“Get up offa that thing and dance ’til you feel better.”-James Brown, “Get Up Offa That Thing” 🎶
I love being active. I also thoroughly enjoy making excuses as to why I should skip exercising on any given day. I do enjoy a good workout, but sometimes the time I have available is not at an ideal spot in the day. I’m mostly talking about the inconvenience of the shower that should follow a nice sweaty workout. I’m sure other people have different worries. Over the years, I’ve tried several different things and learned a thing or two about what works (and doesn’t) for me. I’m in no way perfect at any of this, but this is what I’ve realized along the way.
- Start small. It’s easy to feel intimidated seeing people who are in incredible shape and can lift five times as much as you. You feel embarrassed and like it’s not even worthwhile. Or you try to convince yourself you can lift just as much until you try it and get an unwelcome wake up call. It’s more than okay to start small. There’s no shame in using less weight. It’s a work in progress and if you keep with it, you will become that person that people are looking at thinking, wow, I wish I could do that.
- Find what you enjoy. This should be obvious, but people have a tendency to ignore it or think they need to do more. Cardio, resistance training, and stretching are essential to a well-rounded exercise regimen. Chances are there’s at least one area that makes you think, but I hate that! Don’t worry about it for now. Don’t bother telling yourself you’re going to run 10 miles a week when you hate running. Do things you enjoy doing because you’re more likely to stick with it. Maybe one day you’ll decide a run actually sounds like fun. Until then, just do what you enjoy and stay consistent. If you really feel the need to introduce a new area, be realistic and start small. There’s no need to be one of those people on Instagram flaunting their perfect bodies if you don’t enjoy the work that goes into looking like that. This is simply about getting up, being active, and creating a body that suits you and is built from activities that you like to do. If you haven’t found what works for you yet, be open to trying new things. You never know what could click.
- Quality over quantity. Don’t be that person ignoring form so they can make it seem like they can lift a lot. Also, don’t feel like you have to spend two hours at the gym in order to have a good workout. I’ve had plenty of great workouts that lasted less than an hour or even less than half an hour. Whatever exercise you’re doing, make sure you’re focusing on form. Don’t use so much weight that you can’t do the movement properly. If you don’t have a ton of time to work out, set a timer for 20 minutes or less and put everything you can into that timeframe. I find that I’m more motivated to keep going when I know there’s an end in sight.
- Consistency is key. The best I ever did with exercising regularly was when I made it a goal to exercise for a continuous 35 days. (21 days to form a habit, 35 to make it stick because you’re likely to screw up at some point in those 21 days). I know people will say, “That’s really bad for you. Your body needs to rest.” That is an entirely valid point. I wasn’t doing anything too crazy or strenuous though. I mostly did bodyweight exercises or light weights. What made this strategy so effective was keeping a visual account in a prominent part of my room of the days I exercised. I had a loop going of legs then abs then arms with each zone having its own color. As I was putting stars under each day of the week, I enjoyed seeing the pattern that was developing and I didn’t want to see it stop. I’m a very visual person and love patterns, so this really helped me.
- Some credit is better than no credit. My family developed this motto some time around my high school days. Basically, turn in something to your teacher, even if it sucks, rather than turning in nothing at all. (It wasn’t in relation to me, I swear). Some days you’re not feeling the workout and you’re just going to skip it. Don’t. Do something, even if it’s small. Stretch for 5 minutes. Do some squats, push-ups or jumping jacks. On these days, it’s not about expecting to get a great workout in. It’s about making a point to yourself that exercise is not going to be put on the back burner. Being active isn’t going to be optional, it’s going to be part of your daily life.
- Variety keeps it from being a boring routine. My legs are the hardest area for me to see results. This has made me want to work them out twice as much as anything else. The problem is, I don’t have an arsenal of leg exercises. I was trying to do two leg days a week, but after a while it became monotonous because I’d end up doing the same exercises every week. Day 1 would have its own group of exercises and day 2 would have its own. Then it’d repeat the next week. Eventually, it became boring and too routine, so I scratched the idea of twice a week leg days. Now, I do legs once a week and mix up what I do each time based on how I’m feeling that day. I’ve discovered a few new exercises along the way that help me keep it somewhat interesting. I’ve finally been feeling and seeing results which motivates me to stick with it. With the exception of Sundays (leg day), I no longer assign workouts to certain days. Instead, I decide what area of my body could use a little extra strength that day or just what I need to recharge.
- Popsicle stick workout. Coming up with a workout sucks sometimes. It almost feels like more work than the actual workout. I came up with the idea to get a certain number of arm, ab, leg, and cardio exercises (about 15 of each). I wrote them down on popsicle sticks, gave each type of exercise a color, went around the edge of the popsicle stick with a marker of that color, and stuck them in a jar/cup. The idea was each exercise would be randomly selected and done for a minute. There’s a ton of wiggle room in this method. The workout can last as long as you have time for, more exercises can always be added to the jar, and you can put the exercises in any format you want (whole body, interspersed cardio, 5 exercises cycled through 3 times, etc). There are also plenty of YouTube videos for all sorts of different workout scenarios that take care of the planning for you. I won’t judge you if you watch the video all the way through to see what all is involved before participating. I’ve done it.
- Accountability. I hate working out with other people. It seems to distract me more than help me. I have realized though, that it helps meeting up with someone at the same time. I don’t want to work out with them, but having them there doing their own thing helps me be accountable. If I don’t go, there’s someone to give me crap about skipping a workout.
- Food choices. Chances are you’ve heard that health is 80% diet and 20% exercise. That’s a little terrifying and overwhelming. Before you start coming up with all the ways you’re going to change what you eat, start moving. I’ve noticed that the more I exercise, the better I want to eat. Of course, I’ve had the mentality that I can eat some super unhealthy thing because I just worked out. More often than not though, if I just exercised, I have energy and want to still have that energy after I eat. This means I’m more likely to reach for a healthy option over something heavy with little nutritional value.
- Don’t be judgmental. We all start at different levels. Don’t hate someone who’s more advanced than you (it’s likely they weren’t always that way) and don’t look down on someone who’s struggling with simple exercises. Also, our genetic makeups vary. Don’t be mad at someone whose body builds up beautifully according to societal standards and don’t criticize someone who’s trying their best, but has a hard time losing weight. Even if it’s not verbally, mentally encourage the people you see striving to be a better version of themselves. I don’t care how hippie that sounds. Do it.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. I’ve gone through periods of consistent exercise and I’ve had times where I can’t remember the last time I worked out. It’s hard getting back to it and seeing how much strength you’ve lost or areas that aren’t quite as firm as they used to be. Just remember, if you did it once, you can do it again. You now know what you’re capable of. Sometimes you’ll want to play the ‘I used to be able to’ game, but try to stay positive. Perhaps there’s a new injury or health issue you’re learning to cope with. Don’t let it discourage you. Work with it or work around it. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall off the wagon just as long as you keep getting back on.