Has it been eons since you last worked out? Does the mere thought of hitting the gym make you break into a cold sweat? Good news: It’s never too late to get your body back into the swing of a regular fitness routine–or even get started! When I returned to the gym three months after having my first baby, my lungs were on fire. I couldn’t even tell if my legs were getting tired since I was breathing so heavily–and I’m a personal trainer! Instead of pacing myself accordingly, I was overly-anxious to get back to the fitness level I was at the year before. Lesson learned: Rather than jumping into your workout regimen whole hog, consider yourself an athlete-in-training to attain your fitness goals. Here are some tips on how to be smart about getting into shape:

Get a trial gym membership. This will typically give you some free sessions with a trainer. She can show you how to use all of the machines so you don’t end up flying off the treadmill or wrenching your back on a piece of equipment that you don’t know how to use. If solo workouts are more your style, check out a few trainers on YouTube to see which one clicks for you. Workouts that are ideal for those just starting out or getting back into the swing: Walking,  gentle yoga, and toning. Make sure you find out what equipment you’ll need, which always includes supportive sneakers, and possibly a mat, and free weights.

Schedule your workouts. Put morning workouts on your calendar. Factoring workouts into your daily schedule is one of the keys for sticking to a program.

Plan your workout wardrobe.  Lay out or pack your workout clothes the night before (think head-to-toe: workout bra, comfy undies, top, bottom, socks, sneakers, and any outer layers you might need.)  If  you work out first thing, you can just throw on deodorant, and slip into your workout attire. If you’re heading to the gym at lunch or after work, then just grab your bag with everything ready to go. Not having to stress about what to wear will up your chances of you moving your body!

Alternate your workouts. I recommend changing off between 3 types of workouts: A muscle workout with weights on day 1; cardio-centric workout day 2; gentle yoga on day 3 (to help stretch your hard-working muscles). Each day you can add a few minutes or a few pounds of resistance.

Always warm up your muscles. If you’re working out at a gym, walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes to warm up, and then work out on “selectorized equipment”—machines that isolate one muscle group. Put the machines on the lowest or second-lowest weight, so you don’t stress your muscles or feel uber sore later. If you’re at home, warm up by doing one move at a time: bicep curls, tricep presses, shoulder lifts, kneeling push-ups or push-ups against the wall, upper back reverse flys, squats, and lunges. Start by doing 15 minutes a day and when you’re stronger you can incorporate multiple muscles and cardio intervals in the same workout. And of course, be sure to create create a music playlist that’s fast and fun to keep you motivated.