tips for getting back to the gym + my favorite exercises

This time of the year always seems to be what motivates us to get our butts in the gym – between new year’s, spring break, summer… it leaves everyone in a rush to play catch up with their bodies in preparation for the upcoming weather + days inevitably spent poolside. I’m not much different – I always fall behind once summer passes and the holidays come. I’m currently back at my highest weight – the struggle of going from an incredibly physically active college student to a painfully sedentary young professional. I, too, am working on making the gym more of a habit than a “have-to” – for the sake of feeling comfortable in my skin again + for my health.

So, if you’re looking for ways to make the gym easier, here are some of the tricks I have implemented either in the past or the present that have been successful in getting my booty out of the house and exercises that have gotten it in shape.



This post includes affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I will earn commission if you click through and make a purchase.


shop:     powerbeats   |   leggings   |   fitbit flex   |   water bottle   |   kendra scott, elisa pendant – iridescent drusy   |   nike free rn, wolf grey


FIND A PLAYLIST THAT EXCITES YOU. Sometimes the best thing you can do is put together that list of songs that really energizes you and makes you feel unstoppable. Sometimes when I’m upset I find a playlist that helps me channel my frustrations to push myself harder (not sure if that’s good or bad, but if works for me lol). Sometimes I find playlists centered around female empowerment to remind myself I can kick butt. But it doesn’t have to be that deep, either – if you like EDM, hip hop, alternative, turn on whatever gets you going.

USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM. Easily one of the easiest tricks in the book, but it really is 10x easier to go when you know you don’t have to be by yourself. Whether you just like the moral support or it’s someone who’s more familiar with the gym and can provide instruction and guidance, it helps to be with someone.

DISTRACT YOURSELF. I personally love watching Netflix while I’m doing cardio – focusing on a image/storyline keeps me from thinking about how tired I feel.

PACK GYM CLOTHES. Sometimes one of the hardest parts about getting to the gym for me is having to go home to get changed – but once I’m home, I end up getting comfortable and struggle to find the motivation to leave again. So, try packing a gym bag of what you’ll need and leave it in your car so you can head straight to the gym after school or work.

START SMALL. I can’t emphasize enough – if you’re working on making the gym more of a habit, it’s best to start small and work your way up. Setting large goals can lead to burn out and discouragement. It’s okay to tell yourself that you’ll just go for 15 minutes a day until it becomes more of a desire + habit for you.

WRITE OUT YOUR WHYS. It can be easier to get into the gym when you make it clear why you’re doing it. Whether it’s to better your health or to get ready for spring/summer, that’s up to you. But knowing why you’re doing it will help you envision your goals + know what you want/need to do to get there.



I usually hop on the treadmill or the elliptical! And every so often I’ll use the stairmaster. Cardio is so important for maintaining good heart health, but it’s not the only kind of exercise you’ll want to incorporate into your gym time if you’re looking to tone up or lose weight. Building muscle mass is what’s going to help boost your metabolism + make your cardio time more effective. I aim for 2-4 days of cardio and about 2 days of strength training each week. Do what works for you – don’t intimidate yourself away by telling yourself to take on more than you’re ready for!



I see the best results when I use a bar to do back squats, but if you’ve never done them before, I highly recommend doing them while supervised by a trainer or friend that is familiar with proper progression techniques + form to make sure you don’t injure yourself! But my advice is don’t be afraid of using weight! It might seem intimidating at first, but it will help you get a more effective workout.

If you don’t feel comfortable using a barbell, I’m always a fan of squatting with a kettlebell (or dumbbell) – instructional video here! Or simply use your bodyweight.


I love doing these to target my obliques + muffin tops – instructional video here! Use a weight that challenges you but isn’t going to make you feel strained later.


There are so many variations of rows – bent overhand rows, one arm dumbbell rows, or, my personal favorite, TRX rows. Click for demonstrations!


Either bent or straight leg, depending on what feels most comfortable for you – demonstration here!


I’ll admit it – my upper body strength is not the best. Pushups are a struggle for me, but doing medicine ball pushups not only helps me engage my core more and work on my balance, but makes pushups more doable! Instructional video here.


These are super simple and don’t require any equipment. My favorite modifications are single leg glue bridges, using a swiss ball, and/or holding a dumbbell on my hips to add more resistance. Here’s a video showing you all the different variations you can do!


Work those obliques! For more challenging twists, hold your legs parallel to the ground and use a medicine ball or a dumbbell. To modify, you don’t have to add weight and place your heels on the ground. Instructional video here!


Planks – aaaaalways a go-to ab exercise. As with any exercise, challenge yourself but don’t push yourself to the point of failure. If you want a modification, use a TRX band by putting your feet in the loops. If you want to add a little extra, you can do crunches. Here’s a demonstration if you need one!


Don’t forget to work on your lower abs! I love leg lifts – you’ll certainly be feeling them. Demonstration here.


An arm + ab workout in one (and it helps implement that buddy system!) and makes them a little more fun. Instructional video here!


These are pretty basic and straight forward. Make sure whatever weight you’re using challenges you but doesn’t force you to swing your entire body to lift up – you want your arms to be doing the bulk of the work to avoid throwing your back out. Demonstration here!



I feel like one of the muscles I end up being most obsessed with is my triceps lol I personally love doing tricep dips + tricep extensions. Make sure that when you add weight that you pay attention to how your joints in your shoulders feel – the weight might feel easy but if it puts strain on your shoulders, bump your weight down! Here are some other exercise you can try.

samantha - Blog Signature

4 thoughts on “tips for getting back to the gym + my favorite exercises

  1. Pingback: midyear round-up
  2. Pingback: fave posts of 2018

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.