I’m not one to do something simply because I’m supposed to.
But I love working out.
Luckily it’s good for me, too.
As a working mom, I have to put on my creativity hat to find time for the gym. My husband and I devised a schedule so I have the flexibility to go a few times a week after work.
But I don’t always go.
Sure, it’s easy to blame a parent’s unpredictable and busy schedule. We certainly can’t do it all.
But this is really, really important, and I love it.
So why won’t I put on my gym shorts and exercise more?
What holds us back from moving our body more when it’s so important?
This year I took a deeper look at what mountains were standing in my way of increasing my physical activity. Along the way, I found some invaluable strategies that helped me overcome exercise inertia.
Getting rid of your stumbling blocks
To get to the root of this, I made a mental list of why I don’t exercise more.
My stumbling blocks were very easy to identify: lack of time and energy.
Working out at the gym can feel like a huge time commitment. This scenerio is not uncommon:
- Get ready for the gym.
- Drive to the gym, and park in a lot that is always overflowing.
- Work out for 30-40 minutes.
- Cool down and stretch.
- Drive home.
- Shower and wash my hair (which I only normally wash 2-3 days a week).
Usually, it takes an hour to an hour and a half for the whole process. No wonder I am hesitant to add this much time to my crowded day!
Some days I have the time but don’t want to work out because I have low energy.
It’s tricky because if I exercise when I’m tired, I will likely feel a lot better. But my body doesn’t want to move.
To combat this, I came up with five tactics to exercise more, which help overcome both lack of time and energy. Some of these were game changers for me!
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1. Add exercise to your calendar
Everyone seems to be crazy busy these days, but I bet if you look hard enough you’ll find some time in your schedule.
Find these pockets of time in your week and then add exercise to a few open slots on your calendar. Don’t schedule anything else for that time.
It’s important to consciously make a decision that you are prioritizing exercise.
Plus, studies show that if you physically add this to your schedule, you are more likely to follow through.
I schedule at least two visits a week to the gym on our shared family Google calendar. I may start adding my walks and other activities just to make sure I make room.
2. Skip the Gym
Who says your workout has to be at the gym? If you have young children, navigating a trip to the gym can be a big hurdle.
If trip to the gym is adding too much time, then find easy alternatives that will keep you active.
- Go for a walk or run (with or without kids).
- Go on a bike ride.
- Stream an exercise class.
- Pop in a yoga DVD.
- Play with your kids.
- Stretch while watching TV.
- Buy a piece of exercise equipment and jump on it when you have 5 minutes to spare.
Lately, when I can’t go to the gym, I stretch for 20-30 minutes while watching TV with my husband at night.
We also have a recumbent bike in our basement, which is perfect for times when I don’t want to venture out. It also makes me feel a bit better if I pair biking with watching a TV show I enjoy that has no nutritional value.
3. Don’t let sweat deter you from working out
This inspiration came from a Gretchen Rubin “Happier” podcast. One of her listeners shared that she associates working out with washing her hair. The two were linked in her mind and prevented her from going to the gym.
Then it hit me: I sometimes avoid exercise simply because I don’t want to wash my hair.
I had to laugh because that’s the worst of excuses. In my defense, it does take a lot of time to clean my long, thick unruly hair.
One solution is to buy dry shampoo. Some of them are very effective. Or in a pinch, you can use baby powder.
Another idea is to occasionally choose workouts that don’t include sweating, such as walking or light yoga.
4. Use this 5-minute rule
When you feel too tired to exercise or you’re nervous to start a new exercise routine, commit to being active for only 5-10 minutes.
Anyone can be active for 5 minutes. Peddle lightly on a recumbent bike or stroll leisurely down the street.
Let your body gently feel active and it will tell you what you are capable of that day.
This strategy significantly lowers my resistance to exercise. I can easily exercise for 5 minutes and I give myself permission to stop if I want.
And 5 minutes almost always turns into 10, 20 or 30 minutes and I finish my workout.
If I don’t rally after 5 or 10 minutes and my energy is still low, I know I need to quit for the day.
I am not a health specialist, but I find this is especially effective, especially if you are starting a new exercise routine.
Try it for 5 minutes and see what happens.
5. Change up your intensity
Here’s another tactic to get moving when you feel resistance to exercise: Change up your workout and do something a little less demanding.
A wise friend of mine once reminded me that I don’t have to work out until I drop every time I exercised. It hit me like a ton of bricks: I only associated exercise with blood, sweat and tears.
Sometimes your body needs relaxing movement that requires less energy.
I try to stretch for 20 minutes at least a few times a week. At first, I didn’t consider this exercise because my heart rate doesn’t rise much. However, my legs are stronger as well as my abs as a result of these simple movements. (I use this Step-Out Stretch, which comes with starter stretches.)
Every time I stretch or take a stroll, I find even more energy and it doesn’t take much mental or physical strength to get started or to stick with it.
Listen to your body and find what you need.
And when you listen to what you need, you are more likely to exercise.
I find my resolve to stay active is so much stronger when I follow these strategies.
I’d love to hear how you stay motivated to exercise. Please leave a comment below.