This week has seen an influx of new faces at my gym: Fit-Lite (a circuit-training gym operated by 24-hour Fitness). I would say since the New Year, there have been at least 2/3 more people in the gym than on any other, normal day. Sadly, it seems that each year 9 out of 10 will drop off the gym radar screen by the end of January. As a regular gym-goer and fitness fanatic, I have some theories as to why this is. And since I can’t just proselytize at the gym, I figured I would write a helpful post from a non-trainer’s perspective. I’m no expert on motivation, but I have managed to get my butt to the gym, or doing some kind of exercise, at least 3-4 times a week for the past 25 years. Yep. You read that correctly.
Let me just get some of the obvious counterpoints to what I’m going to proffer out of the way:
Since I’m a writer/grad student, my daily schedule is less constricted. I’m also not a mom, so I don’t have to schedule workouts around playdates or school activities or making dinner. My husband exercises with me, so I have someone to help me motivate.
With those caveats out of the way, here’s my advice for sticking to your new workout routine:
- Don’t try to go from zero to Mach 5 in a month. It won’t work. Don’t promise to hit the gym 5-7 days a week. Don’t try to do an hour of cardio every day. Don’t lift heavy weights. You will exhaust yourself and/or injure yourself. If you’re grunting, it’s not a good sign (despite seeing the muscle-bound gym rats do this, you shouldn’t try it).
- If you don’t usually work out, try for a routine that gets you to the gym 3 times a week to start. I think that every other day is doable. It gives you a break, let’s you know in advance when you need to go, and let’s you have an entire day to schedule other activities and errands.
- Listen to podcasts or watch your favorite show only when you work out. If you have an iPod or iPhone, load up your favorites for the gym. Don’t allow yourself to watch them otherwise. That way, you’ll have a reward for going to the gym that doesn’t involve eating more food or spending money.
- Don’t try to change your diet and your workout routine at the same time. For many of us, that’s already too many variables to change at once. Most of us can only manage to change one thing about ourselves at a time. Wait until the gym becomes an ingrained habit – which could be 2 or 3 months from now – to change your diet. Just working out consistently will be enough to slim down and reduce fat. Just try not to eat MORE and you’ll be fine.
- Workout partners are great, but only if they are positive. Don’t work out with Negative Nelly or This-is-Too-Hard Terri or Pizza-as-Our-Reward Pam. You know who I’m talking about. Best to go it alone if your workout partner’s heart isn’t in it. The danger being, when she or he quits the gym, you will be more likely to quit, too.
OK. That’s it. That’s my 25-years-going-to-the-gym advice for the gym rookie.
And, trust me, this is honest advice. I’m much happier when the gym is empty, but I also feel empathetic to the people who sincerely want to change their habits for the better. I’m not one of those Fitness Fascists, either. You know, the people who rant and rave about their own fitness, status update with how many miles they ran that day, or constantly lecture people about the health benefits of exercise? That is not me. I’m just a girl who likes fitting into her skinny jeans, wants to be able to go on long hikes and still look good in a bathing suit. Also, I like eating tons of ice cream and cheese. And I get to do that as long as I keep working out.
In the end, there’s no such thing as “will power” – just a determination to make one small positive change at a time. So get on that elliptical and enjoy that episode of Modern Family, people.