A Beginner’s Guide to Getting in Shape

You woke up today and looked in the mirror.

And you said to yourself, “Gosh darnit (or #$^@  $#@$@%), I’m going to get in shape!”

Just one problem – you don’t quite know HOW.

It’s okay; we’ve all been there!

This might be the first, tenth, or the fiftieth time you’ve tried to lose weight and get healthy. Sure, things didn’t work last time, or the time before that, or even the time before that…”but things are going to be different THIS time,” right?

So you hop on the internet, search “how to lose weight,” and see 7.8 billion websites that promise you fast results with minimal effort.  You get overwhelmed, intimidated, and then go back to playing Modern Warfare 3 or Hello Kitty 2: Island Adventure.

If you’re overwhelmed at the idea of how to get in shape, I hear ya. 

From bootcamps to crossfit to weight watchers to paleo to vegan to Klingon, how are you supposed to make sense of all this information to find the right path? The truth is that there is no ONE path that works for everybody. You’re a unique snowflake (your parents were right), which means what works for somebody else might not work for you, and vice versa.

I’ll dig into the general do’s and don’ts of getting in shape with today’s article, but if you’re really overwhelmed to the point that you just can’t get yourself to get started, consider checking out our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program. You’ll get to work with a Nerd Fitness Coach who gets to know you better than you know yourself, and handcrafts a workout routine and nutritional plan that is tailor-made to your situation. You can learn more about our coaching program by clicking on the image right here:

Now, outside of our coaching program, we also have a TON of free resources that you can use to follow and help you get off on the right track! You can read our overall philosophy below (which has helped hundreds of thousands of people), and help you get started today!

Get your act together

First and foremost, today is the first day of the rest of your life!

So let’s get started.

Think back to the last time(s) you tried to get in shape and lose weight.  How successful were you?  What made you fall off the wagon?

Congratulations, you already know what “get in shape” method doesn’t work for you.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Unless you’re insane, don’t try to get in shape the same way you did last time…it’ AIN’T gonna work!

If you counted calories, ran on a treadmill, did kickboxing, tried starving yourself, or whatever, and you’re not happy with the results, it’s time to try something new.

May I recommend the Nerd Fitness method of success: the Triforce of Winning!

Well, I just came up with that title, but now that’s what I’ll call it henceforth.  If you want to succeed at changing your life, you need three things:

  • Education: know HOW to get in shape
  • Inspiration: know WHY you’re getting in shape
  • Support: having others help you along the way to get in shape

If you can successfully combine these three crucial pieces, then you’ll defeat Ganon and save Hyrule have a fightin’ chance at getting in the best damn shape of your life.


1) Pick goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely). Be incredibly specific with your goals so that you can actively plan what steps are needed to achieve those goals:

  • I’m going to lose 20 pounds this year by going to the gym 3 times per week for the next 6 months and eat one more vegetable per week than I did the week before.

Alternatively, if you somebody that NEVER succeeds at your goals, instead try making a new habit every 30 days…put the focus on the habit and not the goal.

For example, “I’m going to start walking to Mordor by walking a mile every day for a month. If I go for a walk, I win.” Keep it simple

Whichever method you decide, it’s important to be deliberate in your actions:

  • If you are setting goals – be SUPER SPECIFIC, write them down, and plan them out.
  • If you are making new habits – add them to your calendar, set phone alarms or alerts, and do them EVERY DAY.
  • Understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Optimus Prime didn’t transform in one move.  This is NOT a diet, or a quick fix, but a LIFESTYLE CHANGE.  Don’t expect overnight results, or abs in two weeks.  Slow, steady progress.

2) Identify your kryptonite.  If you tried to get in shape in the past and failed, it’s important to know WHY.  Did you get sick and give up after a few days?  Did you go on vacation and say “why bother?”  Maybe you just got bored?  If you sucked at getting in shape last time, educate yourself on the hurdles and kryptonite that made you suck, and work on either avoiding those pitfalls or develop methods to deal with them.

