I'm the first one to admit that going to the gym is a huge pain in the butt for me. I've always been the kind of girl who Pinterests decadent recipes rather than workout plans. Sure, there's heart health, endorphins, and weight control to consider, but dang it, sometimes you just want to lay on the couch and watch House of Cards!
For most women, your metabolism changes between your early and mid-twenties. I've heard this my whole life, but somehow erroneously believed that I was immune to it. After all, I had never been more than moderately active and I felt comfortable with what I saw in the mirror. Throughout high school and college, as long as I ate reasonably, it didn't seem like my weight or appearance fluctuated that much.
So when my twenty-third birthday hit, the changes caught me off guard. I starting to notice a difference in how my clothes fit and had low energy levels throughout the day. I could tell that some of the firm flesh on my thighs and stomach started to look a little...well let's just say not as firm. Not to mention, I took an office job right out of college, so the hours that I usually spent trekking across campus or biking back home turned to sitting in a cubicle all day long. Not exactly great for daily calorie burn.
Getting in the habit of exercising every day wasn't easy for me at all. I found the actual working out part tedious and was impatient to see results. Well, it's been about a year, and (not to sound all annoying or preachy), exercising is now something that I genuinely enjoy and look forward to. Of course, I still have my lazy days, but as a whole, my entire outlook on going to the gym is completely different than it used to be.
I thought I'd share some of the tips and tricks I learned to keep me motivated to exercise throughout the week. After you read, be sure to leave a comment and let us know what you do to keep yourself in the habit of working out!
Let's get to it, shall we?
1. Figure out what you hate most about exercising, and solve that problem.
I'm pretty much an expert excuse-maker. If there's something I don't want to do, you bet your bottom dollar that there's at least five reasons why me doing it is just not going to work out. My sister wants to borrow a dress for a college function? "No sis, Lambdas are notorious for having red punch, sloshy cups, and aggressive dancing at their date parties." Boyfriend starts playing Al Green on the iHome? "Sorry babe, I've got a headache." Don't worry girlfriends, no judgement here - we've all been there before.
Sometimes though, all it takes to turn something from a drag to something you don't mind is to identify the one thing you hate most about it, and solve just that one problem.
This sounds super lame (I know), but the one thing I HATED about exercising was getting super sweaty and having to wash my hair every day. My hair is somehow coarse and thin at the same time, making it an hour-and-a-half long ordeal to shower, detangle, and blow dry. Add in the commute and an hour at the gym, and the event of working out was liable to take up my entire night, every night. Not ideal for a busy girl!
I did a few things to solve this problem. First, I switched to cleansing conditioner a few times a week, which made my hair much easier to manage after showering. Second, instead of doing intense cardio for 20 or 30 minutes every day, I now do it for an hour 3-4 times a week. I save the other 2-3 visits the the gym a week for workouts with less intensity, such as weight lifting, walking on the treadmill, foam rolling my muscles, stretching, and abs. This way, I can freshen up with just a baby wipe and dry shampoo!
Identify what's holding you back, and work to solve that problem. Are you too crunched for time? Go on a twenty minute jog around your neighborhood 3-4 times a week right before you shower. Hate leaving your house? Pick up some exercise DVDs you can do in your living room or search for Insanity videos on Youtube. Can't stand running? Go on a long power walk, alternating in 30 seconds of jogging every few minutes or so. Hate the boring atmosphere at the gym? Ditch the recycled air and go on a jog or bike ride outside.
2. Multi-task while working out.
For me, something taxing about exercise is thinking about all the other things that I need to or would rather be doing throughout the entire workout. So why not do a little planning and multi-task?
I always wish I had more time to read books. One of my friends introduced me to Audible a few months ago, and I now I can't get enough! Audible is an app that lets you buy audio books at a much lower price than they're usually sold for. I love listening to both fiction and non-fiction when I do cardio. Music is great and all, but listening to a story that's building towards a conclusion helps time pass quickly. Plus, I get to expand my mind at the same time I do something good for my body. Win-win!
At the gym, I frequently see people bring their iPads and watch Netflix or Hulu while they do cardio. If your cable provider has an app, you can even clear out your DVR while you work out! This keep you from getting bored while you exercise, and again, makes time fly. Also, since you're getting in your TV time then, you might be more inclined to go on a walk or do something more active when you get home.
Have a bunch of chores waiting for you at home? Do them as fast as you can, and work in some jumping jacks, squats, and push-ups in between. Have a big test coming up? Bring your flashcards or study guides on the treadmill with you. Need to run errands? Bike around town instead of driving.
3. Mix up your workouts to prevent burnout.
For a while, I did the same thing at the gym every day - about thirty minutes of weight lifting, followed by thirty minutes of jogging on the treadmill. Of course, this got totally boring after about a week.
Between running, weight lifting, yoga, pilates, TRX, Body Pump, CrossFit, Zumba, biking, hiking, spin classes, Pure Barre, and everything in between, there's no reason why you should feel like you have to do the same workout every single day. Plus, mixing it up allows for different muscle groups to rest and recover, which helps prevent annoying injuries like shin splints or tendonitis.
Also, don't be afraid to mix up the intensity of your workouts. Busting your butt 7 days a week is far too daunting. Three or four high-intensity days is plenty. Spend the other days walking on an incline, lifting weights, using the foam roller on tight muscles, stretching, doing a few easy yoga poses, or even taking your dog on a walk around the neighborhood.
4. Use apps to build a plan and keep you motivated.
Technology is a great thing, am I right? While some use their smartphones to play Angry Birds or Words with Friends, others use it to keep themselves in top shape.
I absolutely love RunKeeper. It maps out your path and lets you know how far you've gone and what pace you're going in real time - that way you can speed up or slow down depending on what your goals are. RunKeeper also provides personalized workout plans depending on your goals and fitness level. Whether you want to lose 10 pounds or run a 10k, the app provides weekly workout plans to help you meet you goals. Plus, it sends you daily reminders to work out - weirdly, it actually keeps me accountable!
5. Find a workout buddy.
Speaking of accountability, there's no better way to make sure you get your butt moving than to recruit a friend to do it with you. Having a friend to meet you at the gym, on the trail, or come over in a sports bra ready to workout will help ensure that you stick to your plan.
Not to mention, having a friend makes exercise SO much easier! The time on the elliptical or row machine will fly by when you have a friend to gossip with. Or, you two can alternate weight training reps so you each get the perfect rest period and someone to cheer you on.
What Do You Think?
What are some of the techniques you use to stay in shape? What fitness apps do you use? What are some of your favorite ways to exercise? What plays on your iPhone when you're hitting the trails? Leave a comment and share some tips of your own!