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?
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.
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.
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:
- Water intake
- 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.
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.
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.