Faced with the prospect of thousands of free hours this semester I’ve been doing one other thing besides celebrating: panicking. I’m so bored! So I’ve decided to do what I’ve so often scoffed at: work out. “Me? I weigh approximately nothing. Why would I care about fitness?” Well, because it makes me feel great to get up and go relax at the gym for a bit! So I’m sharing the top five rules I follow to ensure my new goal is an enjoyable one I want to keep up with:
1. Choose a new, comfortable environment to start your work out in.
Make sure you’re doing something different when you start working out. The easiest way to do this is work out some place other than your house. However, if you want to stay in, just change your routine: get a yoga mat and drag it out every time you start your exercises. Or decide that you can only watch a certain TV show while you’re exercising. Whatever you decide, make it something you are comfortable with. Don’t go to a big gym if it’s going to make you want to curl into a ball and roll home.
I chose to work out at the teeny tiny gym my apartment complex offers. It’s great because the first day I went, I was the only person there! I got to kind of get my bearings and find out what I liked – and didn’t like. Now every time I go there’s another guy there, but I always head straight to the elliptical machine I start with and let him finish up his own routine.
2. Keep a small survival kit nearby.
Ensure you’ve got the essentials close at hand. Don’t give yourself an excuse to take a break and grab something you forgot. Especially if you’re the type of person (like me!) to grab one thing, use it for about five minutes, then realize you forgot something else and need to stop again.
I keep my house keys, iPhone, yoga mat, water bottle, and iPad near the door so I can easily grab them all on my way out. Then I keep them all within arms reach when I’m working out – so if I need anything, I can keep working out while I grab them.
3. Hold yourself accountable – don’t rely on anyone else to keep you in check.
Working out is something you do for yourself. To feel better and healthier about yourself. So it makes sense that you aren’t asking your friends or loved ones to make sure you’re being responsible for it. You do it because it’s what you want to do. And while working out with a friend might sound like it will keep you motivated, once you realize you’re only working out because your friend expects you to, you may start making excuses to your friend. It’s a lot harder to lie to yourself than to someone else. Plus, it’s easier to work with your own schedule and it makes you feel less guilty if you’re not able to work out on a day as you usually would.
I personally feel more comfortable working out on my own. It just makes me feel less self-conscious. While I have a number of friends I know I’d have a lot of fun working out with, it’s more important to me that working out is both easy and guiltless for me. For instance, this morning I woke up and didn’t feel well. I didn’t work out, and I didn’t need to feel guilty because I wasn’t ditching a friend, either.
4. Start small with simple, non-strenuous exercises.
Let’s not get crazy! Work your way up once you get comfortable with where you’re are, what you’re doing, and where you want to get. I downloaded an iOS app (also available online at fitocracy.com) that takes advantage of what I enjoy the most: achievements. I can log my work outs each day to track them, which earns me points. I can compete against friends or complete quests created by the app. It’s functional and fun.
This week, I worked out 5 of the past 7 days and I’ve spent as little as 16 minutes or as many as 37 minutes on the elliptical. I’ve done a combination of planks, side leg lifts, bicycles (ab), cycling (machine), lunges, squats, leg raises, curls, and dumbbell raises – usually in single or double sets of 5.
5. Your main goal is to make the activity fun.
If you’re starting to feel like you don’t want to work out… you’re doing it wrong! Make it a routine, not a chore. Besides, that’s really what the last four tips have been leading up to. Before you start trying to accomplish anything intense, start by just getting used to working out and finding it relaxing + enjoyable. The rest will come.
To get in the habit of working out, I’m making sure every experience I have with it is positive. If my legs are achey and I don’t want to push myself – I don’t. It’s that simple. I’m at the gym, I’m being active for 25 minutes. But I’m not making myself miserable by trying anything I’m not ready for.
What would you say are the top motivators to keep up with a new habit?