I know exactly how I got into a regular gym routine and it has nothing to do with fitness or health. It’s because my company moved offices. That’s the reason I’ve been a gym rat for a full year. At the end of 2016, my company moved to a new office with a gym in the building. A few of us were interested in joining so they cut us a tenant rate, and the rest was history.
Not helpful? Ok, there’s more to it, but for me, the convenience of having a gym in my office building is what sealed the deal on regular exercise. Hopefully, by sharing what worked for me, you’ll be able to identify what you need in order to establish a regular gym routine.
First, let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we? Here’s the extent of my exercise history:
My physical activity in high school consisted of marching band, golf team, and being a teenager with the perfect metabolism (even if I didn’t realize it yet).
I went to Ohio University which is just one million hills strung together, so just walking to class (or the bar) was a bit of a workout. If, however, I was in the gym it was because I was avoiding something: studying for an exam, writing a paper, or finishing an assignment. It was “productive procrastination,” a skill at which I still excel.
In the years after college, I was living with my mom and working part-time as a nanny and a cashier at Gap Kids. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and was listless. A friend essentially tricked me into signing up for a half marathon and I dove into that goal head first. I started “training” (I never made it over 4 miles in a single run until the race lolololol) and had something interesting to say when people asked what I was up to. I ran/walked the half marathon with my dad, finished under my goal time, and never ran again.
Mid to Late Twenties
Sedentary, with the occasional walk to the bar. I joined the YMCA and a boxing gym at this time but didn’t stick with either option.
I try to hit the gym five days a week. Some weeks are better than others but more often than not I meet that goal.
What Works for Me
Now that I’m in a regular gym routine, it’s easier to identify where I went wrong over the years. Here’s what works for me:
The Buddy System
I am very susceptible to peer pressure (and cults, FYI) so having someone else to bully me into going to the gym when I don’t want to is almost guaranteed to work on me. Michelle and I work together and carpool to work, so when we decided to add the gym to our day it was serious. That way, if either of us didn’t want to go to the gym it was affecting the schedule of the other person. More often than not, this was enough to get me to the gym.
I credited my gym’s location as being the main reason I work out and it’s pretty true. By showing up to work every day I’m basically already at the gym. I don’t need to make another stop before I get home or drive somewhere else before my work day even starts. I drive to the office, put my work bag at my desk, then walk to the gym. I work out, shower, get ready for the day, then come back to the office. It’s almost too easy.
Convenience is super important for me because I am very lazy. Once I’m home after work, I’m done for the day. If I need to run errands, I have to do them immediately after work or they won’t get done. If I have chores I need to do, they have to be started before I sit down or they won’t get done. I am Newton’s First Law of Motion personified.
The other gyms I had joined allowed me to go home and get ready before heading to the gym. But you know what’s also at home? My couch. More often than not I had every intention of going to the gym but would end up watching Netflix instead.
All or Nothing
The location of my gym made it pretty easy to establish all weekdays as gym days. While many people (and the internet) advise you to start slow when establishing a regular gym routine, I was all in. I’ve realized that the all or nothing approach works well for me. I am bad at holding myself accountable to personal promises, so saying I would go to the gym three times a week was basically like saying I wasn’t going at all. Because if I don’t go today, there’s always tomorrow, right?
Instead, I need pretty rigid guidelines to help me establish new habits. This is why I think I’ve done well with the Whole30 too. Cutting out entire food groups is harsh, but taking those options off the table is more effective for me than trying to eat them in moderation. Portion control? What’s that?
Trying New Things
In the past, I’ve stuck with what I know at the gym. That was cardio machines and maybe some weight machines. I didn’t want to make a fool out of myself! But none of those things were exciting or particularly challenging.
At our new gym, both Michelle and I have worked with a trainer to teach us new things and establish routines. Mary is a badass and has taught me things I would have never figured out on my own, like glute bridges and deadlifts. Mastering new stuff has helped me build confidence so that I feel like I belong in the gym.
Finding the Right Gym
Speaking of Mary, she and the rest of the staff of Tremont Athletic Club make it a great place to work out. Aside from its convenience, the equipment is nice and there’s a lot of variety, the locker rooms have decent showers and a sauna, and the overall attitude is welcoming and encouraging. In the past, I’ve gone to gyms that are overcrowded, not well equipped, or just gross. Finding a place that makes me feel comfortable has made a huge difference.
Of course, I’m still figuring things out. Michelle and I initially worked out after work, but when summer came we realized we needed to start porch drinking immediately after work. So, we switched to morning fitness, which I’ve realized works better for me. At first, I would listen to a podcast or music when I worked out, but now I know I don’t like to wear headphones because I like to be aware of what’s going on around me. But the only way I’ve figured these things out is by getting into a regular gym routine.
Now that I’ve been going to the gym consistently for a year, it has become a given part of my schedule. If I skip a few days, I can feel my muscles melting away. It’s not guilt, it’s just that I like the results of a regular gym routine. I like feeling strong and knowing that my body is healthy and can support me. It makes the early wake ups and sore muscles worth it.