3) Clean up your diet.  Believe it or not, 80% of your success when it comes to getting healthy will depend on your diet – unless you are running marathons on a daily basis, you cannot outrun your fork, and you can’t out-train a bad diet.  I honestly cannot stress the importance of this enough.  Whether you want to count calories, cut out certain foods, or attempt a new diet all together, this is the most important step you can take:

Now, most people suck at eating better because they try to make TOO many changes at once, their stomach freaks out and they run back to their comfort foods.

My advice?  Pick one food change every few weeks, and stick with it.  Whether it’s eating less calories per day, drinking one less soda, eating more vegetables or cooking your own meal once a week…small changes can lead to big successes in the long run.

4) Find an activity that makes you happy, and do it all of the time.  Do you like to run?  Awesome, do that (just do it right).  Do you like to lift weights?  Awesome, make sure your workouts don’t suck.

Maybe you like yoga, or dodgeball, or Ultimate Frisbee, or rock climbing, or whatever!  If you tell me that “I don’t like to exercise,” then you just haven’t found the activity that makes you happy yet.

We’re genetically designed to be active.

If you don’t like to move, then it’s time to try new things until you find something that you DO like.  Sign up for a new class, join your company’s running club for a day, try out something in your basement or living room, just keep trying new stuff until you find something that you like.  And then do it as often as you can.

5) Put it all together:  These are the steps you can take today:

  • Determine your goals or habits you want to establish.  Write them down and hang them up.
  • Determine why you sucked in the past and how you can avoid it in the future.
  • Start cleaning up your diet in whatever method works best for you.
  • Pick an activity that makes you happy, and do it.  A lot.

Now, if you want specific direction on weight lifting, weight loss, and muscle building, sign up in the box below and I’ll send you a free workout sheet to follow and our massive Strength Training 101 guide on everything you need to know about getting started!


WHY do you want to get in shape?  What is your reason for wanting to do so? Do you want to get in shape to…

  • Impress a cute coworker?
  • Win a weight loss competition at work?
  • Eventually play with your newborn son?
  • Grow old with your significant other?
  • Prove everybody wrong who said “you can’t do it?”

Have a freaking reason, friend!  Write it down, hang it up in your bedroom, have a calendar alert pop up every day, whatever.  But keep that reason for wanting a better life at the front of your mind at all times.

In the Nerd Fitness Academy, we call this Your Big Why: Keep that Big Why at the front of your mind at all times. I suggest writing it down and putting it on a piece of paper somewhere that you can see regularly.

Many people get inspired by reading success stories of folks like them.  Luckily for you, we have lots of those stories on Nerd Fitness with many more to come:

Maybe success stories aren’t your thing; completely understandable. Maybe you like to get your inspiration from slightly nerdier sources like archaeologists, hobbits, Link, assassins, jedi, or the One.

Or maybe you’re a video fan!  Well then, videos like this and this will make you want to run through walls.

Like to read? Try this one.

Here’s the deal: It will never be easy.  Unless you have motivation to succeed, and can find inspiration to push through the crappy days, you will give up at the first sign of resistance.

I’m a nice guy, so I crammed all of the inspiration you’ll ever need into one place.  You’re welcome.


Last but not least, you need support.

Yes, I understand it’s kind of fun to be an army of one: the lone ranger trying to succeed against insurmountable odds….but it’s not necessary.

Once you decide to get in shape, want to know the best way to guarantee success?  Make it public.  Tell all of your friends, start a blog, and/or inform your co-workers and ask them to keep you accountable!  Unless you like being called a quitter, you’ll probably think twice about skipping out on your workouts.

Maybe your word isn’t your bond, and you need a different kind of motivation and support to succeed.  Try money.  My buddy Saint said he would pay his friends $500 if he didn’t get in absolutely incredible shape for his wedding six months down the road.  Saint didn’t have $500 to lose, so he decided instead to just get in great shape…and it worked.

Build your own Jedi Council – find people who are stronger than you and work out with them, or faster than you and run with them, or more educated than you and ask them questions.  These are people that you can turn to when you need advice or help.  If you don’t know anybody in real life, keep reading…

Find a workout buddy!  There are going to be days when you want to sleep in and skip your workout.  There will be afternoons following a crappy day of work where all you want to do is play Halo.  Find somebody who’s at a similar level of fitness as you, and work out with them!  He/she will push you on days when you’re dragging, and vice versa.  You can inspire and support each other, feed off of each other’s success, and offer up tough love when the complaining gets too much (and yes, there will be complaining).

