Motivation can be a fickle thing, especially when it comes to working out. One moment, you’re sweating it out every other night for a month straight, but then something comes up – school, work, a vacation, a breakup – and two days off turns into a week and suddenly, you’ve been paying gym fees for three months without one visit to show for it. But rarely does this slump last forever – at some point, you get sick of running out of breath after taking the stairs and struggling to muster the energy to get out of bed. You can’t just pick up where you left off when you were in better shape, however, no matter how badly you wish you could. But you can take some steps to head back to your previous fitness level – and beyond!
1. Take It Slow
Just like I touched on earlier, don’t go back to the gym believing you can bench press 350 or run a ten-minute mile. This is a recipe for tender muscles, aching joints, and even breaks or sprains. Don’t give yourself anymore reason to become sedentary again – start out with the easy stuff and build up from there, just like on your first gym visit. You can inflict irreparable damage if you’re not mindful, so listen to your body – if something feels too easy, don’t hesitate to increase resistance; but if you become dizzy, nauseated, or feel any physical discomfort beyond what is sustainable for you, immediately stop and take a break.
2. Stay Positive!
After a significant amount of sedentary life, you’ll probably be struggling with your confidence and self-image. Thoughts like, “How did I come to be like this?” and “I looked much better before” will keep you from finding motivation, even if you know that exercise will help solve those issues. Be kind to yourself, and try to twist those negative thoughts into self-encouragement. Instead of thinking of the weight you’ve gained, focus on how much stronger you’ll be once you’ve committed to your fitness goals; rather than berate yourself for the dietary choices you’ve made, plot out some healthy replacements that will give you a reason to start cooking at home and properly fuel your workouts. These habits are much easier said than done, but if you make the effort to catch yourself in cyclical negative thinking, you’ll eventually stop giving into those impulses.
3. Make a Schedule
It seems intuitive that setting aside times for exercise will give you more motivation than trying to squeeze in physical activity whenever you feel like it, but it’s an extremely under-utilized technique, especially for those who need those reminders most! Whether it’s your phone, a print calendar, or a personal planner, write out your workout time slots at least a week in advance. Having that visual aid will allow you to meet your weekly goals, and if necessary, shift around your gym time when things inevitably crop up.
4. 30-Day Challenge
If you feel uncertain about how long you can sustain your workout regimen, commit yourself to at least 30 days before you throw in the towel. The great thing about this is that you will likely feel accomplished and motivated to continue after you’ve scratched a month off your calendar.
To get the most out of your first month, sign up for a class, like yoga, barre, or spinning. Many studios offer the first week free, and some even give you up to a month with no charge or commitment! And even if you have to pay, this will motivate you to get your money’s worth from the start. If you’re unable to afford classes, there are plenty of schedules, templates, and video tutorials online for a variety of workouts that you can perform in the comfort of your home.
5. Find a Workout Partner
Holding yourself accountable for your health is difficult, but you don’t have to go it alone. Find someone you can trust with similar fitness goals to you and who’s looking for some extra motivation as well. You can sign up for classes together, hit the same gym, or just go on daily walks around the park. Instead of meeting for fast food or sugary lattes, you can go for salads or share recipes with each other. The knowledge alone that someone supports your physical aspirations and wants to go on that journey with you is enough to keep you going, even if you have doubts.
6. Make Use of Social Media
Whenever you go on a run, don’t keep it to yourself – this is major news! Share pictures of yourself in running gear, share your Fitbit data, share what you had for lunch afterward – share, share, and share some more. Besides, what else are you using your Newsfeed for? Might as well be something productive! Not only will this give you instant access to your fitness timeline, but if you have good friends, they’ll likely offer some positive affirmations in the comments. Who knows, they might even ask to meet you on your runs!
Hopefully after reading this article, you’ll feel that your fitness goals aren’t so far from reach. The first step is the hardest, but once you pass that threshold and set a strategy, you’ll wonder why you ever doubted yourself in the first place.
Heather Lomax is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Orangetheory Fitness. She writes for a variety of health blogs, and in her spare time, takes special interest in researching methods for achieving optimal fitness goals.