Sticking To The Gym, One Day At A Time

Many of us will have a new year’s resolution that never came to be. For as long as I can remember, I have been trying to stick to a healthy exercise routine for years, and I lost count of how many gym memberships and class enrollments I went through in my life without ever – or barely – using it.

I’m not proud of it, much the opposite. Not being able to find the time or the motivation to include exercise in my life has always been something I always felt bad about.

So, what changed? How did I finally learned to incorporate exercise into my daily routine and achieved this new year’s resolution?

How I'm tricking myself into sticking to the gym. A new year's resolution finally achieved!

New Year’s Resolution: Be Healthy

What is Your Motivator?

In 2012 I started feeling a lot of pain in my knees, ankles, and hands. I was working daily, in multiples organizing jobs, and if you have ever tackled a garage filled to the brim with clutter, you know how physically demanding professional organizing is on our bodies. Imagine doing that 5-6 day a week for hours at a time.

To remedy the pain, I started popping over the counter painkillers, something that is 100% against my personal beliefs on how I should treat my body! For years I kept telling myself I’d look for a solution, but then life happened, things got busier than ever with our cross-country move, and next thing I knew, here I was in Illinois, summer of 2016.

With more “white space” on my calendar and in a brand new place, I was about to go through my first Illinois winter. While I have lived in Germany and Maryland, nothing prepared me for the long and dark days with sub-zero temperatures of Chicago’s winter.

I was very busy with work, consulting and offering my online training but being indoors for so long was very hard on me. I bought a bright light to keep at my desk (very helpful!) and increased my Vitamin D intake, but still, I became depressed. Fast.

Things got so bad that by the end of January my husband told me to take a short vacation and go visit family and friends in Brazil -where I am originally from- for a couple of weeks and “stock up” on some much-needed sunlight. But with the upcoming purchase of our new home, I just felt it was a splurge we couldn’t afford, so I braced for the rest of the winter.

Good Influence

By that time, I had become friends with a Brazilian expat who is not only a sweet person but who is also very active, physically speaking.

We’d meet regularly for coffee or go for dinners with our husbands, and she’d always invite me to come with her to her gym. I kept telling her how I “hate” gyms, but she kept encouraging me to join her at least once.

One day, by springtime, I asked her how did she feel during winter, because it had been miserable for me! She looked at me and said: I had no trouble at all with the winter. I loved it!

I was shocked! After all, we live 5 minutes away from each other, we have very similar lives, so how could I have been so depressed while she had a great time? What was I missing?

The answer was simple, but I heard the message loud and clear. My friend exercised at least five days a week and having that in her routine made all the difference. You can download an excersize routine chart here to get you started. If you would like instant access to the entire printables vault you can subscribe here for free.

Turning Point

I don’t know about you, but I hate being miserable. I’m a healthy person, I live in gratitude and have a content spirit. So, to me, to have felt *that* depressed was not “normal” and it was very hard. But most importantly, I was determined not to feel that way again, even if that meant exercising! (LOL)

On a mission to get my cells drunk with happy endorphins, I went to her gym, signed up for a monthly membership and decided that I’d show up there daily, for at least 30 minutes even if it’s to walk on a machine.

Adjusting To New Habits

As I started to exercise, I quickly noticed I’d have to change things around on my regular schedule to include it in my routine as I wanted to have a regular time to go to the gym without taking much time from work.

Three things had to be adjusted:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Water intake
  3. Daily routine

The most important part of sticking to it had nothing to do with my schedule. Instead, what I observed -after almost passing out at the gym once- was that I didn’t have the ENERGY to exercise because of an old and bad habit of going through many cups of coffee before having breakfast. As I wake up around 5-5:30, by the time I dropped all the kids off at school and hit the gym, I was famished and without a zap of energy left to engage with it. Download this chart that will help you keep track of what you are eating for each meal in a day. You can get instant access to the entire organizing printbles vault by subscribing for free here. 

I was determined to make things work, and as much as I loved my multiple cups of coffee early in the morning, I started having a good breakfast with my very first coffee cup. I also introduced a small snack right after exercising, which led me to make sure I included it to my grocery shopping list. I now keep avocados, canned tuna and a bunch of hard-boiled eggs in the fridge, ready to consume.

Finally, I now make sure I eat well at lunch, keeping the pantry stocked with whole grain bread, greens, salads and cold cuts to make yummy sandwiches.

