If you’re someone who’s been working out religiously for a long time, and doesn’t need motivation to make it a part of your routine, this post might not be for you. But for someone like me who’s been struggling with this for years and is in an on/off relationship with workouts, let me share some of the tips that have helped me stay on track.
But before I do that, I’ll start by giving you the backstory on my relationship with working out. I actually enjoy it. The problem with me is that first kick in the butt to get me off my ass and change into my workout clothes. Because once I start, I honestly don’t dislike working out. I once took 2 back-to-back one-hour Zumba classes with a friend, and once worked out for 1 ½ hours doing cardio and weights (excluding stretching) at home and only stopped because I had to get ready for something. Once I start, I can actually go on for a long time.
In the past, I would be disciplined when I joined a gym with a friend, then we’d take a break because one of us was going on vacation or some other reason (gym would close) and then I’d completely stop and lose motivation. I’d always workout on a regular basis for a couple of months at a time and then would stop completely for months, even years. A few years ago, my friend raved about Zumba classes but since I’m not a fan of Latin music, I wasn’t very interested. Then one day I decided to join her and I absolutely loved it. I sucked, but I loved it. The thing is, I have good rhythm and a good ear for music, which helps a lot with Zumba. So once I got the hang of the choreography, I wasn’t bad and enjoyed it even more. Seeing as my friend and I lived 5 minutes apart, we decided to join a gym nearby and took their Zumba classes a couple of times a week – shoutout to our awesome teacher Kim! I miss those days! Unfortunately, the gym closed and here I was again, all my motivation lost. But I gained an appreciation for Zumba which to this day is my favourite workout.
It was only a few months ago that I decided to be serious about working out and actually make it a part of my life. I was having health issues and was able to fix a lot of them holistically, so being active became that much more important to me. I had to find a way to never give up again and here’s what’s been helping me so far:
-Don’t wait until you find motivation to get off your butt, you might never find it. Just be disciplined and make it a “must”, the same way you “must” take a shower, brush your teeth, cook your meals, etc. Don’t think about it for too long. Just get up and change into your workout gear.
-Don’t give yourself unrealistic goals (like working out 5 times a week for an hour). Start small. Tell yourself that some movement is better than no movement (shoutout to my friend Gen for this precious tip).
-If you don’t workout for 3-4 days or an entire week for any reason, don’t give it up altogether. Start fresh the next day.
-Add variety to your workouts so you don’t get bored. See more tips on that below.
-Make sure you move in a way you enjoy. More tips on that as well.
-Don’t get discouraged by your workout and use it as a reason to stop. Ex.: if you’re doing strength training and it’s hard, decrease the weight. If the Zumba moves are too complicated, just focus on the upper body moves or the lower body moves, whichever is easier, or simply dance in place, until the next move comes along. I once struggled so much with the moves from a choreography that I just thought “F&*k it!” and freestyled the entire song until the next one came on.
-Don’t worry if you don’t always have a lot of energy when moving. We all have our “off” days. Sometimes you’ll workout with a lot of enthusiasm, other days you might not be as energetic. Give it what you can.
-If you’re not doing some kind of guided exercise where you have to listen to instructions, make sure you have a killer playlist. I have a playlist called Workout on my Spotify that I love listening to when doing weights.
-This is going to sound superficial to some, but being into fashion… a cute outfit doesn’t hurt when it comes to motivation!
HOW TO ADD VARIETY TO WORKOUTS
-Mix things up with the equipment you have at home. For example: I have a small trampoline (amazing for your lymphatic system-often forgotten but so important), a compact elliptical, a bunch of old DVDs (still a fan of Cindy Crawford’s), an exercise ball, a jumping rope, resistance bands and much more (see more suggestions at the bottom).
-Download an app that offers free workouts such as Melissa Wood Health, Nike Training Club, Asana Rebel (yoga), etc. Most of them have in-store purchases, but a lot of them offer some free exercises.
-Check out YouTube for popular exercise channels. Often times, apps like Tone it Up, Melissa Wood Health or Kayla Itsines’ Sweat will offer free workouts/moves on their YT channels (see below for more on YouTube).
-Go for a walk. I’ve read from many reliable sources that walking 10,000 steps a day is considered a good “movement” for a day. Again, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’re too tired after 7,500 steps, that’s fine. Again, some movement is better than no movement.
-Not a workout per se, but try to move more in general: ex.: use stairs instead of elevators, park further from the store when shopping, do some easy leg work to the sound of music (or dance) when you’re cooking in the kitchen, jump on your mini trampoline during commercial breaks while watching TV.
I personally love YouTube because you can find anything you want there: yoga, Zumba, HIIT, cardio, weight training, etc. What I suggest is to create a few playlists with your favourite videos and watch them ahead of time before adding them to your playlist. That was important for me because when I didn’t do that, I’d find myself tuning into one of my playlists, ready for a workout, then realise some exercises were too advanced for me, or required equipment I didn’t have so I had to stop and look for something else (nice way to lose your motivation). I have 2-3 Zumba playlists with choreographies I was already familiar with from my old classes, each playlist lasting an hour. If I ever get really tired and can’t do more than half an hour, I simply stop mid-way, no pressure. I have the same for Yoga, weight training, cardio, HIIT, etc. I create one-hour playlists and stop after 20, 30 or 40 minutes if I can’t do the whole hour. For example, for your weight exercises, you can choose targeted exercises or some that work a group of muscles for more efficiency and time-saving. If you find the idea of having a bunch of 1-hour playlists daunting, then simply add a bunch of your favourite quick workouts to a “Miscellaneous” playlist, and do whatever you can (ex.: 7-min abs, 14-min lower body, or even simple stretching exercises on your “off” days, etc.)
Another thing I do is simply find images or GIFs of various weight training exercises on Pinterest or Google, and place them in a folder on my computer. I have 2-3 folders, each containing around 20 exercises (abs, legs, core, arms, etc.) that I do on rotation. Again, if I can’t bring myself to do all 20 of them (one hour), I do what I can.
One thing with me is that I don’t like to be obligated to follow a strict schedule or have to be held accountable for my workouts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against that, I totally get that this is what it takes for some people to find the motivation/discipline to get up and get going. And so many platforms offer virtual classes and make you “sign up” for a specific class, and have great communities of like-minded people, which is great for some. But in my case, it just causes me frustration knowing that I am obligated to do something at a specific time and/or place. Also, I work from home and manage my own schedule so I don’t always workout at the same time each day, as it depends on my workload and deadlines.
Now some people might read this and think, “You keep saying don’t be too hard on yourself, doesn’t that give people an excuse to workout less?” But I strongly disagree with that. I’d rather have small goals and surpass them, than unrealistic ones I’ll give up on after a week. And guess what? When I give myself a goal of a 10-min workout or 5,000 steps a day, I usually end up doing a LOT more! Also, as I mentioned earlier, this is targeted towards those who struggle and being one of them, these tips have helped me tremendously.
Now here is some of my favourite at-home equipment to add as much variety as possible:
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