How I Trick Myself Into Exercising
When I get really busy, the first thing to fall off my to-do list is working out.
This is not good. I’m more energetic, more focused, and I feel more confident when I’ve gotten a good sweat on. However, when I have a million work deadlines to meet, the fridge is empty, my husband is traveling, Heath needs to be shuttled to school, the orthodontist, hockey, (etc.), and the dog is sick and can’t be left alone for more than two hours, hitting the treadmill just. doesn’t. happen. Like most of you, I suspect, when the going gets busy, any activity remotely tied to taking care of just you gets tossed.
Now, of course, I know going too long without exercising is a bad idea. Just like having hummus, cheese and Pinot Grigio for dinner, or subsisting on five hours of sleep, taking shortcuts when we’re busy is okay for a while. And then it’s not. I, for one, become tired, grumpy, sick. Which means, of course, not taking of myself is no longer just my problem. Thus, because I do see the big picture (even if I lose sight of it day to day), I’ve invented some sneaky ways to trick myself into working out, even when I’m swamped. My M.O.? Make a missed workout impact someone or something else, not just me. That way, it's no longer selfless to skip it.
Set a goal you can’t shirk I recently signed up for the Shape half-marathon (April 30, Central Park, NYC, if you’re interested), along with my friend Didi. Unlike going for a three-mile jog, running 13 consecutive miles is not something I can just go out and wing. Didi and I ran this race last year too, and I had to train. Every week. For ten weeks. Honestly, I was so scared of not being ready and keeling over on the course—plus, I had paid to enter, bought a plane ticket, reserved a hotel, and knew Didi was also pushing herself on the treadmill in NYC—that I made no excuses. I did not skip a training workout. Even when I was up to my eyeballs in work and family obligations, I shoe-horned in a run through the neighborhood, or, when it was freezing outside, dragged myself to our Community Center, an uninspiring place populated by 80-year-old men in black socks. And we did it. The day was glorious and so was the feeling of accomplishment. And, for ten weeks prior to that run, I never knocked exercise off my to-do list.
Pay in advance I’m a member at Orange Theory Fitness (a run, rowing and strength-training program) here in Ann Arbor, though there are locations all over the country. This affords me eight classes a month, or two per week. They charge you at the beginning of the month for those eight classes, so if you don’t get yourself to all of them, that’s your problem. You don’t get reimbursed for the difference. Even more hard-core, if you sign up for a class, then don’t show up, they charge you an additional missed-class fee of $12. SoulCycle, my Spinning workout of choice when we lived in New York, functioned similarly. And those classes were crazy expensive ($30+ each) and so hard to get into, that I was never not showing up for one. If you‘re motivated by money (or at least don’t want to throw good money away), this is a smart way to get yourself sweating.
Promise to meet a friend When I was training for the half-marathon last year, my friend Lisa, a mother of three who works fulltime, offered to run my long runs (seven or more miles) with me. Knowing she was giving up a Saturday or Sunday morning with her family and helping me get ready for a race she wasn’t even running meant there was no way I was skipping those sessions.
Log your workouts When I was training for the half-marathon last year, I downloaded a 10-week beginner training schedule from the Runner’s World app. It cost like $2.99 (not a lot, but again it’s money), and it would track and record my runs. Seeing the miles I’d run (or needed to run) each week was way more motivating than just thinking about them. For me, the visual records made me feel more accountable, like I had a virtual trainer who was tsk-taking if I didn't meet the plan goals.
Buy cute shoes The leopard-print Nikes shown above are my current running shoes. I also have my eye on these and these. They don’t make me run any faster, of course, but loving my workout clothes certainly makes me more motivated to put them on. And if I’ve spent hard-earned money on clothes or shoes, I have an obligation to myself, my family, and Sweaty Betty to show them off. See? Not just about me.