How to start exercising, with Yanar Alkayat

How to start exercising, with Yanar Alkayat

Team ErbologyErbology

We all know that exercise is good for us, helping to maintain our mental and physical health. Around this time of year, many people set new year’s resolutions promising themselves that they’ll start a punishing new fitness regime, often with the goal of losing weight. But this year, let’s think differently and be kind to ourselves. We caught up with health and fitness content editor, weightlifter and yoga therapy student Yanar Alkayat to get her advice on how to start exercising this January.

April 28, 2022 5:28 pm

1. Work towards something you’ll be proud of

Yanar Alkayat is officially our exercise role model. A qualified level 3 Personal Trainer, yoga therapy student and weightlifter, she is the embodiment of the positive impact exercise can have in our lives.

And, given that around this time of year many of us are taking stock of our exercise regimes (or lack thereof), Yanar is a great person to give us advice on how to start exercising – and stick to it.

For Yanar, finding the right kind of exercise to suit her lifestyle and goals was a journey in itself. For many years, she was a long-distance runner, but it was a desire to improve her strength that led her to a different discipline altogether: olympic weightlifting.

‘It was a gradual change,’ she says. ‘I did my sixth and final marathon in July 2018 (we summitted Mount Snowden – it was amazing!) but I decided to hang up my marathon shoes after that to focus building strength and developing my skills in olympic lifting.

‘I got a coach to train one-to-one, committed to the training – which was intense at times – and six months later, in May 2019, I was doing my first competition.

‘Olympic lifting (not to be confused with powerlifting) is a technical sport as you need to move a heavy bar fast from ground to overhead, so it requires speed, agility, mobility and a lot of body awareness,’ she says. ‘I love the technical aspects of that. It becomes a mental challenge, not just physical, and I think that really helps when it comes to sticking at something.

‘What I can do with my body now is so exciting. It’s been the best transition ever.’ → See our plant-based protein products


how to start exercising

2. Exercise to make you feel good

Countless studies have demonstrated the link between exercising regularly and improved mental health.

One review of the available scientific literature found that exercise can help alleviate symptoms of mild to moderate depression and anxiety and improve your self-image, social skills and cognitive function.(1)

Yanar has felt the positive effects of developing daily exercise routines herself. ‘Having daily training sessions and workouts gives me a mental focus and something to look forward to. They anchor my day,’ she explains.

‘Learning new skills – whether in fitness or not – has been shown to create new neural pathways in the brain, which means we can change old habits and behaviors.

‘I also love a challenge and I feel like once I’ve conquered one, it boosts my confidence to approach another. This is a massive boost to self-worth and self-esteem. It also develops strength of mind and has a positive ripple effect on the rest of life.’


how to start exercising yanar alkayat

3. Find an activity that appeals to you

So, you’ve decided you’d like to explore exercising to support your mental and physical health this year. But starting a completely new sport can feel a bit daunting.

How to start exercising if the thought of starting a new routine breaks us out in a cold sweat?

The answer could be in choosing an activity that appeals to you, rather than going for a type of exercise that you feel you ‘should’ be doing. It doesn’t matter what it is; if aerial yoga appeals to you more than jogging around your local park, go for it.

‘If you’re up for trying something completely new, make sure you’re learning the basics well to set good foundations for the future,’ Yanar advises.

‘Working with a professional will also help you avoid jumping in too quickly and putting yourself at risk of injury.

‘Find a club or beginner’s class and work with a teacher, coach or PT who focuses on the sport or skill you’re interested in.’

But there’s also good reasons for working out with friends, or in joining a community. ’Surrounding yourself with people who are into it makes it all the more enjoyable too, as everyone’s energy and enthusiasm rubs off on each other.’ → See our plant-based protein products

4. Keep going!

Once you’ve found your thing, experiment with how you can fit it consistently into your life. This could involve setting aside a few times per week for exercise, joining a regular class, or setting your own goals.

‘Knowing yourself – what you like, how you function best and what motivates you the most – can help in finding a routine and sticking to it,’ says Yanar. ‘Personally, I’ve found working towards a progression or goal keeps me locked in.

‘I love to see improvements and enjoy the mini-milestones along the way towards a bigger goal. It’s fun, motivating and continuously boosts my confidence. That’s why I encourage people, especially women, to work out with a purpose.’

How to start exercising, with Yanar Alkayat
How to start exercising, with Yanar Alkayat
How to start exercising, with Yanar Alkayat