Friday, January 4, 2013

Whole30: Learning to Love the Gym

Since getting back into the gym this month, I'm trying to teach myself to love it again. This is somewhat difficult since my love for the gym started in college, under completely different circumstances.

I learned to love the gym during my freshman year, which was when I first had access to a workout facility. It actually started with joining the women's basketball team, which forced me to spend 2-4 hours a day at the gym (and with a "family" of teammates). So the gym became like a second home, someplace familiar, and once basketball ended, all I wanted to do was spend my afternoons working out.

The next year I started working at the gym because I couldn't think of a better job to have. I loved the atmosphere, running collegiate sporting events, meeting new people, and hanging out in a place I felt comfortable. I still spent most afternoons working out after class and before dinner. Running and weight training were my release of stress in trying times.

Looking back, I know the gym represented many things in my life, but most of all, I liked the way I felt when I was there. Now the battle becomes, how to I replicate that? And, how to I pass that replication process on to you all?

Unfortunately, I don't really have a concrete answer yet (if I ever figure it out, I'll pass it along in a heartbeat), but I do have a few tips/ideas to help make working out more enjoyable.

1. It starts with your mentality. How do you think about the gym? What do you associate it with? If each trip to the gym feels like a chore that you have to get done, you probably have the wrong mentality. Start associating the gym with positive thoughts. This will take work, but you can retrain yourself to think of the gym as a good thing. Associate it with feeling good, feeling comfortable in your own skin, healthy, longevity, anything that in your mind is a good thing.

2. It continues with relationships. Find a workout buddy (or several), someone you can "hang out" with at the gym, even if you do totally separate routines. It will give you someone to travel to and from the gym with, someone to chat with and follow around if you feel lost. (Or if you're the gym expert, you can help them learn how to use weight machines, etc.) It will also put you in a mutually encouraging relationship, which will continue to reinforce positive feelings about the gym.

When I lived in Denver, there were a few times we organized a "gym day" at work, where we would all go to 24 Hour Fitness together at the end of the workday (it helped that we all had memberships with the same company). If you know a group of people on the same work schedule who want to get in the gym, try organizing a "gym day" (or days), when everyone knows that at least a few people will be showing up.

If you can't find anyone to work out with, try making friends with people at the gym. This may be a little bit harder, but you're all there for the same reason. Get to know the employees and regulars you see when you typically work out. It starts with a simple hello and can grow into a friendship outside the gym.

3. Don't bite off more than you can chew. When you first get (back) into the gym, start small. Do not overdo it by running ridiculously far on the treadmill, attempting to lift half your body weight or pushing yourself until you throw up. Even if you used to be able to do more, you need to give your body a chance to get used to working out again. And yes, this phase could take a while, so continue small until you feel your strength building up, then increase your routine gradually.

The best way to get burned out at the gym is to set impossible goals for yourself, or expect more than you can physically do. When you don't meet unrealistic goals, you might start thinking things like, What's the point of going to the gym if I can't even accomplish something? So set achievable goals and you'll start feeling better about your abilities in the gym.

4. Learn your schtuff. If you don't know your way around the gym, you'll feel more timid about going in and working out. And if you don't know how to use the weight machines, you can end up injuring yourself big time. So, do yourself a favor and learn your way around the athletic facility.

Start by getting a tour from the staff when you first visit/sign up. They will be able to show you where everything is, and should also be fully versed in how to use all the equipment. If you have a question about a weight machine, do not be afraid to ask how to properly use it. Also, if you have a friend who knows a lot about weight training and machines, ask them to give you a crash course. If you can regularly workout with said friend, well that's even better!

5. Give yourself a nice, fat reward. Still need a little extra motivation? Set up rewards for yourself. I love working out right after work because I know when I'm done I get to go eat a nice, big dinner (of yummy Whole30 goodness). A filling and nutritious meal is a great reward, because it not only tastes good, but does good.

In college, my reward was a (too big) bowl of soft serve ice cream at dinner. Or lunch. Or both. I indulged. But looking back, I was probably the most in shape I've ever been (I actually bought a size 3/4 dress sophomore year, how does that happen?), so I don't think it hurt too much. Your reward might be a small sweet treat, a shopping trip when you drop a size or two, a new pair of running shoes after a few months of consistency, etc. It doesn't hurt to help yourself feel good about what you're doing (as long as you don't over-do it and break the bank or pack back on the pounds).

6. Get some good tunes. This one is fairly obvious and doesn't need much elaborating because, let's face it, music can make or break your workout. So pick out some songs that get you pumped up, put them in a playlist and get to it!

7. Don't think... too much. Do not, I repeat, do not let yourself think about "all the other things you could be doing." Even if you only work out for 20 or 30 minutes, it is time well spent. Taking care of your body is important. You shower, brush your teeth and sleep. Your body needs exercise too. So do yourself a favor, make some time and get that bod in gear!

Anyone else want to share what motivates you to get to the gym or workout at home? Let's keep sharing the love! (P.S. I have another recipe to share tomorrow so come back for deconstructed taco burgers!)


Sarah Rice said...

What a pleasant surprise that you blog! I am trying to get back in the gym routine! :) I really like outdoor exercising the best though...:/ Darn winter.

Mrs.Kiel said...

Awe, I miss gym days! Wish I had time to hit the gym.

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