Get Fit: Motivating Yourself To Become a Person Who Exercises

I used to be a workout junkie and I loved it. Every day consisted of an hour or more at the gym and 1-2 carefully crafted, thoroughly delicious salads. Life was great! Most importantly, I felt great.

And then I moved.

After unpacking all the boxes and memorizing all the streets, I had to find a new gym. It became obvious that nothing in my new neighborhood would even hold a candle to my old gym. I’d accidentally grown emotionally attached to that gym — it was right up there with my very best friends from New York. Finding a new gym was going to be a lot like finding new friends. Except that making new friends had me going out multiple nights a week, which in turn negatively affected my ability to find a new gym. Predicament! So one day went by without working out. And then another. Suddenly I had no routine, no desire to workout, and no outlet for it either, because all of my friends were out drinking instead of running.

exhibit a

This went on for a while and I gradually started liking myself less and less — not necessarily just because I wasn’t working out, but because I felt like I wasn’t living up to my personal best. After a few months of this rut, Dinah Shore Weekend was coming up. Maybe I don’t have to tell you this, but nothing spells motivation like b-i-k-i-n-i. I decided to let the impending warm weather and partial nudity be my motivation to getting my life back on track.

Now it’s a year later and the same motivators are right around the corner: Dinah, bikinis, even A-CAMP. If you’ve been thinking about getting in shape for spring, let’s do it!  I’ll be here to give you some tips, maybe some new ideas, answer your questions, and share stories and feelings.

Because sometimes just getting out the door can be the hardest part, today I’ve got four simple but effective tips to get you started!

christina bly for autostraddle

 

Motivation Tip #1:
Set Goals.

The best motivation is something you can set your sights on. For lots of my friends, it’s Dinah. For you it could be a race, a wedding, your high school reunion, A-CAMP, a Scrabble tournament,  the midnight premier of The Hunger Games, etc. It doesn’t matter how absurd the goal seems, as long as it is something within the semi-near future — three months is a perfect time because it’s still fresh and fun and you can also see results. Make sure it’s something that you truly care about feeling amazing for!

 

collins!

 

Motivation Tip #2:
Tell a Friend.

This rule is good for both safety and public humiliation. Telling a friend that you are going hiking, running, or to the gym will inform at least one person of your whereabouts, in case you encounter a 127 Hours type of situation. It also adds a wonderful element of integrity, making you responsible for the plans you’ve made to workout. It can be easy to talk ourselves out of our plans to workout because hey, we ‘re really convincing. But our friends are much harder to convince. Chances are good that if they find out you didn’t workout when you said you would, they’ll judge you, lose faith in you and never believe anything you say ever again. Oh, you’re going to the bookstore this afternoon? Picking up vegan tacos for dinner? REALLY? How can they believe you? That’s right, they can’t.

 

Motivation Tip #3:
Schedule Your Day.

Write a schedule of your day or week or month in a journal or on your computer. Make sure you allot 2 hours for working out (includes a shower and getting to the gym) and in the workout slot write something really uplifting like “GO TO THE FREAKING GYM YOU LAZY FUCK” At least that’s what works for me…

 

omg shoes

 

Motivation Tip #4:
Bribe Yourself.

Some might call it pampering, I like to think of it as little bribes. Lacking cute yoga pants? Need swanky new running shoes that sparkle in the daylight?  Been dying to buy a Kindle but just can’t justify it? This is the PERFECT excuse: Do it for you. For your new body and your new year. Don’t let not having the right equipment stop you from working out — instead reframe the expense of buying it as a reason to use it as frequently as possible.

 

What are your favorite motivators? What gets you out of bed and to the gym on those frosty winter mornings? I’ve got big ideas for this column, but I want to hear from you! What do you want to talk about here? OPEN THREAD IT, KIDDOS.

 

Thumbnail image model: Lauren

Sarah has written 14 articles for us.

140 Comments

  1. My dance teacher is really hot and muscle-y, but I also look up to her, so I’m always like, you’re gonna make yourself look like a jackass in front of (insertnamehere) if you don’t stretch or exercise this week and she’ll be disappointed, stop being lazy.

    this probably isn’t healthy.

  2. This is really nerdy, but I have a recumbent bike at home, and it’s set up right in front of my TV and various video game systems.

