In a recent pitch for new content ideas, I polled my friends from high school via our group text: is there anything health-related on your mind lately that you’d want to read about?
One replied that she was struggling to find motivation to get back to the gym. She didn’t feel comfortable stepping foot in there again until she lost 25 pounds.
This caught my attention, because it was the second time I’d heard the same exact sentiment within a couple days. And I’ve heard it numerous times before.
I’ve also felt this way. Dana has felt this way. Most of us have at one point, or do currently, feel this way. There’s a specific shade of judgement in our society reserved for overweight people at the gym. As if it’s not good enough to walk in and make an effort to get in shape. Nope, you have to already be in shape.
The gyms know it, too. We’re all extremely susceptible to the “New Year, New You” rhetoric advertised on window signs, and the subject lines delivered to our inbox from the fitness industry promising this one is it: this is The Year. But after collecting our cash, there’s not much of an effort to get us back in the door is there? Except to suggest we sign up for one of those personal trainers at an additional cost.
One time I took New York Sports Club up on one of those complimentary trainer trials. Thought I’d maybe get into boxing or something cool, and having someone show me what to do with those big sand bags instead of moseying around them trying to casually watch others without being noticed made sense.
Nope. No, what actually happened was this. I followed the trainer out to the DEAD CENTER of the gym surrounded by a bunch of very buff people, where we proceeded to move through a series of fitness tests, like the 6th grade gym class of my nightmares. I didn’t even know how to do one burpee and this guy wanted me to do 10 of them?
I made a decision in that moment to come back when I was more physically capable of this bullshit. By then my stock would have risen. I’d be skinnier, and also richer so affording the trainer was a non-issue.
Of course, the problem with that idea is that you don’t get stronger by just quitting exercising altogether. It’s a vicious cycle.
But what’s the solution, if you do want to start working out, but can’t fathom going to the gym until you lose weight?
In my humble, maybe a little bit too blunt opinion: for the love of God try something else!
Stop thinking about how much you need to go to the damn gym. Has anyone given you permission to quit your gym membership? If not, consider this my gift to you.
After the personal training fiasco, I got into yoga, which provided a different type of high than running and kept me coming back for more. I started spinning at a new studio and loved the instructors and the energy of the class. I looked forward to both of these. They didn’t fill me with dread. Like that feeling my dog gets before going to the vet and makes me chase her around, corralling her into the car with treats so that we end up 20 minutes late for our appointment.
Here’s the thing about the gym. Those people that you see there all the time, sprinting away on the treadmill or showboating on the mat? Half of them genuinely love it, and half of them want to take a dumbbell to the head and end it all.
If you truly love going to the gym, you’re going to keep going. If you hate it, I guarantee you will not stick with it. It’s as simple as that. And it’s not because it’s your fault, or you don’t have enough willpower or you’re a failure. It has to do with understanding the psychology of habits.
Many magazines and blog posts will list out all the steps you can take to find the motivation to go to the gym. Lay out your workout clothes the night before! Sign up so you get smacked with a fee if you skip!
But at the end of the day, you still don’t really want to go to the gym do you? No matter how many barriers you remove.
The whole trying to hack the system thing has never worked for me. Didn’t work for Dana either. Neither of us have stepped foot in a New York Sports Club since this realization.
What we advocate for around here is focusing on what feels good, not forcing yourself to do what you think you have to do. If weight loss is the goal, you don’t even have to exercise at all! I’m not saying you shouldn’t, there are so many awesome benefits to working out. But if you truly hate it, you should know that “eating less and moving more” is some terrible advice.
If exercising is something you want to do, then you have to find a form you enjoy.
When you set goals that you inevitably won’t reach, you end up discouraged and unmotivated. When you shift your mindset around exercise and create a positive relationship with it, you start building momentum, which is what leads to lasting change.
And I’m afraid there’s no shortcut: the best way to get started is to start.
But getting started is less daunting when you enjoy what you’re doing. So what’s something that sounds more appealing to you than logging steps on the stair climber? A walk with a podcast? Yoga? A bike ride? Start test driving a few options and see what sticks. And don’t beat yourself up if you hate it or it doesn’t feel good. Just quit and move onto something else. Have some fun with it.
There’s nothing fun about going to the gym in my opinion. And turns out, that’s completely fine.