Now, let’s say you’re the ONE person in your group of friends that wants to get in shape.  Or you’re the only person in your office who doesn’t stuff his face every day.   Maybe you don’t have anybody to turn to for support or advice…

We’ve got you covered. 

The Nerd Fitness community: a persistently amazing, always inspiring, never judgmental group of people who want nothing more than to help you succeed.  I have never been more excited to be part of a community.

This 100% free community has almost 40,000 members, hundreds of successful w00ts, and we’re rapidly approaching our 100,000th post.

Dominate life

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Pick a goals that you hope to accomplish in the next six weeks and then start working towards it.  Keep it simple but specific, and get started today.

Do a few push-ups, go for a walk, or eat a vegetable. Join the Rebellion – start fixing your nutrition with small changes today.

If you just finished reading these 2,000 words and you’re still overwhelmed, you’re not alone! 

This stuff overwhelms the best of us. I’ve been at this “get in shape” stuff for 15 years and I’m STILL learning. If you are looking for a bit more hands-on instruction, or you really want the peace of mind knowing that you’re doing the correct program, I got ya!

We have two options that have both helped thousands upon thousands of people like you get started:

#1) Most involved: Our 1-on-1 coaching program where a NF coach will get to learn your situation, your lifestyle, and your experience, and then build a workout program and nutritional strategy that fits into your busy life. We get to know you better than you know yourself, and we’ve got the results to prove it! Consider checking out our coaching program if you’re looking for that next level of expert guidance and accountability.

#2) Go-At-Your-Own-Pace, Do It Yourself: the Nerd Fitness Academy. This is our online course with 45,000 students. Tons of bodyweight workout plans (no gym required), a 10-level nutritional system, HD video demonstrations of each exercise, boss battles, a full questing system, more than a dozen more workouts, and a full guide on how to eat properly, check out!

Big things come from small beginnings, so pick the tiniest change or action you can take to get started, and then repeat that every day.

As you start to build the habit, you can increase the ‘difficulty’ and try something a bit more challenging, but it all starts with habit building.

Educate yourself, find your inspiration, and create your support group. 

Welcome to the Rebellion.

Any questions?




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  • Pingback: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting in Shape | The Journey to a Tinier Tim()

  • Definitely going to check out the blogs feature. Insane! Also saw the new guilds in the HQ. Thanks for all of the hard work you put into NF, Steve!

  • David Dellinger

    Excellent advice for the start of a new year! Today is Day 3 of my own Beginning to Get In Shape effort. In my prior experience, days 3 and 4 are often the hardest, as that’s when the discomfort level is greatest. And then the three week point, that “magic” 21 days that is so often mentioned as being the point at which habits are established, is tough to get through if tangible results are minimal to nonexistent.

    There are a number of things (work, mostly, and money, of course) that I definitely want… need… to change in my life. What I’m noticing recently, and this time it’s finally sinking in that it’s not just words, but it’s real, is that making physical fitness changes first seems to create a ripple effect into other aspects of life. I’m seeing this by following this blog, and over at your pal Joel’s Blog of Impossible Things, and other places. Watching you guys, in real time, getting fitter AND changing your lifestyle in the process, has more impact than simply reading the words, “change your body, change your life.”

    While there are a number of things, in fact a LOT of things, I want to change and to accomplish, I’m going to focus on the fitness aspect first, at least until I see results. After that comes the year-traveling-around-the-world… which is what I REALLY want to do!

    I’m trying to figure out where and how to rig up a pull-up bar somewhere around my house or yard. The door-frame style won’t work due to flimsy interior construction and low ceilings.

  • Jcy2k03

    I would take issue with this piece: “Once you decide to get in shape, want to know the best way to guarantee success?  Make it public.” The Gollwitzer effect is strong and the lauds we get from sharing our goals without making progress on them actually makes it less likely we make any progress at all let alone acheive them.

    I suppose it is only a partial issue. You don’t get any encouragement from, for example, putting up $500 against your ability to get in shape so that would probably be a different type of situation but it is also one distinct from most goal sharing that occurs.

