Remember that old myth that it takes 21 days to form a habit*? We are now 23 days into the first month of 2014, and as someone who began working out on the 2nd, I’m exactly 3 weeks into my goal of making the gym my new habit. So, how’s it going?
Short answer: good. Long answer: it’s far too early to decide whether this will end up being a long term thing, but so far I’ve been kicking butt. Along the way I’ve reflected on why this time is different and what has helped me to commit more time than I ever have in my life (embarrassing, right) to hitting the gym.
Here are my 8 tips for developing a gym-habit.
- Get a workout buddy. And not just anyone. I’ve been heading to the gym with my bestie/roomie Laura Clendenning (of Dedicated Not Addicted) who isn’t only passionate about getting in shape, but knows her stuff too. She’s currently training for her 4th (!!) fitness competition and is studying to earn her Personal Training certification. She’s energetic, committed, and knows exactly what she’s doing. Going with someone who knows which machines to use and how to use them takes away the intimidation factor of wandering around a crowded gym (which is ALWAYS filled with insanely good-looking people who appear completely at home.) The commitment factor is a big one here as well, as it’s harder to skip a workout once you told someone you were going to go. There’s also the added bonus of spending time with someone who’s dope- a little social time in between sets never hurt anyone.
- Plan your workout. Another trick I learned from LC is to write down your workout prior to hitting the gym. This provides structure and purpose, preventing you from giving up and saying “That’s enough” 20 minutes after you’ve arrived.
- Record your workout. It’s hard to remember which days you went, let alone which set of exercises you did two weeks ago if you don’t write it down. As someone who’s constantly learning new machines and sequences, it’s extremely helpful to bring a notebook and jot things down as I go. I’m able to record the weights I use and the times I run which means next time I can push myself to improve them. It’s been extremely satisfying tracking my progress and seeing improvements so far.
- Switch it up. Doing the same routine gets boring real fast and I knew that my gym-going wouldn’t last long if I was constantly doing the same thing every time. As a member of the YMCA I have huge flexibility with my workouts- I am for 2 days of weights (usually one arms/shoulders and one legs/back day), a longer cardio session, and one power yoga class every week. Not only does this give me balance, but I can shuffle my workouts based on what I’m feeling and have yet to feel completely bored. It’s a mini success, but I’ll take it!
- Equip yourself. I’m not saying that every piece of workout clothing has to be the newest, most expensive Lululemon, but there’s something to be said for wearing proper gear at the gym. I invested in some new shorts and quick dry tops last summer and just got an amazing gym bag for Christmas that I’m stoked to rock. If you look the part, you’ll start to feel the part, and a sleek luon tank is a lot more motivating than an over-sized stained T from high school. Pick up a cool notebook, stack a killer playlist, grab container of protein powder and you’ll feel like you belong at the gym in no time.
- Forgive yourself. I learned pretty quickly that there are going to be weeks where I don’t get to the gym as much as I’d like. Being busy is okay as long as it’s the exception and not the rule. If you miss a workout, let it go. But then get back on track and hit the gym hard the next day.
- Set a deadline. There’s nothing more motivating than a looming deadline. As one of my big goals this year is to run a 10K, I figured it was time to light the fire and sign up for the Vancouver Sun Run 2014. (I literally did it as I was writing this post- early bird goes until January 31st!) Knowing that I’m going to have to run 10K whether I’m in shape or not means I’ll certainly be training with some added gusto.
- Just get there. I’ve found that without a doubt the hardest thing about adding gym time into my routine is actually getting myself to the gym. Once I’m there, I’m good! I have two tricks for making this happen: 1) Drink a pre-workout shake because then I’m obligated to go work it off, and 2) Tell myself that I just need to do a super short workout and then I can hit the steam room- more often then not, I’ll stay for the full workout once I’m there.
There you have it, all my gym ‘secrets’ are yours for the taking! For all you fitness peeps, don’t forget to check out Laura’s blog here for workouts, recipes, challenges, and a heaping dose of motivation.
*Turns out it’s more like 66 -according to this study- but can vary between 18-254 days.