In July, I got pneumonia. It’s the third time I’ve had it and it’s not fun. Luckily, I recognized the symptoms early and was able to get on antibiotics. In addition to the prescription, my Urgent Care doctor, my primary care physician and my naturopath gave me the same advice: drink lots of water, rest and take a break from strenuous exercise for a few weeks. No big deal. I was crazy tired and super thirsty and had zero interest in going for a run anyway. But a break can quickly turn into full breakup for me. And July turned into August and my running shoes and yoga mat were starting to look awfully dusty.
It was time to get back to it. Ugh. Instead of feeling excited to work out again, I felt lazy and anxious. It’s not as easy as just doing it—or it is?
In finding ways to get exercise back in my life, I thought about what has made me get out of bed or get to class in the past. In finding strategies that have worked for me—I thought some of them might work for you, too.
- Just do it. I’ve read all the articles on how to incorporate an exercise plan into your life. They never really resonate with me. Probably because I tend to bristle when people tell me what to do. But I also think some of the commonly listed motivators end up having the opposite effect on me. For example—how many times have you read to sign up for a 5K or 10K to kickstart your running plan? I’ve done this and it only makes me feel anxious. And then each run becomes a panic for me and I feel like I failed before I even begin. Instead what works for me is to just do it. I don’t give myself a choice. If I ask myself—“do I want to sleep in or do I want to get up for a run?”—the answer is ALWAYS “I want to sleep in.” So I don’t ask. I just get up and do it. I also don’t work out so I can eat anything I want—because that’s not actually a thing. And I don’t tell myself that I can buy a new lipstick or some special gift to myself as a reward for working out. I just end up buying the new lipstick because I’m an adult and I can regardless if I worked out or not. Instead, I just go.
- Don’t set goals. I have stopped trying to achieve anything when I work out other than the workout itself. I’m not trying to run a consistent 8 minute mile. I’m not trying to land some advanced yoga pose. I’m just trying to get in and get it done. I wake up and I tell myself—just run and see how it goes. If it feels good—go faster—if it doesn’t slow down. Feel like taking a more advanced pose? Go for it. If I want to go to class and spend 60 minutes in savasana—fine. Just go. Because I’ve never actually spent a class in savasana (except for that one time I took a class called “savasana”) and once I’m in class or running—I’m generally fine. The hardest thing for me to do is get started. So when I do, I feel accomplished. I know how easy it is for me NOT to do it. And at this point in my life–that’s success enough for me.
- Find an activity that works for you. Notice I didn’t say one that you enjoy. I don’t particularly enjoy running. But I can get it done without a lot of fanfare or preparation making it a pretty convenient affair. I also don’t love yoga but there’s a studio right by my work with class times that fit my schedule. While I don’t particularly identify as a runner or a yogi—I can’t deny that I feel better when I do it and do see progress when I do it consistently—so I do it. And I try to just remember that on days I’m feeling particularly crabby about going. Looking for activities that work with your lifestyle or are convenient might be enough to get it to happen for you.
- Look for tricks that make exercise tolerable. I don’t love running, but I love listening to music, especially uninterrupted. So I try to think about running more as a chance to listen to my favorite songs than as a physical challenge I’m about to complete. I really like this tea they have at the studio where I do yoga—and while I could just buy that tea and drink it whenever I want—I will only allow myself to drink it at the studio, after I’ve taken a class. And some days, it’s enough to get me to go. It’s the small things, people. Really.
- Do it for you. I started running and going to yoga classes because Jess invited me to do it with her. I had actively avoided both activities for years. But I really love Jess. So it became a dilemma—turn down Jess’ invitations because I don’t like something—or say yes and know it’ll be ok because everything is better with Jess involved. So I said yes. But because of our crazy schedules and because we are Geminis and can be very motivated and VERY unmotivated, we kinda stopped doing both together.
Part of it was also unrealistic planning—our yoga plan was to get up at 5:30am to go to a 6am yoga class—which is hilarious in retrospect. More often than not, one of us would send a text at 5:35am that said “nope.” And if I wasn’t going with Jess, I wasn’t going at all. Eventually, I came back to both activities, but as a solo endeavor. Working out with a partner and things like running groups are great and all, but I have found I’m too easily influenced by others. It’s just better for me to run alone, at a pace I want and when I want. I don’t want to wake up at 5:30am to go to yoga—obviously, neither did Jess—so I don’t. I go at 5:30pm. I’ve also seen this at the dance classes I teach. People start going to class as part of a group or with a friend, but then stop coming because something happened to the friend’s schedule or someone in the group moved. It doesn’t matter if the class still works for one of them—it was conceived as a joint venture—and going solo feels like cheating. So friends are awesome to get you to try things and help you break into activities you might be too nervous to try alone. I never would have started running or going to yoga classes if it weren’t for Jess. But to truly incorporate it in my life, it’s gotta be on my terms. And no one cheers louder for me than Jess when I do have a crazy successful run or a great yoga class. And hopefully, she feels the same when she snaps me about some insanely heavy weight she threw around! Friends are the best—but in the end—do it for you.
I would still rather not have to work out, but I’m also an adult. There will always be things I don’t want to do, but have to do anyway. Working out is one of them. And yes—I almost always feel better after I do it—which makes it easier and easier to stick to it. It’s just getting started that’s hard.
What gets you motivated to work out? What’s your go-to workout or favorite activity? Don’t keep it to yourself! Share it in the comments below!