  • Pingback: Great article on getting in shape « Tim's Thoughts()

  • Great post Steve! I’m going

  • Well done David for making those steps towards getting in shape. I definately notice my clients saying exactly what you have said as well about having a ripple effect in other areas of their lives, especially if they have a sit down job.

  • Enjoyed your post Steve, some good points about the strategies to get in shape. I only came across your blog about a month ago so a little late to the Rebellion!

  • Affienia

    I swear you read my mind man. This is just what I needed. I’ve recently had to stop Crossfit due to finances and have been meaning to take what I’ve learnt and start doing it at home. You don’t need the equipment right! This morning my bestie asked me if I want to do some classes with her and since we’re both really busy it will be a great excuse to see her as well as exercise. I have the better eating down and thanks to that I’ve hardly put anything on over Christmas (thanks NF!) without feeling deprived. Loves me some paleo. I think this is going to be a good year. 

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  • Pingback: Great article on getting in shape « My Quest: 40 by 40 in 2012()

  • Bodyworkslubbock

    Inspirational post for beginners. A person got only one body, it is for him/her to take care for the rest of his/her life. Seize and enjoy life by eating healthy and exercising regularly.

  • Great article. I especially liked the images although they didn’t always pertain to the subject matter it was fun to think of my childhood with legos while reading. I have been trying to get into shape for a while. I actually started using this guide on how to get a sixpack a while ago. Its been really helpful. 

  • Nice article. Yea you can’t go wrong with exercise, nutrition and support for sure. Came across a video that talked about nutrition and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjgHsbqM_-0. I always found eating healthy to be the tricky part!

  • unfit sad guy

    yeah i had something going where id do 50 sit ups a night then 60 then 70 and so forth then broke my arm playing basketball and felt to bad to start again

  • YO


  • cody

    I was wondering how to get on the diet and plan that saint was on? I’m no fitness nut so I don’t even know where to start

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  • What a great explanation with awesome features? It inspires me to develop an habit of doing yoga to gain better fitness.
    Online Yoga Guide 

  • Robert

    Yes, that’s cool and works to get in shape, but the best way to get in perfect shape quickly is by having a plan custom fit for you personally. Look better now

  • Sara

    Thank you so much for this. So very inspirational and is helping me. Thank you nerd fitness and Steve!

  • Sam Lawhon
  • Brad Adams

    Awesome post! Thanks!
    I am riding my bike three times a week and it helps! I am getting in shape and feeling healthier!

  • cloudzeye

    Kept me reading despite my short attention span. Like a gnat. Great advice. I’ll give it a try.

  • Peter

    Goals: Get in shape for the oncoming zombie apocalypse. Be able to quickly pick up supplies without infection or injury. Be able to outrun predators or hostile survivors.

  • Start To Run

    Don’t forget to check out http://www.start-to-run.com to get in shape with Start To Run!

  • David Smit

    A great way I stay in shape is by by doing the Scientific 7 Minute Workout. 7-min.com is a great site to help you do the workout and time the exercises for you.

  • E

    this is awesome…

  • The OAF

    Nice blog! Thanks for the info!

  • Mitza Francu

    http://tinyurl.com/p25fw9w check this “puppy”

  • Rosals

    Hi i’m in India want to loose 40 pounds, going to start workouts from tomorrow and feel this advice can work for me too

  • Carly

    This is an old post, but I feel the need to comment on this one. In regards to making your efforts public, that’s exactly what I did last year. I used my FB page to discuss my frustrations, my accomplishments, and anything else. Every Friday I would post two numbers: how many pounds lost and how many more to go. I hit the 40 lb mark eventually and the support from my FB friends (both real and even some of the superficial ones) was a great motivator. Plus, I used it as my own way to hold myself accountable. If I say I’m going to do something, I’m absolutely going to do it, so why not put it out there? Every day I’d run into someone who would make comments about how great I looked or how proud/impressed they were with my motivation and success. Personally, for me, it was the motivation I needed. I’m sure this method could be detrimental to some, but for others, it may be exactly what they need. I think the purpose was to throw it out there as an option and, like the author discussed, you find out what will work for you.
    Just my 2 cents 🙂

