A few weeks ago, my sister sent me a dress to borrow for a gala event. Although it was a size larger than I usually wear, I could barely zip the thing up. My body transformed what had been a beautiful white beaded sheath on the hanger into something akin to a sock filled with lumpy pillow stuffing.
I was finally paying the price for abandoning my normal fitness and nutritional routines over the holidays and on our travel adventures with our exchange student. (My kids, in contrast, loved having the reprieve from my experimental vegetable concoctions).
Although I had kept up to some extent with my strength training classes, I was barely running at all. The math was simple–I was consuming more calories and burning fewer of them. The dress was the clearest example that my added weight was not of the muscle variety.
Even before I channeled the sausage casing, I knew that letting cardio exercise fall by the wayside was making me more grumpy for all of the chemistry-based reasons that John J. Ratey, MD, lays out in Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.
6 Steps to Reboot Your Booty (and the rest of your body)
1. Write down your goals.
In early January, my Grass Roots Fitness instructors encouraged us to write down our exercise objectives on a poster. I wrote “Attend 3 classes a week, run 3 times a week, do a mini-triathlon.”
Advertising my intentions, especially to my fitness mentors and workout buddies, has made it a lot harder to find excuses to sit on my butt. So far I’ve kept up with classes and running, but I haven’t signed up yet for the mini-tri (I wrote that down to see what it would look like on paper; I’m slowly getting used to the idea).
2. Add exercise to your DReAM Chart priorities.
I wrote about my Daily Record And Motivator (DReAM) Chart a few weeks ago (click here to read it). Adding a column to keep track of my fitness class attendance and running, along with the other priorities I’m trying to protect, has been an additional motivator to work running back in to my schedule.
3. Start small.
If you’re just starting out, give yourself an easy goal. When I realized that I had stopped running out of fear of hyperventilating on a longer run, I started over from scratch. I set a goal of ten minutes of running, just so that I could check off the box on my chart.
The hardest part is getting dressed and out the door. Once you’ve started, you’ll be surprised at how easy it becomes to add additional time on to your runs, walks, or other exercise activity.
4. Find a class or an exercise buddy.
Although I’m outgoing in a lot of respects, I am the classic definition of an introvert, who recharges their battery by being alone. I always ran alone. I always worked out alone. I even sent my husband to the other side of the hospital room to watch TV when I was breathing through the first several hours of contractions in the delivery room.
But I’ve discovered over the past year or two that exercising with other people is both fun and motivational. Hanging out with health-minded people is energizing both physically and emotionally. And knowing that someone may say, “Hey, where were you?” if you miss a class often gives that added incentive to put your shoes on and head out the door.
5. Find something to train for.
Did I mention that I don’t enjoy running? At least not while I’m actually doing it. But I love how I feel afterwards so much that I’m willing to huff and puff and blow my nose through it (I mean that literally — I have to carry a handkerchief when I run since I blow my nose every couple of minutes).
And I am not in the least bit interested in racing. I did one 5K a few years ago sponsored by my sons’ elementary school, and swore I would never race again. I beat a couple of second graders, but someone in their 70’s had a faster time than mine.
So I balked when my fitness instructor suggested I sign up with her for a St. Paddy’s Day 8K race in Washington, D.C. I had never run that far in my life (it’s just shy of 5 miles). But my body reboot program needed a push to get off the ground, and this was it. Whether it’s out of fear or healthy motivation, seeing that race written in the March 10th calendar square has helped me push myself to run a little farther and a little faster. Wish me luck!
6. When you don’t want to exercise, ask yourself if there’s a really good reason not to.
No matter how strong your intentions are to prioritize exercise, there will be days when you just…don’t…want…to. This happens to me a lot (almost every morning, in fact).
Once in a while I can come up with a good enough excuse to skip it, but more often than not, I realize that doing so will leave me feeling worse rather than better. Put it in the same category as brushing your teeth.
What about you? What are your strategies for staying motivated on the fitness front?
P.S. I just tried on the dress again. It fits.