"I'll get back into my workout routine starting Monday"... "I'm really gonna stick to it this time"..."I need to get off my lazy butt and go to the gym"..."I should probably start getting my summer body ready".
Have you found yourself saying any of those phrases at least once? Multiple times? Do you go back and forth from being super motivated and "good" to feeling lazy and inactive? Then this post is juuuust for you!
When I used to be extremely consistent with my gym routine...as in, 6 days a week, 2 hours a day consistent...my boyfriend and I were long distance. I had just separated from the military, I was on unemployment, and had no life other than working out and eating (and studying for my personal training certification).
But still, my life revolved around the gym. That is one of the the only times I've ever been that consistent with working out. The other time was when my boyfriend was deployed. That time I was working part time, attending college full time, but outside of that I still had no life. And I had just moved to a new city, so I definitely didn't have many friends.
During both times where my gym routine was consistent, I was like a gym robot. It was like I couldn't compute without my time in the gym "must...work...out". I would feel lost and devastated if I missed a day. I would literally panic, and would break plans with friends and family because I couldn't possibly miss a day.
Now that I look back...I don't see that gym obsession as a healthy way to go about it. And I would muuuch rather spend time living life with loved ones and making memories than to just work out for the sake of looking a certain way.
I have a few theories as to why we find it difficult to stick to our gym routine. Of course, everyone's situation is different, so I can't cover everything in one post. But what I can do is point out some of the most "obvious" (actually not so obvious) reasons why we find it difficult to be consistent in our gym routine.
First of all, let's just break down the common reasons why we even choose to go to the gym in the first place...
- Everyone else is doing it. So we "should" too. It's such a normal thing in our society to have a gym membership that no one actually asks themselves "do I even like going to the gym??" We forget that exercise can be found in other places besides a gym. More on that later.
"I want a better body"
- In our modern society, I can't just question weight loss motives because then I'm often told "well, I'm not trying to lose weight. I'm just trying to tone up". In whatever way you're trying to change your body, that may not be motivation enough to keep you working out consistently. Especially when considering your habits outside of the gym. If you're eating food that isn't serving you, not sleeping enough, not managing your stress...the gym isn't going to be your magic fix. Not to mention, you can only manipulate your body so much. We all look different at our own healthy size...I couldn't ever be a Beyoncé, or a Kate Moss. I just wasn't built that way. No amount of hours in the gym would ever get me there. And trust me, I've tried.
Those two reasons for choosing going to the gym are the main reasons I come across. I'm not pointing them out to say that they're "wrong" ways to go about it, but it's good information to have when you're trying to analyze why you can't seem to stick to your gym routine. It will also build some much needed self-compassion along the way.
Okay, now that we've covered why many of us feel we should go to the gym in the first place...let's dive into a few of the most common reasons why we don't stick to our routine.
It's just not a priority
- Life is crazy! Often times, we just don't make the time to get ourselves to the gym. There is nothing wrong with that! Movement doesn't have to only take place at the gym.
You just don't like the gym!
- Going back to what I said earlier... we try to force ourselves into enjoying our time at the gym, but what if you just don't enjoy working out at the gym?? I'll explain what you can do about that in the next section.
You forget that life is full of ebbs and flows
- Sometimes, your gym routine is gonna be on point! You'll be consistent, motivated, and just on it. Then sometimes you won't see the inside of your gym for weeks. That's how life works...think of it as a giant wave. We never criticize the ocean when it's calm and relaxed, so why do we criticize ourselves when we're going through a period of rest?
You don't think it counts unless you're consistent
- You may have the urge to go to the gym on a Thursday, but if you haven't gone all week you might think "eh, I've already blown it this week. I might as well just start back up on Monday". You get into a cycle of feeling like you've "failed" and it only gets confirmed more each time you skip workouts because you haven't made it at all that week.
You haven't found a workout routine you enjoy
- So many people think that for a workout to "count" it has to include some strength training, some cardio, and lots of sweating. You overwork yourself when you do go to the gym...then you dread going back. No wonder!
Here are some ways you can look at your gym habits differently, and make movement and exercise a more regular part of your life (if that's what you want, you're not obligated to do so!)
