How to Get to the Gym: Setting Yourself Up for Success
It is well known that being active has many benefits from better sleep to preventing and managing many chronic health conditions to heart health, among many others. However, knowing it is good for us doesn’t make it easy to do. More than a fifth of all Americans belong to a gym. About 6.3% of Americans who have a gym membership don’t go at all and 50% of all new gym members quit within the first six months according to RunRepeat. If we know exercising is good for us and we get a gym membership, why are so many of us not going to the gym?
Some of the more frequently heard excuses used to not go to the gym are being too busy and being too tired. Get ready for some tough love. We are all busy, but we can find time for things that are important to us. Binged a show on Netflix lately? You have time to go to the gym. Make your health a priority and you will make time to exercise. Too tired? Did you know exercise will boost your energy and your mood? It does! Now that we know those reasons aren’t valid in most cases, here are some tips to help you get to the gym.
Find Your Why
The Merriam-Webster definition of motivated is “provided with a motive: having an incentive or a strong desire to do well or succeed in some pursuit”. Think about your motive for exercising. Why do you want to work out? Your reason why is your motive to be active. Many health conditions are improved or prevented by exercising and eating a healthy diet. Your why might be to lower your A1C number and not develop Diabetes. Someone else might have high blood pressure and is looking to lower it through lifestyle changes. Others may want to lose weight to stay healthy to live a long life with their kids and grandkids. Whatever your why, or reason for exercising, write it down where you can see it whenever you need some motivation. I have heard of many people writing their why on a post-it-note and putting it on the mirror in their bathroom, so they see it first thing every morning. Put it where you will see it when you need a reminder of why you are keeping exercise in your schedule.
Create Short Term Goals and Track Your Progress
Seeing progress in the gym isn’t instant and does take time. Setting up a long-term goal like being able to do a pull up or losing 50 pounds or running a half marathon, is great but be prepared to spend months working toward that goal. Setting short term goals along the way can be helpful to keep you motivated and moving toward your bigger goal. If you are just starting out, a goal of coming to the gym three days a week for a month can be a great short-term goal at the beginning.
It’s important to set goals, but you need to make sure that they’re achievable, measurable, and not overly ambitious. If you set a short term and achievable goal, you’ll feel a huge sense of achievement when you reach it, which will have a positive impact on your motivation.
Set yourself another goal when you reach your initial target, so you’re always working toward something. Read more about SMART goals here.
Make it Convenient
If you want to do something more, make it easier to do. Do you pass a gym on your way to and from work? That gym will probably be your best bet to join. If it is more convenient to stop there and exercise, rather than a gym across town and out of the way, that means you are more likely to do it.
Create a gym bag that is always stocked and ready to go. If you shower at the gym, have everything you need in its own bag, in your gym bag, all the time. You won’t have to remember to put in soap or shampoo every time. It’s already there! As soon as you get home and take your dirty clothes out of your bag, put clean clothes right in so you don’t have to remember to do it later.
Get An Accountability Partner or Group
According to The Global Health & Fitness Association (IHRSA), those who engage in group fitness classes at the gym are 56% less likely to cancel their gym membership and more likely to renew their memberships than those who only use free weights and machines. This is probably because group fitness classes are fun! But it also is because the participants in group classes often hold each other accountable for coming. Friendships will form between many in the class and knowing that your class friends and the instructor are expecting you to be there can be a big motivator to going.
If group classes aren’t your thing, find someone to go with you to the gym or to meet there. Knowing someone is counting on you, and that you have someone to talk with, could be what gets you to the gym.
Find a Workout You Actually Like
Take the time to experiment with different modes of exercise to find what you like to do. Each facility has different equipment, different types of classes and programs. Don’t be afraid to ask an employee or trainer for help with anything you want to try. It is more likely you will make it to the gym if you are going to do something you don’t always dread!
Consider a Trainer
Personal trainers may be an added cost to your gym membership, but they can also add a lot of tangible value. An expert can design a program based on your goals, show you how to use equipment, and provide tips on nutrition. You may find you don’t need their assistance for a long period but having them present while you start out could compel you to stick with it. Also, it adds accountability. You are more likely to show up when you have an appointment with your trainer at a specific time.
Put It on The Calendar
If you have a personal trainer at your gym, you will schedule appointments with them that you will be charged for if you don’t show without canceling with enough notice. I know I’m more likely to go if I know there is someone waiting for me and if I still must pay for it even if I don’t go. Even if you aren’t meeting a trainer, make it an appointment just like a business meeting or doctor visit that you can’t cancel. When people ask you if you can do something at that time you can honestly say you have an appointment and can’t. Isn’t your health that important?
If you are consistent, you will notice a feel-good feeling after you are done with your workout due to the endorphins released during exercise. After some time, this could be enough to keep up that exercise habit. I have said to myself “remember how you will feel when you are done” many times before a workout. You also feel better overall when you are working out regularly, your sleep improves, your mood improves plus more. It gets to a point when you feel so much better when exercise is a part of your lifestyle that if you stop for a period, you can’t wait to get back to it to feel better again. This is what rewards me and keeps my exercise habit going. However, when you are new to exercise, it may be helpful to create other rewards like putting a dollar for every workout you do and buying yourself new workout clothes with the money you accumulate. Or maybe time in the sauna at the gym after your workout is something to look forward to. The point is to treat yourself in a healthy way that you wouldn’t otherwise do and will look forward to after that workout.
If you are new to working out, don’t feel like you must spend hours at the gym to make it worth it. Doing too much too soon could cause injury or simply being too sore to want to go back.
We all want a quick fix. The gym doesn’t provide instant results, but it will get you there and help you stay healthy and fit. It’s important to continually remind ourselves of why we’re doing this. Focus on the long-term health benefits!
Take the time to figure out what motivates you to make it to the gym. Experiment with some of the suggestions above and see what works for you. Reflect on what doesn’t work and why. Understanding what works for you is the key to getting to the gym on a consistent basis and making exercise a part of your life.