    When it’s time to bike, instead of looking at it like, “FFFF I need to bike again. This sucks!” I view it as “I get to play Syndicate AND get some exercise in. YES.”

    Now when I play video games outside of my biking time, sometimes I feel like I need to be biking.

    • I really want to get one of those folding exercise bikes with a little desk for your laptop! Unfortunately, those cost like $200 and I am broke.

      What I did instead, I got a little mini-elliptical machine at a yard sale. I put my laptop on top of one of those adjustable wire shelving units (er, actually two, one stacked on the other, for a possibly dangerous situation were I to lose my balance and grab for the nearest bit of furniture…). It turns out I can’t really type and use the machine at the same time, due to the bobbing up and down, but I can watch videos. So now when I get home from work I work out while watching yesterday’s Rachel Maddow show. I’m getting informed about politics AND in shape at the same time!

    • Holy Crap! I never even CONSIDERED this!
      Once I factor in all of the video-game time I allow myself, if I was to use that SAME AMOUNT OF TIME to work out (and, of course, still get to game) then I’ll be in optimum shape in about a weeks time.
      You are my hero. AND a genius.

  3. this is relevant to my life, and are you stalking my mind? i was debating whether to go to body pump weights class tonight, needless to say i just booked in.

    motivation tip, try as many different classes at different times to stake out the hottest instructors 😉 it’s motivating in a “i want to obtain and/or touch your body” 😉 jokes aside, i’ve done a class i’ve hated and then tried the same class with a different instructor and something about the way they delivered the class suited my body/mind much better.

  4. Having a workout buddy is nice too. I was whining with a very hot acquaintance about how we really needed to get in the gym and get back in shape like we used to be and the we got the bright idea of hey, lets be workout buddies so we can’t bail on days we don’t want to 😀 I get to flirt and work out. Its perfect!

    Added bonus: Cute girls somehow look cuter when their hair is a little bit in disarray from working out 😛

  5. Oh,autostraddle, how do you always know whato say?
    I have been thinking about maybe possibly perhaps getting my fat ass off the couch and working out
    So I can outrun zombies and win the hunger games
    And most importantly fit into those trousers I love

  6. The best motivator of all time for me was finding exercise that my body loves and craves. After a number of years of trying things that make it feel crappy and/or unsatisfied afterward (swimming, running, lifting) I finally stumbled upon yoga. Nine+ years later it still makes me feel so good and now when I don’t get to practice as often as I want to I feel sad. Bonus: My arms are jacked, my wrist injuries are gone, and I’m not as clumsy as I used to be. So my main tip is to find the exercise that suits your body. Motivation will be way easier to find and maintain.

    • this! yoga has changed my life. i’m in the best shape of my life, i virtually never get sick anymore (i’ve always had a crappy immune system), i’ve finally healed mentally/emotionally from years with an eating disorder, and i’m not so anxious all the time. i recently became certified to teach yoga, and on the rare occasion i can’t practice i actually crave the sensation of sore muscles!

      also, my favorite teacher is ridiculously adorable.

      • This! I was totally skeptical about yoga because it’s all hip and hollywood but seriously if you’re not the running/lifting/team sport kinda person you should try this.

        Also, get a kid. I’ve been lifting 16 pounds of little human daily for 6 months and my arms and shoulders look insanely strong. Make sure you do yoga to prevent back pain, though, from all the one sided carrying all the time.

        • This isn’t necessarily true. My favorite teacher was able to incorporate both. The best classes are the ones where you feel physically and mentally centered afterwards.

          Vinyasa flow links your breath with the movements so it’s like a moving meditation that gets you sweaty and leaves you so sore the next day.

      • Anusara yoga is what’s worked for me physically. There are aspects of it that don’t work for me in other ways (I am not a chanter) but for figuring out optimal joint alignment and teaching my muscles how to play nicely together, this is it.

      • If you’re not into the meditative kinda stuff but are looking for a relaxed beginners class I’d choose a mainstream place that has a trained instructor (those are so important). Sometimes if you’re just starting out it feels better to do it with a bunch of soccer moms around because you won’t feel so stiff and unbalanced all the time. I do it at the university. And I swear, after just 6 months I was so much more bendy. My wife was/is super happy about it.

