If you knew me a few year ago, you would have never guessed that I’d be a regular gym go-er. When I was young, I did gymnastics, cheer, and dance… so burning calories as a kid was never a problem. As I got older, it became a lot harder to stay in good shape and even harder once college came around.
In college, I gained way more than the freshman 15 and found myself at my absolute heaviest weight of 186 lbs. At 5’4″ and 18 years old, this was concerning.
I hated how I looked so much that I stopped going out with friends and can hardly find any pictures of myself from college because, at the time, I was so disgusted with myself.
While adjusting my nutrition was the biggest factor in my weight loss journey, there was only so much changing my eating habits did for me.
I dreaded working out and the thought of having to go to the gym made me sick.
Eventually, I plateaued in my weight loss. But even more so, I realized I didn’t want to just be “skinny,” I wanted to be strong physically and mentally – which inevitably would require working out. And while I knew I’d have to workout at least a few times a week, I dreaded having to do something I didn’t like.
Fast forward a few years…here I am – working out 3-4 days a week and loving it! And so can you.
Here’s how I did it:
FIND A WORKOUT ROUTINE YOU’LL FALL IN LOVE WITH
You name the gym, type of exercise, DVD, app – I’ve tried it. I learned that the reason I couldn’t workout often was because I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. I needed to do something fun, and challenging – but effective. I needed it to fit in my schedule and keep me coming back for more.
Not every gym is for everyone.
But here are some factors that had a huge impact on my search for love in the fitness department:
Fun – Make sure you pick a workout routine that is fun to you! Nothing is worse than counting down the minutes until your workout is over. If you love to dance, take up dancing classes or hit up barre studio. If you are interested in weight lifting, learn how to lift weights properly with a personal trainer and challenge yourself to lift heavier weights each time. If you like to jam out to upbeat music, try spin classes. Whatever you do, make sure it is fun to you so you keep wanting to come back for more!
Time – Did it take up a lot of my time? Everyone always says you have to “make time for the gym.” But honestly, I found it impossible to do this. Instead, I made the gym find time for me. A huge time sucker when it comes to working out, for a lot of people, is the commute. I was going to a super fancy gym with a huge variety of fitness classes, a pool, lots of personal trainers available, and all sorts of other amenities. And while it was 15 minutes from my house and, at the time, I was working out after work, I ended up getting stuck in crazy traffic getting there. A 45 minute gym session quickly turned into a 2 hour chunk of my day. I was working a 9-5 job and after going to the gym, I wouldn’t be home until 7-7:30. And I don’t know about you guys, but I do the grocery shopping and cooking most nights, so I never made it home those nights until around 8. So yes, I needed a gym that fit into my schedule. Which meant I needed to find a place that was closer or was at least more accessible taking back roads to avoid traffic.
Efficiency – Tying into the time aspect… I often found that in addition to the long commute, I didn’t like staying at the gym for long. I would take fitness classes that were an hour long and found myself checking the clock every few minutes hoping I was almost done. I didn’t even burn that many calories in the class either or really break a sweat. And that’s when I learned about HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). With HIIT, you’re jacking your heart rate up and bringing it down over a shorter period of time and end up burning more calories and fat than you normally would only “sort of” putting in effort for a longer period of time. I learned that I could burn anywhere from 300-500 calories in less than an hour and feel incredible after. Before HIIT, I never left the gym feeling like I could conquer the world. Yet I felt like I needed to be in the gym for at least an hour, because that’s what people do at the gym, right? Well, wrong.
Culture/Environment– No one wants to workout somewhere they don’t feel comfortable. Personally, I want to be able to make friends at the gym, not feel judged, and see people of all shapes and sizes. I think it’s super empowering to see all sorts of people working out. It makes me feel like I will always fit in no matter where I am in life. I also love that it is a smaller gym and the people at the front desk always know my name and are interested in how I’m doing. I love that my gym has a get-together every few months and really works at building a community of people. Working out with people I’ve been on a health journey with since I joined the gym makes me want to see them when I work out and makes me excited to follow their journey, too.
When I put all of those things together and made sure those requirements were met with whatever routine I went with, I realized that working out was comfortable, efficient, and didn’t really take up my time – So I really had no more excuses to not go to the gym.
PUT SOMETHING ON THE LINE
This one is EXTREMELY important to me. As humans, we are much more inclined to do something if we know there’s a risk. For me, money is a big motivating factor. For my 23rd birthday, my mom got me a membership to a swanky gym. This was where the cool kids went. For real, it had a cafe, a hair salon, a spa, everything! It was amazing. But I also wasn’t paying for my membership, so I never really felt bad that I only went, like, 3 times a month. To me, I didn’t really see the $40 a month coming out of my checking account each month, so I didn’t really feel like “crap, I should really go work out because if I don’t I’m throwing $480 a year in the garbage.” So when I found my new gym, that happens to cost $150 a month, I made sure I was the one paying for it. As a recent college graduate, that $150 a month better be stretched as far as possible. So I make sure I’m making the most of my membership. My gym also offers a cheaper plan that is $50 dollars less a month, but you only get 2 classes a week with it whereas mine is unlimited. Therefore, if I go less than 3 times a week I literally punch myself in the face for wasting money on a plan I don’t use to its extent. If that’s an option at your gym, go for the unlimited plan and do the math to make sure you’re going more times than the other plans offer.
Another thing I like to do to make sure money is really on the line is to bet on my weight loss. There’s an awesome app called HealthyWage that lets you bet on your goals. Depending on how much you have to lose and how much you bet, you can potentially earn a good chunk of cash! This really forced me to hit the gym more and reach my goals!
Whether you’re competing against yourself or someone else, winning always feels good. My gym likes to do a lot of challenges that gives the person who got in x amount of workouts first a prize. Or, all the people who worked out 3 times a week for 6 weeks get free t-shirts. It’s a really fun way to win stuff and compete against others. Doing challenges like this with your friends or family and betting money or buying the winner dinner or a gift card is something anyone can do to incorporate challenge and competition to help each other get fit. You can also do this with yourself! Competing with yourself is the best kind of competition! Something that kept me motivated in my weight loss journey was buying myself a new outfit for every 10 lbs I lost. Or treating myself to a spa day if I worked out x amount of times this month.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
I put my workouts on the calendar. Every Sunday, I plan which days I know I can workout and mark my calendar. This way, I can plan the 3-4 days that week I plan to workout so I make sure I don’t make plans during my gym time because the gym is my first priority. Gym days are my days where I can look forward to my “me time.” When the time is already blocked out, it really helps you hold yourself accountable, too. The same way you wouldn’t want to bail on plans with a friend, you shouldn’t want to bail on the gym. This also lets me know when my “rest days” are and I can plan other things during those days and can look forward to those plans as well!
BRING A FRIEND
Lastly, bringing a friend, family member, significant other is always a fun way to get a workout in and spend time with the people you love most. Doing anything active with another person is a great way to bond. But also, if you know you get to see one of your favorite people at the gym, you’ll be super excited to go and way more motivated. You also can’t be a jerk and bail on your friend, so making those plans definitely forces you to go!