1. Lay out your clothes the night before
If you wake up and see your running shoes, sports bra, leggings, snack and water bottle all ready to go, you’ll feel like you’re too invested to change your mind, says Keri Cawthorne, a personal trainer and pilates instructor with the B.C. Parks and Recreation Association for Vancouver and greater area.
Do you hit the gym after work? Pack your gym bag, including a pre-workout snack, the night before, suggests Cawthorne. That way, a rushed morning or low energy levels after work are less likely to be easy excuses.
2. Take a 30-day challenge
Try challenging yourself to work out every day, or every other day, for a month or longer. Kelowna-based Carol Smyth is currently embarking on a 365-day daily fitness challenge. Since starting the challenge, Smyth says she no longer has a “lengthy battle” with herself about whether or not to work out. Her baseline – the least she must do on any given day – is a 5km run and on other days she hikes, lifts weights or does a spin, yoga or pilates class. “I wake up and I know it’s going to be done so I just do it. I actually find the challenge liberating and freeing,” says Smyth.
If you’re not ready to commit to a long-term challenge, working out on the same days each week will help to make fitness seem like a given, rather than an option.
3. Break it down
A trick that helps Toronto-based physiotherapist Laura Douglas get through more difficult runs (and even helped her complete a marathon) is to push herself to go just a little bit further. “I look ahead to the next landmark, a street sign or a hydro pole, and I force myself to continue to that point,” says Douglas. Once she gets there, running just another 100 feet or so doesn’t seem so bad, so she looks to the next landmark.
When you’re feeling particularly drained, knowing there’s still half an hour left in your workout can make you want to give up. Instead, focus only on the next set of weights, or running the next five minutes and before you know it, you’ll have completed your workout.
Keep in mind, however, the difference between wanting to end a workout, and needing to end it. If you’re in pain or your fatigue feels more excessive than it should be, listen to your body and call it quits.
4. Buddy up
“Commit to a workout with a friend, join a running group or book a session with a personal trainer,” says Cawthorne. “If there is someone waiting for you, you are less likely to cancel.”
Another way to make peer pressure work in your favour? Share your fitness schedule with your partner, roommate or family member, and ask them to hold you to it, suggests Cawthorne. A good fitness buddy can make you realize that your reason for ditching a workout is kind of lame, or remind you of how good you’ll feel if you go for a run. You can return the favour by keeping the other person accountable, too.
5. Plan it ahead of time
A rookie mistake is to make working out a “maybe.” Douglas knows she’s much more likely to hit the gym or go to a yoga class if she’s planned it at least the day before. “If you already committed to the decision, it’s not an option not to do it,” says Douglas.
6. Lower your expectations
Just because you’re not feeling up to your usual one-hour routine, don’t skip working out altogether. By doing a little exercise, even if it’s just a 20-minute bike ride, you’re keeping your brain programmed to your fitness schedule. On the other hand, if you don’t exercise at all, it won’t seem like a big deal to skip another work out in the future.
“Ten minutes is good enough,” says Tova Payne, a yoga teacher and nutrition coach in Vancouver. Commit to doing 10 minutes and either you get a great, de-stressing and energizing mini workout, or “once you put 10 minutes into something, it’s likely you’ll want to keep going,” says Payne. It’s a win win.
Here is some more reading to keep you on track to getting fit.