Photo Credit: Image Source/Digital Vision/Getty Images
“Should I go to the gym? I really should go to the gym. It’s been x number of days/weeks since I’ve gone.”
If you’ve ever had this conversation with yourself, you’re not alone. I used to spend many mornings staring at the pile of gym clothes on my dresser that I’d so impressively laid out the night before, coming up with reasons NOT to put them on and just GO. The truth is, whether it’s work, the kids or simply that time of the month when you morph into an evil, bloated witch, if you are looking for reasons not to exercise, you will definitely find them. I used to be extremely creative in my excuse-making, but now I’m one of those annoying “gym people” who not only look forward to working out most days but actually feel shaky on the days I don’t get my cardio fix.
Before you roll your eyes or click off this page — just give me a sec. I didn’t turn into some lobotomized, Lululemon-wearing hamster on a wheel. And I’m not working out in my home gym in Malibu — most mornings I’m pushing a stroller in the freezing cold to the local YMCA. Okay, it may be in a cute neighborhood of Brooklyn, but this is a place where retirees walk briskly on the treadmill in dungarees and loafers and it’s not uncommon to see someone using a CVS bag to tote their belongings. Although I may aspire to look like Dita Von Teese, I’m not going here for the glamour.
We all know the benefits of regular exercise — that it helps with weight loss, reduces the risk of scary diseases, improves sleep, sex and mood (even on those evil witch days). But sometimes, we just need that extra push. Here are my “secrets” for making the gym a non-negotiable part of my life. Maybe one or two will resonate with you!
Same time, every day
I go to the gym in the morning and that works for me because it means that other “emergencies” won’t keep me from going later in the day. I also don’t like the prospect of showering and doing my hair/makeup twice, so going in the AM suits me best. But the key is finding a time that works for you — and sticking to it.
Wear real workout clothes
If I had to put on ugly grey sweats and an old t-shirt received as a free give-away with a credit card application, you can bet I’d avoid going. Real workout clothing means something you feel at least semi-cute in, preferably made of moisture-wicking material so you’re not sitting in a pool of your own sweat after five minutes.
Look at it like a break
When you’re working out, it’s your time to focus on yourself and feeling good. No answering calls or emails. My gym has a room where my kids can spend time playing so for me it’s a much-needed break from my mommy duties (though I do get interrupted every once in a while to change a doody diaper).
Give yourself little rewards
For a while I would allow myself to download a new song for every workout I completed. Then I’d be motivated to exercise to my new song the next day. Lately I look forward to my post-workout snack — an approximately 200-calorie one recommended by my nutritionist Frances Largeman-Roth. A smoothie (shared with my son) ranks among my favorites (and that’s fruit and ice with a little soy milk, people, not something with the words Oreo or anything "-chino" in the name).
Let go of inhibitions
When personal trainer Joanna Paterson of Bodiesynergy created a workout program for me, I was mortified by the prospect of doing big, dynamic, look-at-me movements like jumping jacks and squats in front of others. Sure, life was a lot safer marking time on the elliptical for 30 minutes, but I wasn’t getting results. What I realized once I started doing my little Jane Fonda routine on the mats is that Joanna was right — initially people did look at me, but then they just as quickly went back to their TV monitors and iPhones. I may be a spaz jumping around the middle of the room, but I feel great.
Find a motivator
Even though my goals motivate me to get to the gym every day (noble ones, like being healthier for my kids, and shallow ones, like looking hot in skinny jeans), sometimes all it takes is another person to help you get past the place where your mind is telling you "no." Joanna pointed out that I work out a lot harder when she is standing over me (but that might be because I am also slightly scared of her, and I mean that in the most complimentary way).
Bask in the results
The biggest thing that keeps me getting my money’s worth of my gym membership is that once I saw results, it motivated me to keep going. Those results don’t have to be pounds on a scale, either. Looking at a picture of myself from a friend’s recent wedding in a sleeveless dress makes me want to go lift those 5-lbs weights. A little healthy motivation is a beautiful thing.