Well folks, I wanted to share that I have actually been consistently working out since about April of this year. (Yay me!)
Back before I began working out, I read a blog post by my cousin Will – who is an avid workout-er… I guess you could call him an athlete – and he talked about how so much of our actions revolve around instant gratification, and how it’s hard to buckle down and do something when you know you won’t see results for a while. His blog motivated me to stop thinking and wishing that I was working out, and just do it. So I started telling myself that exercising was just “something I do now.” Like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. It’s not something I have to wonder if I’m going to do, I just do it.
Honestly, this mindset has been a great strategy for me. Other times when I began trying to work out consistently (my longest stretch in the past was 6 months before I gave up cold turkey), I was always in it for some goal. I wanted to get to a certain weight or look a certain way or be able to run a certain speed or distance. But this time, there’s not a distinct goal – it’s just what I do now.
If I’m honest though, I did have two motivations for starting working out: one was my physical appearance, and the other was my mental health. If you’ve read my blog before, you know physical appearance is something that I can get consumed with. I sometimes struggle to accept how I look. Well, I knew working out would not make me look worse, and I hoped it might improve how I felt about my body as well. I actually have read that working out can make you feel better about how you look, even though you might not look any different at all. I don’t remember the science behind it all, but that intrigued me.
I also know and have read, as many of us have, that physical activity can help lower your stress levels and be a natural way to combat depression and anxiety. As a person who has struggled in the past with these issues, I figured working out might be a good habit for me to get into as a way to help better and support my own mental health. But I also noted that many of these studies talked about not seeing positive results to mental health until 4-6 months, or even up to a year after beginning working out. So I knew this was going to be something I would really have to commit to if I wanted to fully reap the benefits.
When I decided that I wanted to start running, I set a goal of 3 times a week. And for the first month, I sometimes only ran twice a week, but that was okay. Starting in May, I got a lot better at keeping up with three times a week, and I figured out a consistent time for me to go running. I typically go in the mornings, around 6:30 or so, before my son and husband are awake.
To my surprise, running has become something I love to do… yes, weird right? I love the coolness and quiet in the mornings, and I like that there’s not a ton of people out yet. I like getting to see the sunrise (if I can make it out early enough!) I also really love getting to listen to my music and kind of zone out to the beat while I run. If I couldn’t listen to music, I don’t think I would run – that’s a huge part of the reason I enjoy it so much.
I made a “Running” playlist on my phone which includes, among other things, some 80’s music, Backstreet Boys, and the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. (I have the weirdest collection of music on my phone!) If I’m wanting to test my speed and do some sprinting, I listen to music from the Lion King – specifically the part where the wildebeests are chasing Simba in the gorge, and I pretend that I’m running away from something chasing me… hey, it works!
So if you’re a person, like I was, that wants to start working out but just hasn’t found the motivation yet, maybe some of this will be helpful for you. I’ll summarize my tips below:
Find something that you will potentially look forward to doing, even if you don’t like it at first. If you can make working out enjoyable, you’ll be a lot more likely to do it. Try different things until you find something you like. Maybe it’s the time of day that makes it more or less enjoyable – find out what works best for you.
Buy yourself a cute pair of running shoes or workout outfit! When I knew that I had picked running as my thing, I decided to get myself a nice, new pair of running shoes. It might sound silly, but I was more motivated to go running when I could wear my new shoes!
Tell yourself working out is just something you do now. Change your mindset. You’re not working out to hit a goal – you’re working out because that’s what you do every Tuesday at 6:30 (or whenever).
Make yourself an awesome music playlist. This really does make a difference for me – I look forward to getting time to listen to music for a 30 minute stretch. (And music that does not include “Old McDonald” or “Let it Go” – top choices from my two-year-old!)
Don’t set a specific goal or look for results. Don’t worry about the number on the scale, or how much your time improved (or didn’t). Keep track of that if you want, but don’t make it a big deal.
Persevere through any problems – don’t give up! I started out slow, and I still ran into issues as my body got used to running regularly. After a few weeks, I got bad hip pain, enough that I had to take a break for about a week. I realized that I needed to do certain stretches and exercises to help build the right muscles to support my posture during my runs. Another time I really hurt my shoulder/neck muscle, so much that I had to go to the doctor and get prescription pain killers and muscle relaxers. Again, I realized it was a posture thing while I ran. All of this was a bit discouraging and made me wonder if my body just wasn’t built for running, but so far I’m adjusting and working through the problems as they come.
*By the way – “persevere” does not mean keep running through the pain. You don’t want to seriously injure yourself – take breaks or tone it down if you need to, just don’t quit!
Don’t believe the lie that you “don’t have time” – make time! This is a hard one. I constantly told myself this before I started working out – “I don’t have time!” I had plenty of good excuses: I have a baby, I work full-time, I have grad homework, etc… Now that I’ve found a rhythm that works for me, I see that I do indeed have time, I just had to make it a priority. Just like I wouldn’t stop brushing my teeth or taking showers because I “don’t have time,” exercising gets treated the same way. Maybe you will have to sacrifice time somewhere else – I think for a lot of us if we start looking, we will find pockets of time that make working out possible. Even if you only have 10 minutes, it’s a start!