Working out used to be an effortless part of my daily routine. As an athlete in high school and college, going to the gym, lifting weights, and running were just baked into my schedule, like lunch or Friday night house parties. I never had to make a conscious effort to drag my body out of bed; never had to convince myself to work out. It just… happened. But after tearing my ACL, MCL, meniscus, fracturing my tibia, fibula, and breaking my knee cap (and they said basketball was a “no contact sport”), what was once effortless became nothing short of impossible.
Four years, seven surgeries, and countless hours of physical therapy later, and the last thing I wanted to do was work out. What was once a release became a burden, to the point that even thinking about putting on my gym clothes became an exhausting mental exercise in futility.
That feeling, more or less, has remained. I’m getting better about making even a 20-minute workout part of my daily life, but I have to be deliberate and intentional about doing so. I have to talk myself into clipping into my stationary bike, or attending a virtual yoga class. I have to do work before I work out. And now that I’m a mom of two working close to 80 hours a week, starting a workout is much more difficult than the workout itself.
Surprise, surprise: I’m not alone. According to a 2019 survey, 42% of Americans say time is the biggest reason why they don’t work out. Another 36% said they have too much work to do to facilitate a workout. And since only 29% of Americans consider a workout to be convenient, it’s far too easy for all of us to come up with a slew of excuses (legit or not) to skip on the chance to get our sweat on.
But when 79% of Americnas say working out makes them happier, finding a way to work out — even when we hate it, or don’t want to, or have a million other things on our plates — is worth it. So if you, like me, are having trouble convincing yourself to get your body moving, try any of the following:
1. Wear your workout clothes to bed
If you’d like to start your day with a workout but aren’t what one would consider a “morning person,” falling asleep in your gym attire could help you feel motivated to get a workout in at the start of your day. Just like we’re told to “dress for success,” dressing for the gym is a great way to actually get yourself there. And if the haze of the early morning is another hindrance, side-step the issue by wearing your workout clothes to bed and giving yourself one less excuse to lean on.
2. Create a dedicated workout area
I can attest to how helpful it is to have a dedicated workout space in your home. Much like having a spot to work when you work-from-home can make you feel more inspired, focused, and productive, having a section of your home for your weights, yoga mat, treadmill, stationary bike, or whatever else you need or use can help you create and keep a workout routine. I used to live in a 700 square foot apartment and, as a result, simply didn’t have the space to create my own workout area. But after moving to a larger apartment, I have a dedicated workout area just for me and I haven’t missed a workout in over a month. In other words: this works.
3. Focus on how you feel after a workout
Does anyone really like how they feel during a workout? The shortness of breath. The burning muscles. The trembling legs. The sweat. So. Much. Sweat. You’re uncomfortable, at best, and it’s objectively a less-than-ideal feeling.
But thanks to those intoxicating feel-good hormones that follow a workout, very few can deny how great it feels to finish a workout. Flushed with endorphins, we feel less stressed and euphoric. And since our brains consider working out to be a “moment of stress,” a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is released that protects us from stress, which is why we often feel at ease and clear-headed post-workout.
Remember that feeling! Focus on that feeling! That will help motivate you to start and get through the workout itself.
4. Switch up your workout routine
Not only will trying different workouts allow you to focus on various areas of the body, but it’ll keep your workouts from becoming just another mundane responsibility you feel obligated to fulfill. Trying something different will test your mind as well as your body, making your workout far more interesting than it would be if you knew exactly what to expect.
5. Drink coffee
It’s just the answer to everything. I don’t make the rules.
(Caffeine also helps you last longer during your workouts, improves circulation, decreases pain, and preserves your muscles. As if you needed another reason.)
6. Create a daily schedule that purposefully sets aside time for a workout
If you’re a planner, or someone who likes to make and then check off items on a to-do list, then simply writing out a schedule for all to see and incorporating a workout into that schedule can be extremely helpful. Putting pen to paper (or marker to dry-erase board) will hold you accountable, but it will also let anyone you may be living with know that from this time to this time, you’re working out and not to be bothered.
7. Give yourself a break
Most importantly, be kind to yourself. If you miss a workout, you miss a workout. Don’t berate yourself to the point that you lose your motivation, or think that you’ve somehow messed up a routine that will not be too difficult to pick back up again. Life happens, kids are needy, work is endless, and rest is just as important as a gym session.