I, along with more than half the population (I’m not a statistician, don’t quote me on this) do not naturally LOVE working out. I spent many a year wishing and praying that one day it would all magically click for me, and I’d be one of those people who has to spend every day in the gym to feel complete. I could never understand how some people seemingly lived for exercising, whereas I lived for literally anything else.
Sure, I’ve had my “moments”, if we’d like to call them that. Brief periods of time where I ate better (ish) and worked out at least a few times a week. Like that time before my wedding, where I went to a boot camp for a few weeks and felt great. Or that time when I moved to Los Angeles and didn’t have much of a day job, so I made it to the gym a few blocks away. But none of them stuck. Inevitably, I’d stop working out. I’d start eating poorly again. The weight would come back. I’m on my 4th go-around of this viscous cycle. And it’s not fun.
Before I go any further, let me preface this by saying that everyone’s body is different, and everyone deals with their own mental body image and physical troubles surrounding fitness. I am fortunate that I have a relatively quick metabolism and that I often see quick changes with exercise. I am not a doctor or a health expert of any kind, but here is my story and what I’ve found to work for me.
My unhealthy relationship started when I was 14 years old and weighed a whopping 103 pounds. I was a high school cheerleader, and there were like, two girls smaller than me, so naturally I deemed myself “not skinny enough” and felt that I needed to drop down to 100. So, I counted calories and did a workout video every day (even if it was at midnight) – in addition to whatever cheerleading practices and sporting events I had. I weighed myself constantly and even tried the Atkins diet. I went through periods of obsessing over my weight – never to the point where I stopped eating or purged, thank God – but it was a habit that was never going to lead anywhere good. I’d cry about it and quit altogether and then go the opposite extreme – stop exercising entirely and eat any and everything I pleased. Like I’ve said before, I’m an all or nothing type of person, and at the first “mistake”, I’d stop. I could never find a good balance of taking care of myself.
Now that years have passed, now that I’m working to be the best version of myself, I think I finally found the secret. And that secret is…
There is no secret.
Taking care of your body is work. Consistent work. And it will never end.
You know when you see those stars with the elusive six packs and the toned arms? They didn’t wake up like that. I mean, they did, but they woke up after hours of work and commitment. They didn’t spend a couple weeks exercising and then call it quits. They didn’t say “Hey, I look good right now. That means I’ll look good forever.” They didn’t take a magic pill or get to where they are without putting in the work.
I’m not sharing this to tell you that you need to look like a famous celebrity with six pack abs and toned arms. I’m not sharing this to tell you that you need to weigh a certain number on the scale or fit into a specific waist size. I’m sharing this because health is both mental and physical. I’m sharing this because both are a constant journey and both are worth taking.
I’m still on this journey and am not perfect by any means. I still don’t feel like working out every day and will skip a week once in a while. I still have a difficult time resisting a chocolate chip cookie (or two or three). But I now know that one “mess up” does not constitute a failure – and that they’re not actual “mess ups” to begin with. I know that life is about balance and moderation and to live my happiest life, I have to indulge every now and then – but indulge in a way that isn’t the extreme. I don’t believe in diets or depriving myself or checking my weight on the scale (I gave that up years ago). As long as I’m working towards being a better, healthier me, I’m on the right track.
Once the journey became about being stronger, feeling less lethargic and bloated, having more energy, and getting better sleep, it became easier to commit to. Because if you do this for something that has an end point (e.g. a wedding) or a goal number (e.g. a weight) or a physical peak (e.g. those abs peeping through), you’ll quit as soon as you reach it. Do it for you. Your health. Your wellness. Your sanity. It’s the only thing keeping us on this earth.
So, if you’re ready to finally commit to putting forth the work – if you are ready to make this a lifestyle and not a fad, here are my tips for making fitness a priority.
