I am not a morning person, but a few times a week, I make myself a morning exerciser. It's the only way I'm guaranteed to fit in my runs. A couple weeks ago, I was too darn tired to wake up early to run, so I decided I'd do it during the workday instead. I packed up my gym bag with my running clothes, then scrambled around the hall closet looking for travel size toiletries and a towel; packed a change of clothes (going over my mental checklist of underwear, socks, deodorant, oh yeah and a hairbrush), and headed to the office with a mental plan to run and shower during lunchtime.
I realized that by the time I packed up all my stuff, I could have been well into my run—or even finished a short workout (since 10 or 15 minutes of exercise is always better than none). And even with the best intentions—and a supportive work environment that encourages exercise—I never found the time to sneak away to run (let alone shower afterward). Before I knew it, my day was over, and my plans to exercise were foiled.
I enjoy exercising and make it part of my daily life—yet even I have trouble getting to it all the time. So I can only imagine how much harder it is for someone who doesn't like it and isn't quite in the habit. The whole scenario got me thinking about all the little things I do that have a big impact on my ability to stick with my exercise plans.
If you're having trouble sticking with an exercise routine, the most common excuses for skipping it revolve around lack of time, poor priorities, and motivation. These nine little things will help you tackle hurdles in all of those categories.
Keep your gym bag packed.
This is especially important if you exercise at the gym on your way to work or during your workday. Keep a checklist inside your bag of all the items you need to pack each day to prevent yourself from forgetting crucial items. Invest in a large gym bag with room for your clothes, and spend a little extra money to buy set of travel size toiletries that always remain inside your bag. A second hairdryer (or whatever other accessories you might need) could be worth the cost if it means "I forgot my hairdryer" will no longer be an exercise excuse for you to skip the gym over lunch.
Join a gym en route to work.
It's pretty hard to skip the gym when you have to drive by it on your way to work or your way home each day. For that reason, I've always joined whatever gym is literally on the way. Since time is an issue for me (isn't it for everyone?), it's way too easy to drive home rather than driving out of your way to a gym—especially if you're not that motivated. Joining a gym that is easy to get to is one of the best excuse busters around.
Give your goal a deadline.
Sign up for a race (like our Virtual 5K this fall!), and your motivation to stick with your training will stick around—I promise. Even if you're not a runner or a walker, you can sign up for other events or competitions in weight lifting, biking, Crossfit (for all you Crossfitters out there)—you name it. Or if a little competition doesn't do it for you, set a real date for your fitness goals and tell everyone you know about it. If you tell all your co-workers or family members that you're going to be able to do 100 pushups or 15 pull-ups by January, they'll keep you accountable.
Invest in your fitness.
If you're financially savvy and get a high from getting a bang for your buck, then buy some fitness-related items to keep you motivated and on-track. Purchase a 30-day pass to a yoga studio, some new workout clothes, a high-tech fitness device (more on that below), or a gym membership contract, then make sure you are getting the most for your money. Going to the gym just once a month may mean that each visit costs you $50—and that's not a good buy. (My father-in-law actually likes to joke about how much each of his gym visits cost him since he rarely goes.) Why not see how low you can bring your per-use cost down to by using it more often? Go five times a week and that brings it to just $2.50 a visit—talk about a good deal! Those $80 workout pants are pricey when you only wear them to bed, but wear them once a week to the gym for a year, and their per-use cost is about $1.50—a good buy!
Keep your equipment accessible and visible.
I like to keep my home clean and de-cluttered, but one thing I like to do on occasion is place small piece of fitness equipment in a visible place in my house. For a few weeks, it serves as reminder to use my equipment. When I first bought my kettlebell, I kept it in the living room. And every time I walked past it, I would do 10-20 kettlebell swings with it. Think about what else you could do: a pair of dumbbells in the hallway; a resistance band in your home office; and a stability ball in the family room could all be cues to drop and give yourself 5 minutes of exercise on the fly!
Become a morning exerciser.
Morning exercise works. Let me repeat that: Exercising in the morning is one of the best ways to stick to a routine. Even with the best intentions, life gets in the way of your desire to squeeze in a workout. Anyone—even you—can wake up 15 minutes earlier to squeeze in a 15-minute workout (especially when you sleep in your workout clothes).
Dress for the part.
It's hard to say no to a workout when you're dressed for the part. Whether you do it in the morning, during the day, or after work, make sure the first thing you do in preparation for your workout is get fully dressed for it. You'll feel those excuses melt away, especially if you're like me and won't lie down on a couch (or a bed) with shoes on, and/or don't like wearing shoes inside the house.
Make rewards fun and surprising—and let your friends help.
Self-imposed "rewards" have never worked for me. If I want something, I'll generally just get it and feel like I deserve it. Withholding my own money for a reward I want doesn't really motivate me to follow through with something. I figured that rewards would never be part of my health or fitness plan, but was glad to leave them to others for whom they do work. Then I saw a SparkPeople member blog about rewards that totally changed my perspective. The member gave several of her friends an "allowance" to buy her a surprise gift. Then she wouldn't receive/open the gift until she reached her next milestone (which was pounds-lost in this case, but could be anything really). Now this is a fun and exciting way to reward yourself if you have trouble sticking with a self-reward structure.
Get tech-y with it.
Certain fitness gadgets inspire people to move: a pedometer, the FitBit, the BodyBugg, even a heart rate monitor. Since these track your calorie burn, they can serve as inspiration to get moving more to up your burn. When I bought my Garmin Forerunner, it totally changed my attitude about running from something I did to something I loved—and I'm not even a gadget person. These external cues and reminders to move may be all you need to get off your rear.
What "little" things make it a lot easier for you to exercise? Do you use any of the small tricks above? How have they worked for you?