  • BRE
  • Fitness ‘N Friends

    smart advice.. #1 and #2 is really the keys to success.. keep it simple everyone.. it’s about adopting fitness as a lifestyle.. it doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym everyday.. it’s about staying active.. i use this app which is simple enough to letting me stick to it.. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fitness-n-friends/id588187671

  • Jodie :)

    I know this is an old post, but it’s one that totally hits home. I’m not fussy about losing weight but I have really need to get fit. I agree about making it public, I’ve take it one step further by signing up for a 23mile charity walk and starting my first ever blog following my “training”! You can see how I’m getting on by visiting http://www.imsobendyithurts.wordpress.com and you can find out a little about why I’m SO bendy !

  • Voyage

    Inspiration & motivation is key!!! Would love to know more about your story and see how we can inspire each other.

  • Maddie Miller

    this is such a great article! i have really enjoyed reading this! i think sometimes it can be so hard to get motivated and get in the swing especially when you feel you don’t have the time or energy to get with it! this has really helped and i can’t believe the difference in 90 days! its just amazing. i have also really wanted to try pilates as they arent meant to be amazing!

  • Polar

    Could you please make your articles short. I feel you are advising and telling stories. Well! that is okay, if someone is too much patient.
    May be you would call me impatient but let me tell you, it does need more than two or 3 para to tell someone how much to sleep, how to take healthy diet and how to work hard. I feel that is only thing u were trying to say in all the articles which i read even when i felt u are preaching.
    your content is good. I loved it but please don’t make it preachy. No one wants to listen to stories. Just be to the point and boom. DONE!!

  • sloth syl

    this may be the kick i needed to start the change. must say its the only article i have read completely.

  • Yes ! i agree with you . we need to know ” know how to get in shape ? , know why you’re getting in shape, having others help you along the way to get in shape ” before we change our shape. If we don’t know that may be we will give up .

  • It is so true that it will never be easy however getting and staying in shape is so worth it for a lifetime of independence! Enjoyed and I am off to swing kettlebells! Thanks, Wendy http://wendybottrell.com

  • If you want to lose fat, check out this article! #6 worked for me and my daughter 🙂 http://crustcorp.com/15-ways-to-boost-your-metabolism

  • http://youtu.be/iZLGKLPLC74 Think back to the last time(s) you tried to get in shape and lose weight. How successful were you? What made you fall off the wagon? Congratulations, you already know what “get in shape” method doesn’t work for you.
    How To: GET IN SHAPE! (Shape Up)
    “Learn how to get in shape now”

  • ChrisH1210

    Great article! I’ve been having great progress on my own new years fitness journey with the Champion Fit Program, it’s really been helping get back in shape! I hope it might help others too. http://championfitprogram.com/product/champion-fit-program/

  • Hey there, Ive finally decided to start training. Im 18 years old and skiny. A friend of mine that has almost the same complexion as I has started training and ive decided to start too. Any tips on how to start gaining muscle? ( Sorry for my bad english, its a foreign language for me)

  • ChrisH1210

    I used the Champion Muscle Program, which really helped me build muscle in the 10 week program. I think it’s on sale too.. check it out at http://championfitprogram.com/product/champion-muscle-program/
    Hope this helps!

  • Angie Miller

    If you’re looking for something that works to lose weight quickly and keep it off, I recently discovered The 3 Week Diet (go to tinyurl.com/the21body ) on our local news and it really helped me. I went from 195 pounds all the way to 145, so I’m glad I made the change to a healthier lifestyle. If I can do it, you can too! Get up off your butt and do something about your health and fitness! Three weeks from now you’ll wish you have started today… good luck and you can do this! I promise 🙂

    Text me if you need some help staying motivated! (313) 744-4235 – I might be a little slow at replying but I’ll do my best to be your free personal trainer. We can be here for each other 🙂

  • Logan Brown

    I found that training for races or obstacle courses got me in good shape. It set a physical goal for me. By training for the obstacle course, I manage to raise my fitness level almost to an equivalent of my high school self! Here’s a list of courses of all levels: http://www.dreamlyclub.com/all/fitness/fun-races-and-obstacle-courses/
    I’ve done about three of the courses listed on that website, and each one was super fun and challenging.