By VANESSA HAMPTON
One of the most difficult challenges many of us face and have faced in the past is hitting our stride with consistently working out. I did not grow up working out and I was not an athlete in middle or high school (Marching Band member here!) so exercise was never second nature to me. Prior to finding my own groove with exercise, I too struggled with being consistent.
Along the way, I half-heartedly tried a lot of different things. I was a member at Curves at one point, owned a collection of Leslie Sansone walking videos at another, and joined the YMCA on a few occasions (only to cancel the membership a couple of months later). None of these things ever stuck and I would end up right back where I started… sitting on my couch in the evenings, feeling guilty, and beating myself up because working out didn’t come easy to me. I think I kept waiting on some switch to flip that would cause me never to be tired again, give me a ton of free time, and suddenly make workouts as fun as Disneyland.
What I eventually realized is that working out doesn’t come easy to any of us unless we make up our minds to do it and condition ourselves for it. Even people in our lives or on our social media that seem to constantly be working out (and happy about it!) have their own struggles at times finding the motivation to do those workouts….Every single one of them. Some of us are just further along on our journey and have figured out what our bodies need and what keeps us moving.
For me it has been a progression. It began with finding a personal trainer and committing to 3 days a week in the gym. From there, I began to set goals for myself, making the decision to go to the gym easier. At one point, after just finding my groove with consistency, my mother got sick. She needed me which made it impossible to get to the gym during my normal time. Previously, I would have totally let that sideline me but my goals had become important to me and I was finding a much needed feeling of success through my workouts. So instead of just throwing up my hands and letting life take over again, I changed my workout time to 5 am to get it in before I needed to be with her. Never in my life would I have thought I would be getting up in the wee hours of the morning to go workout but, you know what? I still workout at 5 or 6 am and now I prefer it!
I will never forget one of those 5 am gym mornings, early on in my fitness journey. A man stopped me as I was walking by and asked “How do you do it?”. I gave him a puzzled look and he continued “Every single morning that I am here, I see you in here working out and all I can think about is how difficult it was for me to roll out of bed and get here today”. I explained to him that it had not always been easy and still wasn’t at times but that he was doing exactly what I did to get there….making the decision to walk through the door. Just walking through the door, even when your mind is fighting it, is the key to consistency. As with everything else, sometimes it’s easier to find reasons why we “can’t” fit in a workout or focus on what we “can’t” do as far as our limitations but you always have a choice, and only YOU can make it.
The first step is to make yourself a priority. My workouts are written on my planner just like all of my other appointments throughout my day. I consider myself a high priority client and I never schedule over my workouts. If for some reason (and it has to be an unavoidable reason) something else is necessary to schedule during my normal workout time, I reschedule it elsewhere on my calendar. IN PEN. If you keep saying to yourself that you just don’t have time, you haven’t yet made the commitment. You absolutely have time, (even if it’s 5 am) because working out can take as little or as much time as you want or need. It is your choice to make.
After you commit to making yourself a priority and schedule your workouts, the second step is to find the type of workout that is right for you both mentally and physically. There are so many different ways to move and, just because a certain method is right for one person, doesn’t mean it will be what motivates you. Think about your strengths and weaknesses. Do you need accountability? Maybe just direction? …a personal trainer or workout buddy might be the right fit for you. Are you competitive or just like being around people and don’t want to have to think about what your workout should be? …Group classes might be your answer. Maybe your workout time is your thinking time or your recharge time and, if so, working out on your own at home, outdoors, or in a gym might suit you best.
There are also many different options for how to exercise. Your body may prefer the flow and movement of yoga, the consistent pace of walking or running, the feel of weights or even the challenge of swimming. The more open minded you can be about what works for you on any given day or under any circumstance, the better consistency you will have. Life ebbs and flows and if we get stuck in one method that works during one season of our life, we will have a much more difficult time staying consistent when life moves us in a different direction.
Finally, be your own cheerleader. During my first years of working out, my wall calendar was my best friend (those are my calendars in the photo!). Every day that I did what I set out to do, even on rest days, I marked off the box and gave myself a star sticker. These calendars were in my bathroom, front and center, and served as my motivator to keep moving forward. While this may seem elementary, positive affirmations like this instill a feeling of success that we will continue to seek out.
I look back at these calendars and they make me smile because I am proud of me. I did that. No one else. I made the choice to make me a better me and now the decision to workout is not difficult. My body doesn’t just ask for it, it now demands it. I have gotten good at paying attention to what my body needs and asks for on any given day and I practice loving kindness towards myself. You can do this too. It’s your decision. So do it. Just duck your head, flex your mental muscle, and make the choice to be a better you… one workout at a time.
Vanessa Hampton, owner of Body Balance with V, is a personal trainer, yoga instructor, and CrossFit coach (CrossFit Cool Springs, Brentwood). Follow her on Facebook or Instagram @bodybalancewithv or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.