I know what you’re thinking …
How can a trip to the gym get anyone excited?
Several years ago, I was with you on this one.
The thought of having to put on workout clothes, get in the car, drive to the gym, and find the motivation to use the machines and free weights while trying not to look weak and clumsy was paralyzing.
Most of the time I made up an excuse not to go. I didn’t want to deal with the hassle, not to mention having to face all those mirrors in the room — constant reminders of just how much I needed to be there.
Too Tired to Exercise? Try These 5 Warm-up Tips to Get Your Motor Running
Move it, use it, or lose it!
I soon realized there were limitations to an at-home-only workout program
Although there are plenty of exercises I could do without leaving the house, it was obvious there were certain muscle groups that would benefit from using specialized equipment. Yet, somehow I couldn’t imagine bringing a 500-pound leg press machine into the bedroom.
So I began hitting the gym a couple of times a week for a “machine fix.”
At first it was tough
I didn’t know how to use most of the equipment, and I felt uncomfortable sensing others were watching my overweight, out-of-shape body struggling with basic form and balance.
But I told myself I was starting from where I was and, most likely, everyone else in the room had done the same thing.
In essence, I gave myself permission to start
By doing the best I could with the strength and endurance I had, I hoped in time I would gain confidence, get stronger, and become more comfortable with the process.
I was there for a reason
I wanted to change my body. I wanted to look better, healthier, and have more energy. And a little embarrassment wouldn’t keep me from getting the results I was aiming for.
Ready to give the gym a try?
Start by keeping your weight loss and exercise goals simple. I broke my objectives down into five parts:
1. I showed up
The fact that I made it through the doors and into the building was an indication I was already changing. By facing my fear of starting, I began instilling a new habit — one that would stay with me the more often I repeated it.
2. I approached results in the short-term with realistic expectations
I was determined to lose ten pounds in the first month. And after those 30 days came and went, I realized that — for my metabolism — my goal wasn’t realistic. When I missed my target by two pounds, I was depressed for a week. In fact, I thought about quitting the gym completely.
But I’d promised myself to stick with it — and I sucked it up. Today, I know bodies are different — not only in metabolism but in what types of exercise are best for each person. It takes a little experimentation — and a willingness to try different routines and methods.
The key is to stay with it long enough to recognize positive results
If you haven’t exercised in years, you’ll need time — and patience — to adjust to new levels of exertion. If you overdo it — as most newbies are prone to do in the first month — you’ll set yourself back a week or more as your body heals itself.
3. I set my long-term workout goals based not only on how I looked, but how I felt
You may be aiming to fit into a Size 8, but if you have to starve your body of necessary nutrients while pushing yourself to your physical limit during workouts, you’ll end up feeling sore, tired, and irritable.
And that’s simply not healthy.
It takes a balance of diet and exercise to establish a positive foundation of health you’ll want to continue — for the rest of your life.
4. I stopped eating garbage food
There’s a tricky self-destructive devil in our minds that can be difficult to shake. This mischievous imp attempts to convince us that, after working out so hard, we “deserve” a treat — some delectable dessert or calorie-and-fat-laden snack we instinctively know will destroy all the progress we’re making with our health.
Ditch those thoughts without mercy or regret!
To spend all that time and effort at the gym and then pick up a double cheeseburger and fries on the way home makes no sense. And I refused to sabotage my diet by feeding the monster inside that wanted to prevent me from being healthy and in shape.
5. I made a commitment to changing my body by making gym time a “must-have” priority
To create a workable plan, I set my workout schedule for the week first, then made other appointments around it.
My “body time” took priority. Otherwise, it was too easy to push a workout to the next day, or even let an entire week pass without setting foot in the gym.
Today, gym workouts are a regular part of my life
I keep a workout bag in my car, packed with exercise clothes, shoes, towel, and a filtered water bottle. Having everything I need with me makes it easy to squeeze in a session on the way to or from work, during a lunch break, or whenever I have time to spare — time better spent on improving myself.
I’m always prepared, and now I have no excuse not to go to the gym.
And that’s a far cry from the way I used to feel about stepping inside those doors.
When asked how I overcame the initial reluctance and embarrassment of starting a fitness routine, I offer the following:
Start with short sessions to become acquainted with the environment and equipment
Tell yourself you’ll give it your best for half an hour. Commit to the time, using the first five minutes for some light stretches to warm up your muscles. Use the last five minutes to do the same and cool down.
Begin with one or two sets of 8 reps on the machines, keeping the weight on the lightest settings. It’s more important to learn good form than overexert your body by stacking on too many pounds — or attempting to uncomfortably push yourself with longer rep sessions.
Move from station-to-station, becoming familiar with how the machines work and what you’re feeling
If you don’t know how to adjust a machine, ask someone. You’ll be surprised how willing others are to help. In the beginning, they had to learn, too.
The first month is quitter month
More people quit the gym in the first 30 days than in any other time period. If you can get through the first month, you’ve just made it past the biggest hurdle to using the gym on a regular basis. Here’s the important part:
Even when you don’t feel like it . . . go! Do some stretching and use light dumbbells. You may find your motivation and energy level begin to ramp up once you get started.
Not all gyms are created equal
Visit several fitness centers before joining. Ask for a tour of the facilities and review class offerings, instructor bios, and personal trainer options. Consider whether you’d be more comfortable with a women’s only gym or prefer the social aspect of a co-ed environment. Give them both a try if you’re not sure, and choose the one that most motivates you to return.
Ask if the company offers a trial period during which you can cancel your membership without charge or penalty. And if possible, avoid long-term contracts. Always start out month-to-month until you’re sure that a specific gym is the right one for you.
Alternate your routine
This method allows your muscles to rest and rebuild and provides an overall fitness result.
For example, in a typical workout, I spend five minutes on warm-up stretches, fifteen to twenty minutes on aerobic and floor exercises, twenty minutes on machines and free weights, and fifteen minutes of yoga poses.
You may decide the best exercise strategy is to concentrate on specific muscle groups or areas of your body in separate workout sessions. Discover what moves and equipment you respond to and enjoy, then alternate on different days to achieve an overall fitness routine.
Ready to notch up your health?
It takes courage to make important decisions about our lives. And for me, my future health and fitness are at the top of the list. It also takes commitment to see it through, even on the tough days — and there are plenty of those in your future.
Give yourself an honest pep talk — every day
Then get moving and congratulate yourself on choosing to live longer and stronger by making positive lifestyle choices!
© 2020 Jill Reid. All Rights Reserved.
Own Up to Your Unhealthy Past and Get on With Your Life
Why you need to take responsibility for your mistakes
5 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight
Tips for getting healthy, staying focused, and looking & feeling great — for the rest of your life.
5 Baby Steps on the Road to Health and Fitness
How I overcame the overwhelming fear of changing my health — and my life
Discover more tips and strategies for developing a positive mindset and achieving personal success in Real Life
Jill Reid is the author of Real Life, and founder of Pathway to Personal Growth and Kitchen Spirit. Her books and articles explore life, happiness, self-improvement, health, productivity, relationships, and personal success strategies for living longer and stronger through positive lifestyle choices.