Dread Working Out? Try These 5 Hacks to Stay Motivated and Get Fit.
As a kid, movement came naturally to me. I played endlessly on the monkey bars, played tag, wrestled with my brother, and was almost always in motion. I danced Flamenco, played volleyball, and felt confident in my ability to learn new physical skills. I was unashamed of my strength, and never once cared how I looked while running around. By the time I got to middle school, all of that changed. I became distinctly aware of the changes my body was making, the crazy hormones that made me self-conscious of my physical appearance, and, worst of all, I experienced doubt in myself like never before.
I held myself back from trying out for drill team, or the volleyball team, even though deep down I wanted to. I was scared I couldn’t compete with the other girls. I convinced myself I wasn’t athletic. I felt ashamed of how I looked, and didn’t know how to embrace my new body.
This continued for almost all of middle school and high school. Until, finally, I was tired of sitting around and being self-conscious. My body was craving movement. So what if I couldn’t run a mile in 10 minutes? So what if I didn’t perform for an audience? So what if I wasn’t part of an official team? I needed to move for me, and nobody else.
I started slow. I put on my favorite playlist and did my best to run for one whole song, and rest for the next. I invited friends to go on hikes with me. I danced in my room for hours. I played with my dogs. I took Nia classes.
Slowly but surely, I could feel a beam of inner confidence and joy return to my body. The kind that only exists when you feel how wonderful it is to move in your own skin. This experience was all I needed to set me down a path of consistent exercise. And by consistent, I don’t mean always working out 3-5 times a week. I mean being committed to exercise over the long run. I’ve taken gaps in between for holidays, for injuries, for work etc., but I will always return to movement because I know how amazing it makes me feel.
This commitment to moving your body over the long run, and being dedicated to learning how to move in your own skin, no matter what physical changes you go through, is what matters most. Far too often, people get discouraged and give up on themselves when it comes to exercising. They experience an injury. Their work schedule is too busy. They put other people’s needs ahead of themselves. They feel ashamed to move in public. They don’t know how to use certain equipment. The list can go on and on and on.
While all of these reasons for not moving are inconvenient, they are not the end all be all. All of them can be overcome, and should be overcome. Humans are designed for movement. We are not created to be sedentary beings. In fact, we depend on moving for survival. Physical activity helps us complete stress cycles that come up throughout the day. It releases endorphins, boosts our energy, and alleviates depression and anxiety. Exercise wards off disease, increases our longevity, and helps us stay strong.
There are a million and one reasons that exercise is good for you, but knowing these facts doesn’t necessarily make implementing exercise in your life any easier. That’s why I want to offer you 5 hacks for workout motivation and creating a consistent practice!
5 Hacks to Stay Motivated and Get Fit!
1. Make working out accessible.
Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t about whether or not you have strong will power. It’s about whether or not you design your environment to support your wellness goals. Set yourself up for success by making your workouts accessible. Say goodbye to the days where you have to drive 30 minutes or more to a gym to get your move on. Instead invest in affordable workout equipment that you can keep at home. Consider items like a Yoga Mat, a set of dumbbells, a jump rope, a medicine ball, resistance bands, or even a hula hoop. Once you have the items you want, keep them somewhere you can visibly see them, like your living room, or even a corner in your bedroom. This way, you are constantly reminded to move, and you have everything you need within reach.
If you do decide to opt for a gym, or group classes, or another form of exercise that requires you to leave your house, set your clothes out the night before to make it 10x easier on yourself. If money is a challenge, remember that there are a TON of free workouts that you can access on YouTube. Truthfully you don’t even have to buy any equipment if you aren’t able to because bodyweight exercises are some of the best for getting in shape. Most importantly, remember that working out doesn’t have to be expensive, timely or exclusive. No matter what your financial circumstances or time constraints are, you can always find a way to move when you make physical activity accessible for yourself.
