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How I Finally Started Working Out

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I’ve been meaning to have a regular workout routine for, oh, about twenty years, but I have had a difficult time prioritizing it. It could be that I’d rather do almost anything else. I’m not a gym person, or a runner, and I’ve never been much into team sports. I do love a good spin, yoga, or dance class, but… Covid. And, even before covid, I had a hard time carving out time in my schedule to sweat more than a few times a week. There’s the driving and parking and then the showering afterwards – it’s a commitment, and in a life filled with commitments, this one always seemed to sink to the bottom of the list.

The physical and mental benefits of regular exercise are not lost on me, and I always feel so much better after I move my body. These days my mental can use any benefit it can get, so, I decided that 2020 was the year I would finally crack this code and figure out how to be a person who works out regularly – kids, career, and all.

working out

After interrogating some other busy people in my life, I still felt stumped. Most people I spoke with were either not working out at all, or waking up at 4 or 5am to squeeze it in before their day began. That 4 is not a typo. As much as I admire that level of discipline, losing sleep creates its own challenges, and is a hard pass for this lady. Sadly, I also found that whenever I scheduled workouts in the evening, I just didn’t have the energy to follow through.

After some thought and introspection, I tried a new approach that is actually working. Ready? Here it is: I decided that every single day the first thing I do when I wake up is drink a huge glass of water and then I take a long walk. Depending on my schedule that day the walk is brisk and quick or long and leisurely. Sometimes I run to work up a sweat, and other times I just stroll. Sometimes I stretch, and sometimes I impress myself and follow up with some crunches when I get home. The only mandatory thing is that each day before I do anything else I have to hydrate and I have to walk. Simple.

Here are some additional details that make this possible for me: I typically wake up by 7am, so I am still getting a decently early start (again, shouts out to the 4am crew for their drive). Also, my kids are fond of a lazy morning and are old enough to help themselves to breakfast before school, so the timing has been working for all of us. Jordan even started his own daily regimen on the elliptical machine (yes, the one that’s parked in our living room – I must really love him). At the time of this post, I will have moved my body, in one of the variations described above, every day for two weeks. I know that’s not a long time, but it’s a great start, and the way I’ve set it up truly feels sustainable.

habit shifts and hacks

Based on my brief, but overwhelming success, I’ve rounded up a bunch of tips to help you create your own sustainable workout routine. Here we go!

Lower The Bar and Work Your Way Up

How many of us are guilty of taking an all or nothing approach, burning out, and then doing nothing? My hand is up. Don’t set yourself up for failure (or injury). Pick something that feels realistic, simple, and sustainable.

Remove the Barrier to Entry

My daily exercise routine doesn’t involve class passes, registration, weights, or props, or gear, or videos, or driving, or parking. Choose something you can do easily and frequently without any hassle or barrier to entry. I’m looking at you, push-ups and sit-ups.

Pick a Consistent Time You Can Repeat

Decision fatigue is real. Now that I walk every morning first thing, I never have to spend time scheduling workouts, looking for class times, or juggling my schedule to squeeze in a workout. Do your best to automate your workout plan and make it consistent and easy to remember and prioritize.

Pair Working Out with Something You Love

Since I have been historically resistant to working out, it was important to pair it with something I love so it would be more appealing. I have an aversion to gyms and weights, but I love some good old fashioned alone time, breathing fresh air, and listening to my favorite podcasts or music. Instead of dreading having to exercise, my morning walks have become the highlight of my day.

Tell Everyone

I’m juiced now, but there is certainly a part of me that’s worried I won’t keep this up long term, so I am making sure that people I care about know what I am doing. Telling friends and family, and even writing about it here, gives me an extra boost to keep going. I am officially on the record. Accountability (and perhaps a small dose of fear of embarrassing myself) can be a super useful tool.

I’d love to hear how you’ve integrated a new habit into your life. Share in the comments below!

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20 comments on “How I Finally Started Working Out

  1. This is such a simple but effective directive! One question though: you mention removing barriers to entry. Oddly, one of my biggest barriers is clothing. The thought of getting into “sweatable” clothes and then changing again can sometimes be enough to derail me. Do you have a suggested workaround? Walking in pajamas? 🙂

    1. Clothing can be tough – I try to pull out my leggings, t-shirt, and workout bra the night before so I have nothing to think about when I wake up. I just throw it on and go. You could also sleep in your workout gear or PJ walks seem like a great idea! 😉

  2. I met a neighbor while I was walking one day. She and I decided to start walking together every Mon, Wed & Fri at 6:30 am. I made a new friend and we both have kept this routine for years now. Another neighbor saw us and now she is walking with us too. It keeps us all accountable and on track. We never back out of our walks unless something really important keeps us from it on a day. I wasn’t as consistent before our “buddy” system.

  3. I love this. Especially the tip about setting a low bar. I’m very guilty of going all in and then something happens in life and I lose steam. I’ve been doing something similar, but it’s 10 minutes of yoga. Sometimes it goes longer, sometimes not. Sometimes it’s slow and gentle and other times I push myself. I’ve found it to be a wonderful way to start my day and get some kinks out of my body.

  4. Yes yes and yes!!! You think like me (at least in this regard!) I’ll add that SIP and uncertainty/stress have taken away much of my motivation. Practice makes permanent, so it’s more important to dig in the routine than it is to develop a strenuous work-out. Just do it. I always tell my friends (and myself) set yourself up for success on this one. Thank you for sharing this story! I needed the reminder…

  5. My grandma lived to 102. She never stepped foot in a gym, but she did drink a ton of water and walked every day. Every. Day! I think you are onto something 🙂

  6. Such good tips. I am also in a unmotivated stretch right now. I think the drinking water part is sometimes almost harder for me than the working out part. I’m going to try do a walk first thing. Hoping it’ll stick. Thanks!

  7. Ohhhh this is great! In the same boat and need this reminder, because it’s not hard. Out heads get in the way. May I just ask how long or how far do you walk? And I know that’s not the issue here. I have a 2.5 mile neighborhood walk that I love when I’m with someone, it seems a lot longer when I’m alone. 😩

    1. Hi Cathy,
      I typically walk for about 40 minutes and I make sure to have a great music playlist or podcast to keep me company. Xx

  8. Hey Shira! I saved the email that led to this post and just finished reading it today. In a former season, I was a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, and I still struggle with motivation to work out. I appreciate all your honesty and suggestions! Sooo, curious mind here… it’s 7 months later… you still hydrating and walking first thing?

    1. Yes, I sometimes forget to hydrate but I have kept up the daily walks, even if it’s just fifteen minutes!

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