went wrong over the past few weeks. Congrats – you found a strategy that doesn’t work.

#3) Pick a new path, try a different variable. A good scientist meticulously tracks their data and writes down their hypothesis. I would change one of the following:

  • Exercise: do less – focus on building the routine and doing it consistently. Here’s how to exercise in a way that doesn’t feel like exercise.
  • Nutrition: change less. If you couldn’t stick with a diet for 3 weeks, it was too restrictive. Try a different path. For help, check out our Guide to Healthy Eating. It’s designed to build on one small tiny improvement over time.
  • Win scenario: don’t let “perfect” be the enemy of “good.”

#4) And then try again.

You and this sheep both now know how to follow a plant-based diet. But you'll have to eat more than grass.

Oh, and for #5 (“Supercharge your results”), I have two perfect ways to help you respawn today:

A) If you want step-by-step guidance on how to lose weight, eat better, and get stronger, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program.

Many of our clients kept respawning for years, and it was only when working with a trained professional that they finally learned how to maintain progress.

B) If you want an exact blueprint for getting in shape, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Plus, there’s a nice shiny button you can press so you can respawn in our app whenever you want! No judgement, restart whenever.

Try your free trial right here:

Alright, that does it for me today.

For the Rebellion!

-Steve

PS: If you want more tips and tricks on how to stick to your goals this year, check out 5 Hacks to Effortlessly Build Healthy Habits in 2021.

###

Photo Citation: Oh My Goodness! Shut Me Down, The Iron Giant, “Hello, old friend. Is he ready for me?”, Happy Halloween!!, At the blacksmith’s (Part 2), Medieval Blacksmith

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75 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide for Restarting Your Fitness Journey (5 Steps to Respawn Today!)

  1. Perfect timing with this post Steve! This is just what I needed to read. Work has got me stressed out with travel (I don’t travel very well), deadlines, and bosses with really bad short-term memory. I noticed in the past when things got like this, I would eat…anything and everything. The holiday season makes it all too easy to eat too much. I was thinking this morning that I need to re-focus on my efforts to get/stay healthy, and so today I will start tracking my food intake again (which has worked very well in the past) and diversify my exercise plans (which would make my fiance happy as she’s been trying to get me to swim for months).

    My fiance and I have a half marathon on Sunday…here’s to a good run and keeping the train rolling thereafter! Thanks again Steve, and happy Respawn Day!

  2. I just wanted to say thank you 🙂 you always seem to know what I need to hear at the right time! Keep up the good work; you’re awesome!

  3. With the recent WoW xpac release, thanksgiving and of course friendsgiving November has not been a very productive month for me..

    thanks for the inspiration! Today I re-spawn 🙂

  4. i know it’s said better to have loved and lost than never to have loved. it’s like that w me and fitness. i’ve been fit and i’ve lost it. so in theory i should be pleased to know it’s possible. but oof the starting again. thanks for the kick in the pants. 🙂

  5. Thanks Steve, as always your article is well timed and hits home. Count me in. Thanks for this, don’t ever stop.

  6. btw – when creating the login you have to check that you’ve read the terms and conditions but that link doesn’t seem to work on my machine. hopefully i haven’t agreed to name my next girl child Steve. 🙂

  7. I want to respawn! My biggest issue is getting started. I try to jump full force into healthy living habits and then it ends up being “I’ll start Monday” I think I’m just going to try Paleo for now and see what happens.

  8. Thank you for this. I was feeling defeated, embarrassed, not worthy. I had definitely fallen off the wagon. You inspired me (again). I’ve changed my mind set and I’m ready to kick ass! I’ve re-spawned with hands on hips, chin raised, cape flapping in the wind.

  9. This is an awesome post – I’m going to take some time out of my day today to hit the Respawn Point and cheer on some returning Rebels! 🙂

  10. NO JOKE! I am litterally sitting here feeling guilty because I ATE a LOT on my vacation last week and feel like my pants once again are tight and feel like a failure! I AM RESPAWNING! Let’s do this!

