Maybe you're one of those super-disciplined people who never has any trouble making it to the gym. If so, this post is not for you. But if your failed New Year's resolution to exercise three times a week has already plunged you into a tailspin of guilt and self-loathing — read on.
In the past, I was never a very athletic person. I would alternate bouts of running two or three times a week with months-long periods of never exercising at all. I had a gym membership that I absolutely never used, but was too ashamed to cancel.
And then something happened. Now, I exercise two or three times most weeks. Sometimes even four. It is off the hook. And I think maybe, just maybe, this time I'm gonna be able to keep it up. (Crossing fingers.)
What is my secret? — you may ask. Here it is:
I found a kind of exercise that I actually like doing. And then I found someone who would do it with me.
To break that down:
Step 1: Find something you actually like doing.
Here's a thing I have learned: actually exercising is not that hard. At least for me, the hardest part of exercising is making myself do it in the first place. In other words: the hardest thing you will do at the gym is already over by the time you make it to the gym.
The difficulty, of course, is that in my brain, exercise = chore. And nobody wants to do chores. You have to find a way to trick yourself into thinking that exercise is fun, so you actually want to go to the gym. The best way to do this? Find something to do for exercise that you really do think is fun. Mine is rock climbing. It's the perfect combination of strength and problem solving and adventure. Or, as Sarah, my climbing buddy, put it: "I love rock climbing so much, it's like going to Disneyland. Sometimes I can't believe that I get to do it whenever I want."
Doing chores? Lame. Going to Disneyland? Awesome. Find your Disneyland.
How to do this? Try lots of new stuff. Go with a friend to a class. Get a Groupon for something you haven't tried before. Download a weird exercise video. Think outside the box: maybe your thing is ice skating, or mall walking, or Jazzercize — whatever makes you happy and keeps you moving. Bonus points if you can find more than one thing. Variety is key to not getting burned out.
Step 2: Find someone to do it with.
Pretty much everything is more fun when you do it with a friend. And finding a buddy to exercise with adds an element of accountability. You might be tempted to stay in bed and avoid the running trail when it's 35 degrees outside, but you'll probably get yourself out there if you know that skipping means your best friend will be running angry, in the cold, alone.
If regularly exercising with a friend isn't a possibility, improvise. Going to a class has many of the advantages of making a date with a buddy: it forces you to exercise at a particular time, so you don't keep putting it off and putting it off and putting it off, and it keeps you from quitting before the job is done. It's a lot easier to turn off the treadmill than it is to walk out in the middle of spinning class. Maybe you could do a yoga video at home at a particular time each week, and have your housemates or partner keep you accountable. If you have kids, get the little ones involved.
What works for you?