Veggies and Glitter may be a blog that focuses on wellness, but that doesn’t mean I’m one of those girls who loves working out. In fact, I’ll admit that a part of me secretly rejoices when something comes up that creates a legitimate excuse for bowing out of an exercise routine for the evening.
I may dislike working out, but I do love the way that being active makes me feel. No amount of caffeine or extra sleep can make up for the natural endorphins that are released while engaging in rigorous physical activity. Even though I’m fully aware of how sluggish and disgusting I feel when I fail to stay active on a daily basis, sometimes I have to play mind games on myself in order to get to the gym.
I’m hardly a fitness expert, but here are some realistic lessons I have learned over the years that have helped me to make hauling my ass to the gym a part of daily life:
Remember that buying activewear doesn’t count as a workout.
I’ll be the first one to admit that I have actually replaced entire workouts with evenings spent scouring out cute activewear online. I know that you’re aware of this truth somewhere deep down inside, but someone needs to say it: Buying a Victoria’s Secret sports bra is not going to magically give you the body of one of the brand’s famous Angels, and that piece of advice is coming from someone who owns the yoga push-up bra pictured below in three different prints.
Don’t be afraid to work out in stained sweatpants or a college boyfriend’s old t-shirt. Select your activewear based on what’s going to make you the most comfortable, and remember that exercising isn’t supposed to be pretty. If it’s not a stinky, sweaty experience, you’re not doing it right.
Have a backup plan. Or two.
When it comes to being active, it’s not the thought or effort that counts. I don’t know how many times I have mentally justified skipping a workout. It’s not my fault that it was lightning outside and I couldn’t run without risking my life, right? And it certainly wasn’t my fault that the bizarre family that lives upstairs decided to take over my apartment complex’s gym for a family workout night, correct? And I think we can all agree that losing my WiFi connection and being unable to watch Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred on NetFlix was entirely beyond my control.
But let’s be honest for a minute: Never have I experienced a time when all of those things happened in one night. Before I slip into my sweats, I now reconcile with myself what the game plan is going to be if my first choice of venue doesn’t work out. Always having a backup plan in place makes it virtually impossible to escape feelings of self-inflicted guilt if you don’t follow through with your workout.
Avoid the brain drain.
I’ll admit that I’ve been known to cut a workout short because, quite frankly, I’m bored. Saying that I’m an avid reader is quite an understatement, so I would much rather be curled up with a warm blanket and a cup of coffee than sweating at the gym. One thing I have learned about myself is that my mind needs to stay active in order for me to stay engaged in any workout routine, which is why I always make sure to queue up an NPR interview, an audiobook, or an interesting playlist on my iPhone before I start exercising.
Keeping my mind occupied on something other than how tired I am or how many miles I have left to run often helps me to not only meet my workout goals, but to break them. Just from my experience, I wouldn’t recommend reading or watching TV while working out. I know that others may disagree, but I find that focusing on something visually makes me too laid-back about my workout, decreasing the amount of rigor I put into it.
That goes for teachers, too. Trust me: I’ve tried to grade papers on an elliptical machine, and all I will say is that doing so will probably lead you to misjudge where your physical frustration is coming from and wreak total havoc on students’ papers. Plus it’s kind of dangerous to yield a sharp red pen while you’re on an exercise machine.
Take it slow.
Going from lying on the couch every night to running five miles without taking a break is not only a lofty goal, it’s an unrealistic one. My first year of teaching was probably the worst year of my life when it came to physical fitness. Because my schedule was so jam-packed and I was having a difficult time fitting in all of my new responsibilities as a teacher, I rarely made time to work out and was also burned out from a lack of sleep.
When the first day of winter break rolled around, I remember pushing myself so hard at the gym that I threw up and spent the rest of the afternoon in bed. I spent my time moping around about how out of shape I was instead of just admitting that I wasn’t in the best shape of my life and dealing with it. After a time, I began setting small goals for myself and eventually got to the place where I had been during college when I used to run daily before my morning classes.
Being realistic in setting goals and knowing your own limitations is the key to success. Increasing your workout by five minutes a day or adding a quarter mile to your run may seem like small efforts, but rejoice in those small victories and you will be amazed at how far you come in what will seem like no time at all.
Set up a reward system that doesn’t involve frozen yogurt or pizza.
You’re probably thinking, Seriously? Could your advice be more common sense than this? I know it seems like everyone should know that ordering a large pizza and garlic breadsticks from Papa Johns or cracking open a container of Phish Food Fro-Yo is a terrible idea after all of the work you just put in at the gym. But you know what? I’ve taken part in this pathetic post-workout ritual with everyone from my husband to my former roommates, so I know that lots of people do it. The thirty minutes you just spent on the treadmill do not cancel out the calories you consumed when you ate half of a pizza by yourself afterwards, no matter how you look at it.
The good news is that you can reward yourself in little ways that won’t increase your waistline. For example, after a week of remaining diligent about working out, take a Friday off and don’t feel guilty about it. If your budget allows it, go ahead and splurge on that expensive lipstick you’ve been wanting to try. Even just giving yourself an hour to take a bubble bath or read fashion magazines can be a reward for sticking it out.
Have a TRUE accountability partner.
I know that you’ve heard this advice in the past, but if you’re anything like I was, you have probably chosen an accountability partner who isn’t too crazy about working out, either. I can’t even count all of the times when my college “accountability partner” and I would decide we deserved a break from all of the stress in our lives and go back to my apartment to make homemade lattes and cookies instead of hitting the gym. And yes, that’s a true story. While we were great friends, we were so focused on avoiding hurting one another’s feelings and increasing our own levels of personal comfort that the fitness accountability part of the relationship just didn’t work.
The concept of an accountability partner is incredibly smart, but when selecting one, you need to choose a straight-shooter with similar goals who will be comfortable in calling you out when you’re being lazy. My current accountability partner is my husband, Chris. We both are at a point in our lives when physical fitness is extremely important to us, so when one of us decides at the last minute that a headache or a stomachache will prevent a workout from happening, the other person refuses to put up with such a lame excuse. At times you may loathe this person, but if he or she pushes you to achieve your fitness goals, then that fleeting moment of hatred is worth it.
Change it up.
You would never want to eat the same thing for dinner every night or experience the same type of date night every weekend, so why would you want to keep up the exact same exercise routine every day? At one point in my life, I held myself accountable to engage in a daily hour-long aerobic routine on an elliptical machine. After about two consistent months of this identical workout, I stopped working out completely for a few weeks because it had become too monotonous and mind-numbing.
One thing I have learned since then is that altering my workout routine not only prevents it from coming boring and repetitive, but it allows other areas of my body to be strengthened. Focusing on upper-body weights one evening and running on the treadmill the next will prevent you from dying of boredom and also tone other areas of your body. I think we could all admit that it would look pretty weird if you had flabby legs and toned arms.
How do you keep yourself motivated when it comes to your daily workout? What does (and doesn’t!) work for you personally?