010. Why the gym could be sabotaging your workouts
Consistency and working out are not two words that often find themselves together. Consistency in thinking about working out and not actually making it to a workout may go together a little more.
Maybe you too find yourself in a similar workout rut?
Making big plans in your mind, but little follow through in terms of showing up?
I could rattle off the many plans I’ve made to try and force myself to the gym. A perfectly toned body has never been on my vision board. All I really wanted was to have abs. If I got myself to the gym every day, then maybe I could have them.
I can still remember the smell and the energy of the gym I went to in college. The palatial gym on my college campus kept the disordered body and eating habits of women alive and well.
I joined many of the girls on the upper deck of the gym for good, long bout on the ellipticals. We tuned into Bravo TV and sipped ice water from our monogrammed Tervis tumblers.
While my ponytails would so happily swing left and right, my mind was locked and loaded on one thing. I could not let my motivation wane until my shame decided I had done enough to step off. I know that if we all heard the collective chatter going on inside of our minds, we would be mortified.
Burn more calories.
Everyone here is so much skinnier than me.
No guys will ever love me with my body.
Keep going. Don’t look tired.
It’s no wonder my plans never lasted very long. I rarely made it through an entire week without a binge, an injury, or just quitting altogether. The gym was a petri-dish for shame, comparison, and sweaty judgment.
So I did the second best thing I knew how…I thought about working out. And I would think about working out so many times a day that I would never actually get to the working out part. So I’d go to sleep and start the whole cycle over again the next day.
When the sole motivation for heading to the gym is to change your outer appearance so you can then become more lovable or likable, the before and after pictures are usually one in the same. Rarely does anything actually change.
Have you ever felt this way? Maybe you’ve even written down a well thought out plan on how you’re going to drastically change everything beginning Monday morning? And let’s say you did make your way to the gym for a solid workout on Monday. But did you make it for the rest of the week, the month? Did your motivation wane when the results weren’t happening as quickly as you’d like?
When our minds are left unattended, its natural lean is towards fear, anxiety, and hopelessness.
Would you be up for a little experiment? Would you create a note on your phone that says “workout”? Every time you find yourself thinking about how you need to be working out or how you should run three miles tonight or why you have to work off that donut you ate, just put a little tally in that note? At the end of the day, note just how many times you thought about working out. Now, notice how exhausting it was thinking about working out so much. Working out when it’s done for the sake of punishment rarely happens or if it does, it’s rarely enjoyable.
So let’s talk about how to really change and transition from being in a workout rut to an actual workout routine that is sustainable, life-giving, and consistent.
I’ll share three options from good, better, and best that inspire motivation, create accountability, and get you moving!
First things first. Working out is as much mental as it is physical. As I mentioned previously, when working out alone, our minds tend to wander towards that which is not life-giving, kind, or motivating.
Are you unintentionally setting yourself up for failure by working out alone and hoping on the self-shaming train? Are you letting your mind play whatever tricks on you it so desires? If that’s you, I’m so glad you’re reading this because you’ve got options sister!
So let’s talk those options out there that create less space for your mind to move towards anxiety and more space towards strength and positivity. If you haven’t noticed, we tend to be more committed to things that we actually like. When we hate something, we are grade-A rationalizers at getting ourselves out of it. *Cough, cough. I feel so sick. Cough, cough*
DO NOT WORKOUT ALONE. I REPEAT DO NOT WORKOUT ALONE.
Your mind and your heart and your body were never intended to be poked, prodded, shamed, compared, hated, or judged. And yet, all too often, that’s what happens when our mind has free reign. Similar to the way a parent creates boundaries for the child’s safety i.e. “You cannot cross the street without an adult present” or “You can play with all of these toys, but the books on the shelf are off limits”, working out with friends creates boundaries for our mind not to wander whichever way it so pleases.
Text one or two girlfriends, invite them to come over a few mornings a week before or after work to get their sweat on. Not only are you now accountable to working out because there will be humans showing up at your home, you get to workout with friends who love you and you love them. And do you know what you’re not doing when you’re in the presence of love? You’re not hating yourself, you’re not judging yourself, you’re not even thinking about what you lack!
Have you checked out youtube lately? That site is literally f-i-l-l-e-d with some bomb workouts that you and your friends can do together in one another’s living room or in the backyard if a. you have one or b. you’re feeling outdoorsy. Water breaks and laughter and encouragement towards one another are all strongly recommended and make the process so much more fun.
If you’ve got kiddos in tow, consider inviting other mamas over while the kids can nap or while they are at mother’s morning out or in school. I have so much respect for the moms of the world. When a mom gives herself the gift of time, she, in turn, gives her family the gift of her presence. I promise you this is a gift that pays dividends!
Join a studio with a monthly membership. This usually costs more than a gym membership but the benefits certainly outweigh the cost.
A monthly membership is usually going to be anywhere from $30 to $100 more than a traditional gym membership. Gym memberships want to make the barrier of entry just high enough so you feel good about spending money on health over a new pair of shoes and just low enough so you don’t feel too bad if you never make it that month. Gyms are making a lot of money on us not showing up. With a studio membership, it will hurt more if you don’t show up.