Another adjustment I made was to pay attention to how much water I was drinking. With my “many cups of coffee” a day habit, I realized I wasn’t drinking water regularly. Now, I keep a large cup with a straw “attached to my hip” and am feeling well and hydrated.

Finally, if you have done something for over 30 years, you know habits are hard to break. Well, for as long as I can remember, I showered and dressed to work early in the morning, but now I had to change that step of my routine to simply get into my gym clothes (my favorite part of exercising! Haha!). There were days I’d take a shower before going to the gym! It took me a looooong time to get used to it, believe me.

blog graphic offering 3 free exercising planners

Click to download!

Find What You Like To Do

It took me a lot of trial and error, I went to classes I wished I had never stepped in, I felt completely silly while trying a Zumba class, I hated spinning and I learned I love Pilates, strength training, and Yoga.

My biggest lesson is that we need to give things a try for an extended period of time before we give up on them. No one likes to do things we’re not good at but if we just show up, one day at a time, we slowly see the improvement and the positive changes.

Winter is coming around again but this time I find myself thoroughly enjoying the new season, engaging with it and making the best of the long, dark days.

I never thought, in my wildest dreams, that one day I’d say I like exercising but now I can tell you that I do and that I miss it when my schedule is thrown off by something unexpected. My body learned to like it and I crave it when I skip a day or two.

If you have been struggling to get motivated to exercise, I hope my story will inspire and motivate you to get started! Share your story in the comments below and I’ll cheer you along.

How I'm tricking myself into sticking to the gym. A new year's resolution finally achieved!
How I'm tricking myself into sticking to the gym. A new year's resolution finally achieved!
A new year's resolution finally achieved!
How I'm tricking myself into sticking to the gym. A new year's resolution finally achieved!

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  1. I don’t go to the gym every day, but I have had chronic back pain for years. Last November, a friend showed me some exercises she does every morning to stretch out her back and strengthen her core. It only took about 7 minutes, so I figured I would try it. I now do it EVERY DAY, FIRST THING. also, since I was down in the workout space anyway, I started adding some other exercises and a bit of weight lifting and even a handstand to stretch my discs. I’ve also kept it up all year, and now it feels like part of the routine. Such a good feeling. Fear of pain is a good motivator!!

    1. That’s awesome, Seana!
      It’s great to have something that gets us started and then our bodies start craving it. That’s how I tricked myself into sticking to the gym! 🙂

  2. You AND your story are inspiring! I’m sorry that the Chicago winters had been so challenging for you. But look how you turned things around. You changed your exercise, eating, and hydrating habits AND you feel better. I’ve struggled with regular exercise. In the nice weather I love to walk, but once it gets cold, I don’t like being outside as much. I have made one habit change in the last few years of meditating daily. That has been positive. I know more exercise would be too. I’ll get there in my own time. Thank you for sharing your exercise journey. As I said, so inspiring!

  3. So inspiring Helena. I love yoga and had an almost daily practice but stopped back around October due to time issues (well I am sure that was my excuse) But some mornings it felt like either I can have breakfast or do yoga. Anyway, I have put on some weight over the last couple of years. I just retired from my full time job at the end of December and am working on getting back into that daily practice. I imagine myself walking too so plan to get out there and make use of my new fit bit. I am starting to feel like I want to do it because it just feels so good. Thanks I love this post 🙂

  4. I always hated working out until I found a gym with step classes. I even got certified and taught step classes, and later, Pilates, both at the very introductory level. And you’re so right, Helena; it really involves making some behavioral tweaks. I still work out, but on my own, and am far less committed without the poppy and the camaraderie of my fellow worker-outers. I think my ideal would be to have a personal trainer. (Then my butler could bring me breakfast in bed and lay out my workout clothes. Maybe someday!) Thanks for a great and motivating post!

    1. Hi, Julie. You are so funny! 😀 And it’s amazing that you were teaching these classes!
      I had never committed to exercising for so long and it’s a great feeling both for sticking with it and for the health benefits I feel. I am adding yoga classes to my weekly routing and my goal is to practice it daily.
      The great thing about learning to stick to one new habit teaches and motivates us to add a new one. I’m enjoying this!

  5. Thank you for sharing your story.
    It makes so much sense what you said about needing to change your other habits around.

    Got me inspired for the New Year ❤️

    1. Thank you, Shena!
      It makes me happy to have you here and to get you inspired.
      Exercising is finally something I do on a regular basis and even miss when I have to pause.
      Happy New Year!

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