My primary exercise goal is simply to do it 4-5 times a week. I don’t put a lot of stipulations on myself. Just get to the gym and do something.
Some days I play mind games with myself, saying all I have to do is 10 minutes of cardio. Of course, once I’ve done 10 minutes, I keep going to my normal 20-25 minutes. Then sometimes I let myself go home. Most days, though, I stick around and do my 20-30 minutes of weight training.
The point is to create and maintain a habit because consistency is more important than intensity. If I can keep going, week after week and month after month, I will see steady improvement.
Using Self-Talk to Reach My Fitness Goals
I tell myself that something is better than nothing. And I play mental games to get myself to take one more step, keep going five more minutes, or use one more machine. Often I break through the resistance and decide, “It’s not that bad.”
But a lot of days, I hate working out the entire time I’m there. The only time I like it is when I’m finished and walking out the door to go home.
I let myself hate it. I say it outloud, “I hate the gym.” I’m like a mother, talking to a stubborn child, “You can hate it. But you still have to do it.”
It doesn’t matter how I feel while I do it. The point is getting to the gym and exercising. Sometimes I feel that subtle rush of endorphins. I feel on top of the world and powerful (all the while wanting to fall in a heap on the floor and melt into a sweat puddle). But the payoff for me comes later not during my workout.
I listen to very loud electronic dance music and envision myself as a hero in an action film, running away from the exploding building or chasing the bad guy to take him down. Yes, it’s ridiculous. But sometimes it gets me through another 3 minutes of exercise. And that’s all I care about.
I use lots of self-talk to get myself in the gym and keep myself moving. This is a list of what I say to myself. When I’m having a bad “I hate the gym day,” I hang on to these statements.
- This is so I don’t get breast cancer.
- This is keeping me healthy long-term.
- In 5 (10, 15, 20) years, I will be glad I invested this time.
- Remember what Mom went through with chemo and cancer.
- This is cheaper than medical insurance and doctor visits.
- Better to sweat now than be sick later.
- This will boost creativity and clear thinking.
- I’ve already done this for X long. I can’t stop now.
- This keeps me in my size 10 jeans.
- This makes me a nicer person to be around.
- This is an act of worship to cherish the body God gave me.
- This makes me strong.
- I can eat more if I exercise.
- Just 15 more minutes, just 10 more minutes, just 5 more minutes…
- I can do this. I am strong. Prove that critical voice wrong.
- Find your reasons to exercise and write encouraging affirmations to yourself.
- Make your reasons personal and compelling. For example, thinking of my mom’s cancer is a big motivator.
Preparing Myself to Exercise With Daily Routines
When I wake up each day, I get dressed in workout clothes. I work at my desk for a few hours until late morning or early afternoon. Whenever I reach a good stopping point, I eat a meal, and head to the gym. I have no set time, and that’s part of how it works for me. I let myself go when I’m ready. And that is different each day. I have noticed that I need to go before 3 PM or it won’t happen. But going early morning feels like torture and therefore does not work for me. Once I learned to follow my own daily rhythms for waking, working, and resting, my life seemed to find a comfortable pattern.
When I go to the gym during the 11 AM – 3 PM time, there are few people. I don’t feel on display or insecure with a nearly empty gym. And my gym is Planet Fitness with the tagline of no gymtimidation. I’ve visited other gyms full of “beautiful people,” people who are very fit, very expert, and very intimidating. I don’t feel at ease there. I like my local Planet Fitness because they people there are normal people. There are a few very athletic people, but most people are more on the overweight side, doing their best to make small changes to their wellness.
I felt I had passed a milestone when I entered the gym and the clerk behind the desk already knew my sign in number! I had become a regular! Later Planet Fitness changed their sign in procedure, and now they workers call me by name. Even better!
It’s a small thing, but it makes me feel comfortable to walk into a gym where people know me and greet me by name.
However, it took a long time to get to that point. In fact, it took me a whole year to gain the confidence to request a free session from the trainer. I was so embarrassed, but I forced myself to hold my head up high and push through those voices telling me “You aren’t sporty. You can’t do this.”
- Find a time that works for you no matter how unconventional it may be.
- Find a gym that feels right for you. If one doesn’t fit, try another.
- Put on your workout clothes to set the expectation of exercising that day.
My main reward for exercise goals are new workout outfits. When I started, I had boring t-shirts and two pairs of yoga pants. I didn’t like what I exercised in, but I deliberately worked out in plain clothes just so I could later reward myself.
I told myself that if I was consistent with exercising, then I would buy myself fun workout clothes. So I built my workout wardrobe slowly as a passed milestones, buying new tank tops and yoga pants. When I passed my one year exercise-iversary, I splurged on three piece matching outfits (sports bra, tank top, pants). Although they were costly, they look cute and give me confidence. They are my reward and another way to reinforce to myself that I value exercising. It’s worth investing in.
My next reward is going to be new running shoes. I will let myself spend more on these than I would have done before, choosing a style I like versus choosing the most economical option.
I toyed with lots of exercise rewards, and the best ones for me are rewards that tie directly back to exercising — clothes, shoes, gear, equipment. When I think of something exercise related that I want, I don’t run out and get it. I make myself work for it by setting up some arbitrary goal, “If you work out consistently for another month, then you can have that.”
- Find rewards that will boost your success not sabotage it.
- Hold out carrots in front of yourself to motivate you.
- Be willing to incrementally invest money in your exercise time — in YOUR health.
This is the last post in a series about my own journey towards personal fitness and well-being.
- How I Became a Non-Sporty Person Who Hated Exercise
- How I Grew to Appreciate Exercise (Even Though I’m Still not Sporty)
- What Exercise Did for Me
- Meeting Exercise Goals With Self-Talk & Rewards (You are here.)