How I Finally Started Working Out (Even Though I Hated It)
Because we all know how much more comfortable the couch can be
I always thought working out was just in my mind: that I wasn't working out regularly because I hadn't figured out how to train my brain to just do it, and not stop doing it. For a lot of hobbies, this is the usual pattern: Try it, do it regularly, and eventually, you'll highlight all the great things about what makes it so much fun and enjoyable for you, therefore motivating you to keep doing it.
But the truth is, for many of us, that's not how it works when it comes to getting our butts off the couch and into the gym. Some say that enjoying the gym is as easy as having it in your genes, and some research even suggests so. Even then, people aren't mice in a lab, and gaining weight means it's harder to justify carrying so much more gravitational pull than others who don't have to carry so much genetically.
Pettiness aside, it would be wrong to discredit the fact that the treadmill was originally created as a device of torture, so it's not difficult to see where despising the chore of running in order to lose weight (the main reason so many of us choose this difficult-to-choose lifestyle in the first place) originally came from. Even if your feelings about the treadmill or weights lean more towards a break-up than a long-term relationship, just like any relationship, it is still a relationship that can be cultivated and loved in an appropriate way, so that your innate laziness becomes less of a physical requirement, and more of a mental one.
From someone who couldn't love herself until she felt that she had controlled her own physical appearance destiny, here are some tips on what I did to curb the need for couch-time to gym-time.
Finding the best strategy to trigger your motivation
For a lot of us, going to the gym can be a bit intimidating. Most of the time, you won't know what to do, so you'll resort to something relatively straightforward, like the treadmill or the bike. Maybe you'll even watch someone else do something on a machine, and give that a go for a little while. But overtime, simply "going to the gym" without any sense of exactly what to do or where to start can lead us to realizing quickly that the couch really is much more comfortable after all. Maybe you'll realize that if you really wanted to run, you could run outside around a track or your block, and save yourself the gym fees, or rent a bike and ride around the park instead of hopping onto a stationary bike. But then, you cancel your gym membership and eventually go back to watching workout documentaries on Netflix instead of actually doing it yourself.
Also, for a lot of us, when it comes to getting healthy, running is usually where we immediately think to go first. Marathon runners are fit, running is simple enough to do, and it's easily the most accessible way to work out. But, if you're running because you want to lose weight, then for those of us who are much more considerably overweight, this can even go as far as to hindering us medically, resulting in the task becoming a painful endeavor. Not to mention, running requires a caloric deficit in order to work, and if you're overweight, this can be hard to maintain in just running alone.
If you like to run, then there is no harm in doing so. But keep in mind that there are a lot of other methods that can help you continue to keep fit that don't involve potentially injuring yourself and forcing you to do something you may not enjoy. Something as simple as walking would suffice for most of us. Perhaps you find that whenever a good dance song comes on, you're jiving to the beat, or you like the idea of going head-to-head with someone. If that's the case, maybe you might consider skipping out on the treadmill and weights for something like a dance class, yoga, joining a rowing club or a community soccer team. While these strategies are less about fitness and more about fun, it goes without saying that you'll likely enjoy them a lot more while also working on your fitness at the same time.
Make exercise stick by using a high score
When I first started out exercising, I tried a number of different things including kickboxing, swimming, weight training, and even class-led bootcamps at my local community center. For most of these, the excitement factor only really lasted a week or two, and I'd get bored and look for something else to do. Eventually, I tried my hand at a beginner's six-week CrossFit program, and discovered something magical: having short-terms goals and overcoming them with a new "personal best" was some of the best fuel that made me want to continue my CrossFit journey.
When you pick your exercise or workout of choice, whether that is a new sport, a spin class, yoga, or something else entirely, find what makes you want to reach higher. If you like to weight train, you might challenge how many reps you can do on a particular exercise, and continue to try to improve this "score," or if you like to run, maybe you can challenge yourself to race your best time.
When I learned to do pushups for the first time, I was only ever able to do one or two. But, I was adamant to be able to do at least five, and that in itself motivated me to learn proper technique and the best strategies for strengthening my pushups until I eventually hit my perfect five pushups, and soon saw myself reaching higher than my original humble goal.
Most important about this step is to remember that finding your "high score" takes time, and beating that high score will likely take even more time. I have yet to beat my original high score on a rowing machine for almost a year, and even though rowing is likely one of my least favorite activities to do, the self-competition motivates me to reach higher every time I take a seat behind the handlebars.
Recognize improvement, even if it is isn't by a whole lot
For most of us, the commitment to stick to a regimen of exercise is hard, especially if it's purely for the reason of trying to lose weight. Let's be real: there would be many, many more couch potatoes out there if it were easy to keep the weight off, and to "Netflix" a little while longer. That means, if you're constantly striving to overcome your personal best, you're most likely going to succeed eventually, even if it's at a rate of one out of ten. Remembering to celebrate this can be the cornerstone of watching yourself improve week after week, year after year.
The very first time I picked up a weight, it made me realize just how weak my arms were. I am a tall woman, and have always been used to being viewed as someone who was physically very strong. However, I struggled to get past the five and ten pound weights for many of my arm exercises. Overtime, I began to push myself to reach for the 12 pound weights, and reduce my rep-counts so that I could watch myself slowly adding more reps onto my sets each time. For the first three months, I stuck to five reps at 12 pounds, and went back to my smaller weights for 15 reps each. The next three months, I bumped my 12-pound reps up to six and, within the year, I was able to completely cut out the use of five and ten pound weights entirely, and do 12 pounds at 15 reps, and 15 pounds at five reps. If I had given up trying to go bigger within the first three months, I would never have thought about reaching for the heavier weights.
Success isn't about the "just do it" mentality. For some people, this mantra might work, but for most of us, we need to be able to see the long-term over the pressed changes we wish we could see overnight. Learning how to make short-term goals in order to reach the long-term one will ultimately keep you motivated, even if it means rewarding yourself every once in a while in order to keep you on track.