2. Expand your idea of what working out means, and move any chance you get.
Dan Buettner, a National Geographic writer spent years investigating the worlds Blue Zones – areas in the world with the highest longevity. In his book “The Blue Zones” he reveals that the longest-lived people don’t actually engage in extreme forms of exercise like CrossFit, HIIT or marathon running. Instead they get their exercise from activities like gardening, playing with their grandchildren, or simply going on long walks. These activities were enough to get their heart rate going, build endurance, and could be sustained for a lifetime. The point is, you don’t have to work out intensely, and push your body to extreme measures to reap the benefits of movement. All movement counts, and it’s all cumulative. Broaden your definition of exercise beyond being a gym junkie or an athlete, and recognize every opportunity you have to move your body. Take the stairs. Bike to work. Grow a garden. Play catch with your dog. Create a great walking route. Whatever you do, keep doing it, and never let age deter you.
3. Find what YOU love.
You’re never going to have motivation to work out if you keep trying to do something you hate doing. Don’t even try to convince me that you hate working out “in general,” because I don’t buy it. The truth is, you probably just haven’t found the best way to move your unique body yet, and that’s okay. Keep searching. There are thousands of ways to exercise, and it’s worth finding what makes you beam with joy and excitement. Some questions to ask yourself in the process are: Do I prefer working out alone or with people? Do I prefer moving in a gym, outdoors, at home, or a studio? Do I enjoy competitive team sports or competing with myself? Explore your answers to these questions by trying new classes, switching up your environment, and getting out of your comfort zone.
I suggest finding at least two to three different types of activities you genuinely enjoy and rotating them throughout the week. If you want to take it up a notch, try to find activities that balance each other out in terms of strength, endurance, flexibility, agility, and balance. Perhaps this means doing Tai Chi and Salsa Dancing, Kickboxing and Pilates, or Rock Climbing and Nia. Finding a few different activities that you can keep building upon will keep you going back for more. Additionally, don’t be afraid to change it up at different stages of life. Maybe what you once loved doesn’t fit with your lifestyle anymore. Just keep applying a curious mindset to the process and you will always find something you love.
4. Miss a workout? Short on time? Exhausted? Ask yourself what you can do instead.
Let’s be honest. Life gets crazy busy. Things come up we weren’t expecting. We miss our workout classes. We feel too exhausted to move. All sorts of things can happen that deter us from getting physical activity in. When this happens, don’t give up on yourself and accept your fate. Instead ask yourself “given the circumstances, what can I do instead?” Instead of working out for an hour like you planned, perhaps you take a quick ten-minute walk around the block. If you’re too tired to go to the gym, maybe you can just do some light stretches on your living room floor. If that weight lifting class doesn’t seem too exciting anymore, turn on some music and dance in your PJ’s. As I said before, all movement is cumulative. It doesn’t matter if it’s for an hour or two minutes, it all matters.
5. Follow the 10-Minute Rule.
In my experience, I have found that the first ten minutes of working out is the hardest. My body takes time to warm up, my mind has trouble letting go of my to-do list, and it’s usually when all my doubts creep in. After ten minutes, I am golden baby. I can run that mile, I can bust those squats, I am in the flow. That’s why I’ve started using the 10-minute rule. If I am dreading a workout, and can’t seem to get motivated, I tell myself to just do the first ten minutes. If I don’t want to continue after that, it’s okay, I can stop. Nine times out of ten, I reach that ten-minute marker, and my endorphins are rushing in so fast that all I want to do is move my body. I encourage you to try this 10-minute rule whenever you feel unmotivated to work out, and see if it works for you. At the very least, you will still be creating a consistent workout routine and getting movement in. After all, ten minutes is better than none.
Lastly, working out should first and foremost always be about how it makes you feel. It’s not about how people want you to look. It’s not about how hard people think you should go, or even how hard you think you should go. Always, always, always, listen to your body and make sure that how you’re moving your body makes you feel great. If something hurts beyond soreness, stop. If you need to take a break for water even though your trainer is trying to push you, drink some water. If you need to adjust something because of an injury, do it. Always listen to your body. Approach exercising, and moving your body with kindness, curiosity, openness, and above all, self-love.
Now, I want to hear from you! What has been your experience with exercise and moving your body? What's your favorite way to workout? Share in the comments below!