I never was a long distance runner growing up and absolutely hated the idea of cross-country running. I could certainly sprint, and enjoyed 100 m and 200 m races, but I was never considered the fastest. In the same vein, I always played sports, but was never considered a “distinguished” athlete. Being a little chubby in middle school, high school and first year university, I was super self-conscious and felt that no matter what I did, I wouldn’t be able to drop the weight. Honestly, growing up in my parents’ house wasn’t the most conducive environment for weight loss; surrounded by baked goods, pizza pockets, Mr. Noodles, and my beloved Reese Puffs… I mean, mama’s gotta eat, right?
Through all the melancholy and disappointment that encompasses gaining weight, there comes a point when you look in the mirror and you see someone that you know, deep down, isn’t the person you really are – staring back at you. It was at this moment when I realized how much I was mistreating my body, and I pledged that I would fully commit to losing weight.
As a disclaimer, this blog post isn’t supposed to centralize around the dichotomy of healthy and unhealthy, nor is it supposed judge other’s health and lifestyle choices; instead, it’s supposed to illustrate my transformation and how I’ve managed to upkeep a healthy lifestyle. It’s been 10 years since I started running and I have managed to create a habit that sticks. Throughout these 10 years, I’ve never taken more than 1 day off a week from working out. Some may think that’s obsessive, but just like brushing your teeth twice a day, it’s a habit that I’ve adjusted to. It’s now an essential part of my everyday routine that has made me a healthier and all around better human being.
For the record, I hate working out at night. I’m a total morning person and if you are too, these tips might help you. Sorry late nighters, I just can’t relate.
Here’s a list of some habits that have made me stick to my exercise routine.
1. Put gym clothes out the night before
This sounds so simple, but works so well. When I wake-up, the first thing I do is put on my workout gear. Have you ever seen that viral video called “activewear”, that essentially mocks people who wear activewear literally EVERYWHERE: shopping, lounging, eating, etc.? Let me tell you right now that I do not abide by the same rules and conduct that are outlined in that video; as soon as my gym clothes are on, I’ve committed to working out. That way, when I’m ready to go all I have to do is put on my runners and get out the door. There was even a point in my life where I would have to wake-up and workout right away before work (which was conventionally around 5-5:30 a.m.) and experimented with actually sleeping in my gym clothes. Both of these tactics didn’t work well for me. First of all, what woman voluntarily sleeps in her bra overnight? Who would put themselves through that kind of hell and torture? The answer is I, but just for a few nights, before I realized how silly I was. Secondly, I felt like I was going to the gym in my pajamas, which resulted in a sluggish and low energy workout that ties into my next point…
2. Wake up at least an hour before working out
It doesn’t matter what time I have to be somewhere in the morning, I always wake-up at least an hour before my workout to drink coffee, read, write and get my mind and body mentally ready to exercise. I’ve found by doing this, my workouts are longer, and I work 10x harder than I would by just waking up and going to the gym immediately. The caffeine helps for sure, but it also helps me get out of bed in the morning. It’s already hard enough dragging myself out of my little blanket cocoon at 5:00am, let alone going straight to the gym and exerting a ton of energy. By waking up an hour before, I tell myself that I have some time to relax for a bit – it helps me get my ass out of bed and to the gym.
3. Not giving myself an option
Even after 10 years, my brain still tries to talk me out of my workout. I have an internal monologue articulating that I should treat myself, whether that be to a rest day, or to an entire day spent on the couch eating pizza, occasionally going to the fridge for more dipping sauce. On the flip side, the other part of my brain is telling me that I don’t have an option. It’s not even a discussion now and from Monday – Saturday, I will do a workout no matter what’s going on. If I’m traveling and have the option, I’ll always book a hotel with a fitness center or bring my running gear for an outside run. If I have to leave at 7:00am, then I’m up at 4:30am, working out at 5:30am and out the door for 7. It’s become second nature to me.
4. Making health a number one priority
Committing to exercise is hard and it’s so easy to make a million excuses. I get it – you have kids, a taxing job, and other factors that are demanding of your time. Who am I to say anything? I mean, I don’t have kids and now I work for myself so I have the flexibility to workout whenever I want. Well, I’ve been working full-time for 5 years and have only been self-employed for a year, but have still managed to stick to this habit. I’ve even started work as early as 7am when working at a regular job on some days and still made time for my morning workout. But let me tell you the secret; I always, no matter what, put my health first. If I don’t get my workout in, I’m not a functioning human being and can’t perform the way I do in other facets of my life. I plan for my workouts the previous day or even weeks before when I know events or meetings are going to consume my upcoming mornings. When I was nearing the end of #RUN70 and was in Oregon, I had a plane to catch at 8:00am – so what did I do? Woke-up at 2:30am and start my half marathon run at 3:30am. If I had an important early morning meeting, I made sure to factor in my workout time. And yes, that could mean waking up 1-2 hours before I usually do. Not only does this help me get my workout in, but helps me with time management. I workout for at least an hour a day so I need to factor in my pre-workout routine (1 hour before) and my time to get ready afterwards.
5. Focusing on the after effects
The trick is not to focus on the workout itself and how hard it’s going to be, but rather, redirect your attention to that incredible endorphin kick that lasts the entirety of the day. There’s nothing I love more than working out, showering, then eating a big, healthy breakfast. If the rest of the day is not very productive, at least I got a really good workout in and can feel good about that. The benefits of working out isn’t anything new – it makes me more productive, sharper, my metabolic rate feels revved up for the day, and supplies me with a ton of energy. Doing something hard at the beginning of the day really sets the tone for how the rest of the day plays out. I feel more motivated to tackle big problems and tasks (instead of putting them off).
Starting and maintaining a workout routine is hard and with the plethora of information out there, the benefits of exercise are very evident: increased energy, weight loss, better brain function, etc., etc. My biggest tip is to not rely on “motivation”, but instead develop habits that make working out easier. Trust me, there are so many days where I don’t feel like it still..after 10 years! It’s not going to change. Working out is difficult and I still tend to procrastinate and create excuses. Hopefully these tips help start or maintain your workout routine. What’s your favorite habit to help you get your ass out the door? 🙂