- In order for us to keep our bodies healthy and feel that simple every day activities are doable, we need to get in the habit of moving our bodies regularly! Instead of thinking in terms of "exercise" or "workout", it's helpful to remember that just getting up and moving our bodies is enough. Also, don't think that if you've already gone to the gym, then you're "done" for the day. The gym shouldn't wear you out enough that you can't move for the rest of the day. Try to get some movement in every day...even if it's just a five minute walk around the block, you're doing enough!
Decide if you even like the gym
- What kind of movement did you enjoy as a child? What sort of activities got you running around for hours while forgetting about time? Try to get back into that child like mindset! If you've grown up, gotten a gym membership and decided you don't enjoy working out in an enclosed space with just standard gym equipment...that's okay! Cancel your membership and explore something else. Do you like to hike? Sports? Dance? Want to try out pole fitness? Yoga? Boxing? Aerial yoga? Sex? There are SO many options out there...you don't have to limit yourself to just one place to get your workout on!
Have some self-compassion
- You won't perfectly meet your gym expectations all the time. Life comes with many obstacles, and changes, and it's important for us to be flexible. Unless you're getting paid to workout, you have nothing else going on, or you make it a top priority (which is not the case for most people), you're going to experience weeks where you're at the gym a lot, and some weeks where you're just not. That's okay! Pick right back up where you left off. You don't have to do extreme workouts to experience the benefits of exercise.
Be okay with being inconsistent
- As I said above, it's silly to skip your Thursday workout just because you didn't make it on Wednesday. If you're in the mood to workout, or you know it will help you feel less stressed, happier, etc...then go do it!! Who cares if you skipped a few days?? Your body doesn't keep score. It's just happy that you're moving it...like a dog that feels happy to go on a walk.
Experiment with different options at your gym
- You may not have experienced a type of workout you like to do yet...that's so common! Especially if you're unsure where to start, you feel intimidated, or you just don't have a routine. There are tons of great resources online to help you through this! When I was first learning to lift weights, I learned all my techniques by watching YouTube videos. It was super helpful, and if I felt confused during a new type of lift, I would just check out the video! You can also bring a friend for support, or hire a trainer. You may enjoy taking the classes at your gym. You may like weight lifting. Circuit training. Power lifting. Cardio. Swimming. The options are endless...get out of your comfort zone and figure out what you really love to do! That will guarantee to keep you coming back. And don't do anything you don't enjoy...there are too many options out there to torture yourself like that...plus doing so will cause you to dread working out.
Most importantly...get really clear on why you want to workout in the first place
- I find that most people workout because they want to look a certain way. While this type of motivation may work in the short-term, it often fades. Life gets in the way and when we "slip up" on our routine, we feel like there's no point in trying because we've "lost our progress". Or maybe we are non-stop bingeing on food outside of the gym, and we're not seeing any changes in our body so we get discouraged and quit. If you want to make exercise a long-term, consistent part of your life, then I suggest digging deeper to find out why it's important to you. For me...I exercise to relieve stress. To push myself. To test how strong I am physically and mentally. To decompress. As a form of meditation. Because I like every day activities to feel effortless. Because I want to be moving my body for a very long time, especially as I get older and it becomes more difficult. Why is exercise important to you? Write down 5-10 reasons that don't involve your appearance right now! (Feel free to share these with me...you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post in the comments below)
As you can see, implementing exercise into our lives is only as complicated as we make it. It doesn't have to be so difficult. Adding in regular movement is so beneficial to the well-being of our minds and bodies.
It's unfortunate that we've learned to see exercise as simply a way to lose weight or change the appearance of our bodies, because often we forget that it's about so much more than that!
I challenge you to focus on 2-3 ways that you can change your mindset around exercise. Start figuring out how regular movement fits into your life. When your body craves movement, give it some movement in whatever way you see fit! You don't have to drop everything and head to the gym. Ask yourself what sounds good in that moment, and go do it.
Most importantly, remember that your journey will look unique to everyone else's. That's perfect. Whatever amount, whatever type, and however often works for you...you're doing it right!