- Stop making excuses. I am the queen of excuses. They don’t call me an anxious introvert for nothing. I’ve had a lot of physical problems with my back and my knee and my shoulder, but I make it work. We can always come up with a million excuses, but here’s the solution. Stop. Stop making an excuse. That you’re tired or sore or sad or don’t have time. There will always be something in your way. Tell yourself that none of these excuses are valid and *gasp* DO IT ANYWAY. Not tomorrow or next week but right now.
- Let money make the decision. I know we’ve all heard the old adage that if you are paying for something, you will use it. As we all know, that’s just not true. I had a $35/month membership to LA Fitness for months that went unused. It wasn’t breaking the bank, so I didn’t sweat the fact that I was throwing money down the drain. But now I pay for ClassPass, which is at a much steeper price point. It’s something I’ve justified because my health is important, and if it forces me to work out, it’s more than worth it. I can’t afford to pay $115-$175 a month on something I don’t use. This service also has the bonus of making you pay $15 if you cancel a class within 12 hours of the start time. You bet I make it to the studio every single time.
- Do what works for you. Don’t like running? Get your cardio in another way. Intimidated by CrossFit? Find another class to strength train. Don’t get why everyone is obsessed with Soul Cycle? Skip the spin classes and do something else. If you hate going to a class, it will be much harder for you to make it there. If you enjoy it (as much as you can while still challenging your body), you’re likely to want to go back. I’ve tried several different studios and know that while I don’t love going to Pure Barre, I do love going to Bar Method for my barre classes. I know that I hate going to typical “gyms” and won’t get effective workouts in on my own, which is why I exclusively go to classes. I also know that I am not an early morning workout person no matter how much I wish it was. So instead, I do my workouts over lunch or right after work. Don’t listen to people telling you the best time to work out. The important thing is that you’re doing it, not at what time of day. Make it less difficult and listen to yourself.
- Incorporate variety. Nothing says burnout like doing the same thing over and over and over again. I love the classes I take, but I wouldn’t want to take any of them every day of the week. Cardio is tougher for me, so there’s no way I’d be doing that 5 times a week. I mix it up by doing a combination of spin, yoga, barre, and aerial each week. Sometimes I don’t want to be in a studio at all and like to get my exercise in through a hike or bike ride outdoors.
- Plan and make a schedule. Plan your workouts for the week, so you know you’ll make time for them. This guarantees I’ll get those workouts in even if I have a packed schedule and make sure I have the variety I need . Can’t workout over lunch? Schedule an after-work class and skip the office happy hour. 6 am is the only time you have free all day? Force yourself to get up early. Put it in your calendar like any other commitment and do just that – commit to it. Sometimes things come up, but you should look at these blocks of time as important as any other meeting you may have. This also applies to meal planning – because there’s no surefire way to eat poorly like not having food ready to go, but as this post isn’t about nutrition, I’ll leave it at that.
- Find workout buddies. I say buddies (plural) because if you only have one, chances are your schedules won’t always sync up. It’s easy to not show up for yourself, but it’s much more difficult to not show up for someone else. You don’t want to be a flake; you’ll get up for that 8 am workout on a Saturday because you know someone is depending on you. Accountability is key. If you don’t have someone to exercise with (though I bet you’ll easily meet people once you start taking classes!), there are other options. For a while, my mom and I would snap a sweaty selfie and send it to one another after we completed a work out to prove we had done it. There are also wonderful communities (like Tone It Up and BBG) on Instagram that help give you the support you need.
- Ask yourself if you’ll regret it. When all else fails, I ask myself a simple question (which I try to apply to all areas of my life): “Will I regret doing this, or will I regret not doing it?” More often than not (99% of the time), I will always regret not doing it. So there, my decision is made. I have always, always felt better after a workout than I did beforehand. Nobody has ever said, “Man, I really regret having just done that workout.” Do it. I promise you’ll feel better. Endorphins are real, y’all.
If you read all of that and are thinking – “I can’t afford to take studio classes and don’t have any friends to work out with and really don’t have the time.” I’m just going to go stop you and go back to #1. As my husband likes to say, there is always a solution.