I’ve got a great pair of minimalist shoes made by New Balance that have a neoprene cover that zips up over the shoe. They’re perfect for rain and slush and even snow. On the inside of the shoe, near the heel, is printed “NB Now You Have One Less Excuse.” That’s a great slogan, but it really is true. We have so many hurdles, some real and some imaginary, to get over before we exercise. Anything we can do to minimize their impact is a good thing.
Most of us know that when we make it to the gym, we are virtually always glad we did and leave feeling much better than when we arrived. Exercise takes effort and energy, however, and our minds don’t want us to expend energy unless our survival is at stake. Your survival really is at stake when you choose to exercise or not, but it’s not immediate enough for your brain to let go of its energy conservation mode.
If you’ve been having trouble getting to the gym regularly, or even harder, starting a program of exercise, a good place to begin might be writing down all the reasons and thoughts that have gotten in your way. Problems are almost always easier to face and overcome when we can see them clearly.
The most common hurdle to exercising for many people seems to be finding the time. The best way to deal with this is by planning ahead and scheduling exactly when you will be exercising throughout the week. This has to be realistic. We all have limits to both our time and our energy. It’s far better to be consistent with three workouts a week than to not keep up a daily training schedule.
For some people, working out first thing in the morning when they are fresh, and before the day’s distractions have started, works best. For others, later in the day is a better choice. Regardless of your preference, plan ahead and treat this time like any other commitment
Many folks find that going to the gym in the evening works well for them, but that if they go home first they often don’t get back off the couch again. In this case, pack your gym clothes and an after- work snack in your car in the morning and go to the gym directly from work. What better way to rid yourself of the day’s stresses and get rejuvenated?
If you are feeling particularly hungry or tired and thinking of bailing, try telling yourself you just have to go to the gym and have a protein smoothie. If you really still don’t feel like exercising after that, fine. More often than not, though, once we are in the door and refueled, we look forward to getting moving.
Getting there really is the hard part. My wife Ellen has a strategy she recommends to reluctant new exercisers. She says to schedule when you will be coming to the gym and then just come and have coffee and perhaps sit in front of our S.A.D light, if you like. After a week or so when this is becoming a habit you can start throwing in a little time on the treadmill or what have you. The important thing is you have carved out the time and are making a routine of it.
If you’ve found ways to be more consistent with your exercise, I’d love to hear about them. Email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll write them up in a future article. Until then, make realistic goals and then plan ahead to remove obstacles to them.