The Top 5 Must-Haves If You Want to Start Exercising

If you haven’t exercised in years, what equipment do you really need to get started? What is optional? What items can be skipped or put off until later? What can be bought second-hand?

All of these questions will be answered in today’s post.

1. Comfortable Shoes and Clothes

Nearly all of my workout clothing is old, mismatched, and basically impossible to ruin. I have one sports bra that I wear when I’m overheated or for activities that work better if my outfit isn’t so loose. There are times when it’s safer to avoid flowy fabrics or fits, although most of my workouts can be done with any kind of clothing that allows a full range of movement.

Since a lot of the exercise I get is in the form of brisk walking, I specifically buy shoes based on how well they can stand up to a lot of wear and tear. I don’t have a problem spending more on them than is strictly necessary because of how much use I get out of them.

If you already have a pair of sneakers, keeping using them until they need to be replaced. If not, this is one of the few things that I’ll recommend getting immediately. You don’t have to spring for the most expensive pair of sneakers, but make sure you get something comfortable that supports and protects your feet.

Don’t spend money on new workout clothes in the beginning unless you genuinely don’t have anything to wear. Once you know whether you’re going to spend most of your time doing, you’ll have a much better understanding of what – if anything – you actually need.

After all of my stuff finally wears out, I will probably upgrade to a matching outfit or two if I can find a good deal on them. There are some cute styles out there these days that I’d like to try. This is definitely not necessary, though. The workouts will be the same regardless of what you wear.

2.  Hand or Free Weights

I’m assuming here that you do not have a gym membership. If you do, consider this one optional.

Yes, you can build up your strength doing nothing but bodyweight exercises. Some of my weightlifting routine each week includes these moves, but it didn’t when I first began because I wasn’t strong enough to do a full pushup yet.

It wasn’t until I moved down to a less challenging set of moves that I was able to actually start making progress with those fitness goals.

The nice thing about a pair of hand-weights is that you can start off at any level of strength you currently have. I’ve known people who began with 1-, 3- or 5-pound weights and moved up from there.

Dumbbells are also useful once you become too strong to be challenged by bodyweight exercises. Someday I’d love to lift weights as large as the woman on the right is. I think I’ll make it there eventually!

This is something that can be bought secondhand if you’re looking to save money. Weights wear out incredibly slowly, so you’ll almost certainly outgrow them before they’ve outlived their usefulness.

3. A Yoga Mat

I’m still using the same yoga mat I did when I first began working out again several years ago.

This isn’t something you need to spend a lot of money on. I picked the least expensive one I could find, and it still looks pretty good after years of regular use.  You can get a pricier one if you want, but the cheap ones are perfectly serviceable.

Comfort is the biggest reason why I so strongly recommend picking up a yoga mat up as soon as possible. I have hardwood floors in my home, so lying or sitting on the floor for any kind of workout routine quickly becomes uncomfortable. This is especially true when I’m trying to hold a difficult pose or support my weight on one leg.

The other nice thing about this piece of equipment is that it reframes the space you’re working out in. When my mat is unrolled, I know it’s time to push myself to finish that workout. After I roll it up again, I feel psychologically prepared to transition to whatever it is I’ll be doing next that day.

4. A Water Bottle

Every year I have to remind myself to drink more water when the temperatures warm up again. It is very easy to get a little dehydrated when you’re exercising outside under the glare of the sun.

One of the few fitness-related items I’m thinking about getting this year is a reusable water bottle. I had one years ago that eventually broke. It’s high time that I replaced it based on how rare it is to find a drinking fountain in Toronto. I can get by with visiting fountains in certain parts of the city, but other sections are sorely lacking in this department.

A water bottle is a good investment for beginners. They are inexpensive unless you purposefully decide to buy something fancy that’s designed for a specific sport like running. Water is also something that everyone needs during or after a workout.

If you don’t happen to need a water bottle after all, great! I do recommend picking one up if you’ll be spending time outdoors or in any place where it’s difficult to find a drink.


5. Determination

If only I could sell you an ounce of pure determination!

This sadly can’t be bought in any store, but it is one of the most important things you’ll need as you begin your new exercise routine.

There will be hard days. You might try a new workout and wonder if you’ll ever be able to do the whole way through without needing a break.

They’ll either get easier over time or you’ll find a different form of exercise that suits you better. In the meantime, determination will see you through the rough spots.

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