  11. I’m getting rid of my microwave. It’s too convenient in making food that isn’t great for me or my wife. You’ve got to choose the hard right, not the easy left.

  12. This is exactly what I needed to see today! I’ve been working out, but my diet has gone straight to hell lately (although the cookie sundae was WORTH IT). It’s hard to stick to eating healthily during the holidays, but I’m going to get back on that horse and keep trying (even though I live by the words of Homer Simpson, who said “Trying is the first step toward failure.”).

    Also, thanks for making the donation (your timing is extra-perfect, since it’s #GivingTuesday). You rock, and so do all of my fellow Rebels!

  13. ….

    Seriously? You’re totally not getting the chocolate I was going to ship you and your wife now. Also I’m going to sick the entire guild on you.

    (Okay fine, you will get the chocolate.)

  14. Great minds think alike. I had missed two weeks of workouts mid November. By the time the Saturday after Thanksgiving had arrived, I felt like a slug, so I kicked myself out of bed and did a workout. My reasoning is the same you mentioned in the article: why wait? By Christmas, I want to give myself the present of having completed at least 12 workouts with some walking done in between them.

  15. Thank you so much for this article. It seems like you can read my mind or know my circumstances. You must be some kind of Jedi Master or have your own Cerebus. >.>

    Anyway, I had an aunt pass away a couple of weeks ago. Second one this year. Of course, that side of the family being in the South, we had a ton of food, which wasn’t really the greatest of all foods. Add that to the funeral being the same week as Thanksgiving, I didn’t do so good foodwise. When I finally got back in town, I actually signed up for a gym (something I keep putting off) and now I’m having to face the whole actually going. This is a great respawn point for me, so again thanks!

  16. Holy friggin’ crap, Steve!!! You are completely and totally talking to me with the above post!! I have re-started so many times over the past 10 yrs, and I’ve only gotten 10 yrs older, roughly the same weight, and 4″ bigger around my gut!! I’m telling my “quitting” again……”YOU WILL NOT PASS!!!” I will post more on the message boards. Thanks bro.

  17. Thank you for your encouraging post! Today I’ve respawned and went to the gym finally! Although I was shaking of fear, like omg I have to change in the locker, or everybody will see my donut like belly fat area shaking when I move etc – but I could do all my workouts and now I’m feeling so good and I feel a lot of respect for myself for being so courageous today and for trying again. I cannot thank NF for all the support.

    I don’t know how those bad voices in our minds develope. When I babysit my niece and nephew, they never think bad about their appearance or hated parts of their body etc. Those thoughts are quite an unnatural thing for me and it is so hard to deal with them and change them to like yourself again and to regain a supportive mind-voice for oneself.

  18. Just what I needed! With so many things to do and stress levels getting high, it’s been very difficult to keep it right, but I’m gonna try again no matter what. Thank you!

  19. LOVE it Steve! Your “and you drop a loud “F*** YEAH!”… scaring the crap out of your cat.” made me F***in’ laugh my ass off and almost fall out of my chair. (:

    I just remade my commitment on December 1st to my paleo and recently KETO leveled-up way of eating I started on October 15th. I fell off the wagon when a girl I have the hots for leaned into me when I was 15 days into my new diet being super solid and grounded – rocking it out in town. I got scared after she gave me her phone number to ask her out – finally worked up the courage to call and ask her out and she said “can I get back to you?” and of course I said yes – but bummed myself out and started eating sweets and drinking too much alcohol and caffeine which made me not so “the man” anymore. It’s a long story but I self sabotaged because I’m comfortable being single and avoiding women – but the truth is I hella want to be dating and spending time with lovely women and eventually be sharing my life and dreams with the woman of my dreams! This is way more scary than the familiar world of sugar, over caffenation and alcohol – you know the numb place to avoid being the man I really want to be!

