Over the past few years, one of my greatest, most dreaded challenges has been getting myself to the gym. Here’s the thing: once I’m moving my body, I don’t hate it, and afterward I typically feel pretty darn good. But getting there—oof—that’s a different story.
I’ve struggled with yo-yo working out for as long as I can remember. I would do this thing where, after a long hiatus from the gym, I would work up a plethora of guilt-fueled motivation, hit the extreme of working out past my limits for a few days, and poop out, only to fall off the boat and do nothing at all for a week or two or three. No matter how many fitness gurus I followed on IG that preached consistency over intensity, I just couldn’t seem to get myself out of the bad habit of binge-working out, which led to prolonged periods of doing nothing at all.
One of my goals for 2021 was to change my relationship with working out. I knew that if I approached working out with a new mindset, I had the potential to fall back in love with fitness. And for the first time in my adult life, I can finally say it’s actually happening. Here are the seven ways that I tricked myself into loving working out again:
1. I merged fitness and friends
Finding accountability partners in my fitness journey has been an absolute game-changer for me. At the start of 2021, my friends and I vowed that we’d have each other’s backs on the days where we were feeling less than motivated to get to the gym. We don’t work out together (differing schedules and, you know, pandemic and all) but we have a stream of communication that is uplifting and motivating AF.
We celebrate small wins, hold each other accountable, and lean on each other on the days where we need a little push to get out of bed or motivation to forego the temptations of the couch. Having a supportive community to lift me up, remind me of how much of a badass I am, and assure me that I’m not alone has helped me more than I can put into words.
2. I listened to my body (but didn’t use it as an excuse)
I’ll admit, before 2021, “listening to my body” was my favorite excuse in the world for doing absolutely nothing. The number of times I’ve said, “I’m listening to my body,” whilst withering away on my couch on my 19th consecutive hour of Netflix is simply too high to count.
In my 2021, listening to my body has taken on a new meaning. Rather than use it as an excuse to be horizontal, if I’m feeling sore or am feeling tired I do a leisurely incline walk, stretch, or light yoga flow to get my body warm and moving instead of skipping my daily movement altogether. Time and time again, I find that doing something instead of nothing makes me feel infinitely better.
3. I made a plan—and stuck to it
For me, working movement into my schedule ahead of time has helped me to prioritize my workouts during the week. If I don’t plan ahead of time, life happens, and working out tends to be the first thing I sacrifice. I find that when I manage my weekly schedule and label specific blocks of time to include movement, I’m much more likely to make it happen. 6:30 p.m., workout with me—I can’t cancel that again!
4. I placed an emphasis on consistency
As I previously mentioned, I used to be the worst when it came to consistency in my workouts. Part of my problem was that when I’d finally work up the guilt-fueled courage of hitting the gym for the first time in weeks, I’d go way too hard for two whole hours, then I’d be exhausted, sore, and down for the count for at least a few days.
This year, I’ve adopted the mindset that consistency is more valuable than intensity, especially when it comes to gaining confidence and getting back into the workout game. The positive reinforcement of the endorphin rush that comes from even a short, light workout has made me actually associate enjoyment with working out, which has made me—dare I say it—excited for my next workout.
5. I made a playlist that makes me want to have a one-woman dance party
In my eyes, no workout is complete without a pre-workout dance party. Despite popular belief, the star of said dance party isn’t my lame dance moves. It’s the playlist that gets me in the mood to groove, move, and get my blood flowing. No matter what kind of funk I’m in, a spontaneous dance party to my favorite songs can almost always cure it, which puts me in a positive mindset before I even leave my apartment.
6. I spend less time doing things I hate (i.e., distance running)
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I hate running. I can name a million things I’d rather do than run and, tellingly, that list even includes walking barefoot on a runway of Legos just because. I’ve tried every trick in the book to get myself to like running but, despite multiple attempts, I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s just not for me. And that’s OK!
So, instead of forcing myself to do an activity I despise with everything inside of me, I’ve been opting for 10-minute warmups and cardio sessions that—wait for it—don’t include distance running! And let me tell you, it has been glorious. Instead, I’ll do incline walks, sprints, or bodyweight HIIT workouts to get my heart rate up before my lift. I know it isn’t groundbreaking, but choosing a workout plan that I actually enjoy makes me so much more likely to hit the gym.
7. I focused on how I felt rather than what I looked like
At the end of the day, one of the biggest factors in changing my relationship with the gym is focusing on how I feel during and after my workout as opposed to expecting physical results. I think it’s great to have functional and physique goals but, right now, I’m focusing on the short-term benefits of working out. My mood is improved after I work out. On days that I move, I tend to have more energy that carries me through the rest of my day. I sleep more soundly at night. I make commitments to myself and I keep them. As I get stronger and my endurance improves, I gain confidence and I prove to myself that I can do hard things. And, let me tell you, team—I’ve never felt better.