Staying Motivated

Setting the clocks back can mean after-work trips to the gym might  *ahem* fall to the wayside. Case in point: my scheduled run after work. After being on my feet all day, the last thing I wanted was to spend 40 minutes pumping out sweat just so I could get home after the sun has set. So I decided to come home instead. Big mistake.  (Things might be different if I had a great gym bag to keep in my car.)

Although I love resting on my couch after a long day at work, I do love the feeling I have when I’m fresh off a workout. Tonight, the only high I’ll be riding is from the three pieces of dark chocolate I wolfed down after dinner.

ss_hershey-special-dark

So good.

So here are some tips on staying motivated after a long day at the office.

1. Don’t put away your gear.

From the moment she rises, Kristina Monét Cox, 26, has exercise on the brain. That’s because the first things she sees are her sneakers and workout clothes. “I’ve got them next to the bed in plain sight,” says Kristina, the CEO of a communications firm in Houston. “I’ve also got dumbbells right where I can see them in the bathroom, and a balance ball, a yogamat, and a jump rope strategically placed throughout the house.” Forgetting to exercise is never her problem.

Why it works:Visual cues are a wake-up call to your brain. “We all have competing priorities like work, family, chores. Sometimes we need a reminder to keep exercise at the forefront,” McGonigal says.

Do it yourself:If you don’t have the space to display your gear (or if it’ll mess with your decor), choose just one or two prime locations that you’ll never miss. Better yet, “pick places where you spend a lot of time and can use the equipment, like by the TV or the phone,” says Amanda Visek, PhD, assistant professor of sport and exercise psychology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

2. Invest in more workout clothes.

For years, Gina Cancellaro, 36, a paralegal in Bronxville, New York, owned only one sports bra. “I didn’t want to spend the money,” she admits. Then one day she realized that this was a barrier to her working out: “My usual excuse was that it wasn’t clean.” So she went to the mall and loaded up on bras — and cute tops and shorts. Now she exercisesfive days a week.

Why it works:“Having the right clothing doesn’t just remove a hurdle; it reinforces your identity as an exerciser,” McGonigal says. “And when exercising is an integral part of your identity, it isn’t optional anymore. It’s just part of your life.” Plus, you’ve got to wear those adorable new workout clothes somewhere.

Running skirts are so much cuter than shorts. Photo courtesy of fitnessmagazine.com.

Do it yourself:Stock up on at least a week’s worth of gym outfits to eliminate any last-minute hand washing in the sink. Think of it as spending now to save yourself grief later. To truly simplify your life, you may want to get several of the same tops and bottoms. “There’s no time-consuming decision making that way,” says Patricia Moreno, a FITNESS advisory board member and body and mind coach for the Web site SatiLife.

“Look for basics that are comfy and show off your assets — whether that’s your shoulders or your abs — so you feel good just suiting up.”

3. Log your workouts online.

A surprising thing happened when Michelle Busack, 38, started to post her exercise routines on Facebook: Old friends from high school whom she hadn’t seen in years began writing comments. “At first they just congratulated me,” says Michelle, a nurse in Columbus, Indiana. “But now we’ve bonded over this and they’re my biggest cheerleaders.” In fact, if she doesn’t post a workout update for a few days, they’ll demand to know what’s going on.

Why it works:Social networking sites like Facebook and DailyMile offer an extra layer of social support. “You’ve got potentially all of your online contacts holding you accountable,” says Michele Olson, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member and professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama.

Do it yourself:Choose a social platform or online fitness tool (check out ours at fitnessmagazine.com/fitnesstracker). Then get in the habit of chronicling your progress after your workout every day so that your friends know when you usually exercise — and when you’ve slacked off. Post your minutes, your miles, or whatever motivates you most.

4. Make friends with class regulars.

The thought of spending time with her Spinning buddies pushes Marie Bruce, 24, a coach and events director in Austin, Texas, to her morning class three times a week. “We’re a tight-knit group,” she says. “If I’m grumpy when I walk in, they don’t let me stay that way for long.” During the past six years, she’s grown close to her extended gym family; in fact, they’re invited to her upcoming wedding.

Why it works:It’s smart time management. “You get your social fix while doing physical activity,” Fortier says. Both boost health, and the better you feel, the likelier you are to want to exercise.

Do it yourself:Some classes foster friendships more than others, so you’ll have to do some sleuthing. “Arrive early and observe,” suggests Moreno, who teaches IntenSati, a mix of aerobics, dance, yoga, and kickboxing. “Are people staking out their places in silence, or are they chatting and laughing and flitting around the room?” Another good sign: The instructor seems to know everyone’s name.

For a complete list of motivating tips, visit http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/motivation/habits-of-effective-exercisers/.

My Healthy Tip of the Day: Can’t wait until you get home for a snack? Try keeping granola bars or mixed nuts in your car to keep you from hitting a drive through on your commute home.

Cinnamon Rice Chex

A baggy of cereal is also a great stash to put in your car.

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