    So friends I’m officially declaring I’m back onnit with my diet and I SO wish you folks had a place I could meet you here in Southern Oregon to make new friends in real time!

    BOOM – Respawning Cheers!

  20. Hey steve ur awesome man…blessed to be part of this community…I. Got into depression because of so called heart break and then the typoid n fever ..broke me more..time to respawn now….be with me guys need u all the more …now

  21. the world needs you Swizz! Come on back 🙂

    And we’re here to show you that you have the ability to level yourself up…that’s what we’re here for!

  22. I mean, does Nerd Fitness count as your wife? 😛

    But no. That was to the Giant Jerk. Because he’s all, like, Jerky and what not. And hasn’t updated his challenge thread in over a week. (Maybe public shaming will get him to update his thread. I know motivational techniques! >.> <.< )

  23. Heh. That’s funny. Last week (or rather, from Thursday before last week) I was on vacation to my family in another state. Naturally, I stopped working out, stopped eating Paleo, and stopped living healthy in favor of sleeping all day, eating whatever was around, and lounging on couches.

    Got back home this week and today was my first day back at the gym. Had to cut back on the weights I was lifting on all my exercises. I may have cried a little.

  24. Thank you for this. I fell off hard, turned 30, haven’t updated my log in almost a week and needed a little push. Thank god I didn’t waste the remainder of December to “start right at Jan 1st”, you’re right, there’s a lot that can be done until then.

  25. I promise you Steve ull proud of me in coming months …thnks a ton for all the support…

  26. I’m sorry but much of this reads like I’m speaking with a 15 year old gamer. No matter how knowledgeable.

  27. I absolutely love your articles and pics! Totally talking to the nerd in me! You’ve always got such great posts and links. Thanks for all your hard work!

  28. Steve – you’re awesome. My problem isn’t working out or eating right – it’s actually getting on and posting about it! That always seems lost on me, so this was a great article to help me remember that the Alliance is here to cheer me on! It doesn’t get mad or make me feel guilty.

  29. Dude, you are getting really serious with the gamer references! This is great timing for me as I am going through some heavy shit personally and need a respawn now. Taking it not tomorrow, but today!

  30. Great article Steve! I’m personally going through that right now. Not that I went REALLY crazy over Thanksgiving, but looking at my diet again and realizing that I was eating more carbs than I expected.

    Some stuff- like carrots- definitely have more sugar than I’d realized!

  31. Thanks Steve! My fiance and I ran really well today. I ran a 1:57:42 (my first half marathon) and my fiance ran a 2:15:41, which is about a minute faster than her time last year 🙂

  32. hey Steve, gaming has been part of my life since I was about 5 and still is to this day…my favorite genre being adventure and RPG…so you can only keep these references out for so long 🙂 Besides, they just make perfect sense!

  33. don’t forget, you posting your successes and struggles aren’t just for you. There’s about 30,000 people to inspire and remind that they’re not alone and they’re fighting along side you too! You’re inspiring more people than you probably realize Jedimom!

  34. I’ve been lurking around for awhile, but i think this article(& the knowledge of that particular thread) might be what brings me into the community. This was a super great read, at what feels like an important breaking point for me.

  35. So I’m 2 months late on this post, but I just wanted to say that I have respawned and I’m doing great! I did a fit challenge last fall and came in 7 out 25. I lost about an inch and a half on my waist and improved my BMI, I felt great! I kept it up for a few weeks after the challenge but then lost all motivation. Even though I was sad and upset to see all that hard work go to waste, I still ate that slice of pizza/burger/fries/soda. Well, I decided to enter that fit challenge again in early Jan., only this time it is six weeks longer. I’m about three weeks in and I’m already seeing results again! I’m just now reading this article and it made me feel good to know that even though I failed the first time, it’s okay to respawn and try again. And keep it up this time! 😉

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