Secondly, it feels good when people remember your name. With a studio, that means fewer people so you actually get to know the folks you see there! When people remember your name, that means they usually know a few things about you. When people know a few things about you, that means they notice you. And when they notice you, they also notice when they haven’t seen you in a while. Accountability is happening and you didn’t even know it!
Thirdly, the beauty of going to a studio whether that be boot camp, yoga, pilates, barre, you name it, is that you are not in charge of a thing. You are not planning the workout and you are not thinking of what you need to do next, you are simply responsible for showing up and doing the workout! I don’t know about you, but I love not having to think.
That’s one of the reasons I love yoga so much. The movement shifts me out of my mind that is running at a rapid, chaotic pace. The flowing leads me back into connection with my body, the energy of love, and I am grounded back to truth over the next hour. I get to work out all my shit on the mat from a place of kindness instead of contempt. By the time I’m lying in a pool of my own sweat in shavasana, my mind is calm, I feel at peace, and I have undeniable clarity.
Additionally, I found that when my workout was paired with a spiritual component, I was one hundred percent more consistent. I was able to take the lessons I was learning on the mat off the mat into everyday life. The more I was able to face my fear and go up into wheel pose over and over again, the more I was able to face my fears and have the hard conversations because I knew I could do it.
Side note: The yoga studio that I go to provides free childcare during morning classes. This has become a common offering at studios in town and would just take a little digging to find out which ones provide this as well.
Personal trainer. Yes, this is certainly going to be the most expensive option but the results are far and above the best and I’m not talking about just physical.
The role of a personal trainer is to get to know you. What motivates you, what inspires you, what limits you, what challenges you, etc. From there, they craft a workout centralized to exactly where you’re at. I will say that finding a personal trainer you mesh well with can be similar to finding a good therapist, both take time but with patience, you can find a great fit!
My Mom worked out with a fantastic trainer for many years while I was in high school. Many a Saturday morning, I would join my Mom for the most intense workout that left my whole body feeling like spaghetti. I was drawn to the strong, tenacious energy our trainer had, as well as the energy that was evoked within me from pushing myself. The stronger I felt, the better my self-esteem was. To a very insecure girl in high school recovering from an eating disorder, self-esteem was tantamount.
My husband goes to a personal trainer every Friday morning for thirty minutes. Naturally, he discovered a gym that also moonlights as a plant store so he couldn’t be more happy with himself. He has never felt more confident and more energized by working out. He considers this workout time to be just as valuable as therapy. His trainer walks him through the workout and is helping him with proper form throughout. She is also offering nutrition advice that is curtailed specifically to J and his needs. The great thing about personal training is that you get to ask any question you want and have a professional guide you towards what is best in your particular circumstances.
While the cost may be prohibitive, there are certainly ways to make it work. You could grab two of your girlfriends or your partner to join in on the sweaty fun and in doing so, be splitting the cost! That means you still get personal attention because we all need more of that, connecting time with your people, and mutual bonding that happens over shared goals!
Working out consistently has been a huge goal I continue to accomplish and believe anyone can step in as well. Find a workout that leaves you with more energy than you started with and that truly speaks to you. Notice if you’re pursuing fitness out of shame and punishment or out of strength and joy. The later will more than likely produce long-term consistency.
As with a lot of things in life, it’s important to remember that working out ought to be fun and playful and joy-filled. I laugh so much in yoga. Just yesterday I met a new yoga friend who had the CUTEST matching ensemble and we both looked at each other and giggled as the instructor tried having us move our bodies in ways we both knew weren’t going to happen! It is so good for us to connect to being human together, free from shame or judgment.
Let’s commit to not shaming ourselves and our bodies when it comes to working out. Let’s do commit to honoring the one body we have been given to live this life in and caring for it with every ounce of our being.
The most revolutionary thing a woman can do is love herself.
It doesn't matter if it's getting your youtube game on with your best girlfriends, doing the tiniest micro movements that make your whole body shake in barre. It's about finding whatever suits you best. The hope is at the end of any workout you will be more connected to your strength, your love, and your body!
Curious Questions for Your Whole Heart:
Are you guilty of thinking about working out more than you actually work out? What’s the main motivation of you working out?
Take some time to consider if you actually like the workouts you’re doing. How often do you laugh?
How might you make adjustments to bring more joy and fun to a workout?
What’s your inner dialogue like when it comes to fitness? Write down a few common phrases you say to yourself. What do you notice, Kindness or contempt?
Who has a healthy relationship with fitness and working out that you admire? Might you consider asking them for their input and getting to know how they got to where they are today?
What action steps could you take this week to take a risk when it comes to working out? Maybe it’s just being honest with yourself and not playing mental gymnastics around whether you will or won’t work out. Maybe it’s trying a new studio or finally calling the trainer you’ve been meaning to for weeks.
I mentioned three options for good, better, and best. Those may not be three options that resonate with you. If not, I’d challenge you to create a good, better, and best list that is more in line with your goals and where you’re at in life. Once you’ve created your different choices, take action on one of the above!