    • I am not a gym person, I am not an organized sports-type person, but I can also say that yoga changed my life. It’s great for working out injuries, stiffness, bad backs, that sort of thing. You always have the option to go at your own pace and take a break when you need, without any pressure. And in addition to working your body, you are also servicing your mind and your spirit…it’s so much cheaper than therapy.

      Another good motivator/goal to work towards could be an altruistic one. If there is a charity you are interested in supporting, there’s a good chance they have a walk, or marathon, or cycling event in your area that will help you to not only get in shape, but raise money for a good cause. All with a strong support system of people of varying athletic abilities training towards the same goal. And that hot girl will admire the shit out of you for working so hard towards something bigger than yourself.

      3rd motivation: dogs. There is nothing that will get me out the door quicker than those sad, sad eyes begging for a hike.

    • YES. I used to run, but it hurt my back and joints too much, so I decided to address THAT problem, and ended up doing yoga, and now my back no longer hurts (I used to be in almost constant pain), my feet don’t hurt as much, and my arms and stomach are getting more and more toned and muscled! And it just makes you feel so damn GOOD. Meditation and exercise at the same time, the way it should be. 😀

  7. I love working out and have no issues with motivation, but if I’m not careful it’ll be all I do. It’s like video games: REALLY FUCKING ADDICTIVE. I think I’m just an adrenaline junkie.

    • I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN. my issue is not getting motivated to go, it’s burning enough energy to get out of there on time. i love that feeling when you’re working out hard and you push through all the mental obstacles and you get to that ahhh zen state. it’s amazing and i feel soo accomplished afterwards.
      not going to the gym just makes me feel like a lazy fuck, but i try to go at least 5 times a week. seeing the hot trainers work out is a good motivator too 🙂

  8. Wow, I just don’t think I have any tangible motivators. The only possible reason I can think of for wearing a bikini would be to distract people from how terrible my jokes are.

    That being said, I think being fit is very important, and I would class these as being my general life fitness goals:

    1. Being able to sprint really fast, to get away from murderers/rapists/invading robots

    2. Being able to do chin-ups, because it always seems like ladies that do well in post-apocalyptic scenarios (i.e. Sarah Connor) can do these. And it makes them look hot.

    Even then I’m not sure that exercise would yield better results than always wearing trainers and a well-scaffolded sports bra.

    Still, I am concerned that I just wouldn’t be able to cut the mustard when the end-of-the-world happens. Gyms are out of the question. I physically recoiled the only time I went in one and just the prospect of having to leave the house to endure such terror in the name of health is exhausting.

    I realised last week that the only successful strategy would be to utilise my superhuman ability to be distracted. If I got some sort of fitness-enhancing equipment, I figured I could leave it lying around the house in the places I run off to when I am avoiding doing anything useful, and use it to convert my negative distraction urges into positive physical activity.

    No, I’m not talking about a vibrator.

    I’m talking about a hula hoop, bitches. It’s amazing.

    I feel like a happy insane weirdo hula-ing all the time, plus I have these patches of hula-burn across my midriff that I could pretend I got from some extreme s&m practices if questioned, to make my life sound more interesting.

    • Aha! Yes, this is a strategy I used. I put a pull-up bar between my kitchen and living room (AKA high traffic area). I couldn’t help but want to play on it every time I walked by. I was up to 9 consecutive pull-ups by the time we left that house.

  9. Join a team. Team sports are great motivators because you’ve not only got your own expectations but other people relying on your performance as well. It also adds a great social element and guarantees routine. I’m a rugger so I’m obviously going to plug rugby, which is literally thrilling. But soccer, basketball and other team sports are ace as well. Motivation is hard, share the burden.

  10. Fall totally in love with someone you only meet at the gym. It works like shit! Never knew when she was gonna be there, so I had to be there ALL the time…
    When she finally moved away, and my hormones settled down again I was in great shape, and all I had to do was continue to do what I already had been doing for months, but now just for the sake of working out and feeling good while doing it.

    And for the people who havn’t tried it: climbing!!! So much fun, and really a motivator, because you get soo much better, soo fast. And after you’re hooked on climbing, that will be your motivator for other types of training – because you want to get better at climbing (and you don’t want your climbing partner, who happens to be a boy who is much stronger and taller that you are, to be able to do a bunch of routes you can’t do). Win win =)

    • I’m so glad you posted this, because I was reading this article and thinking about how I’d like to do something active, but I hate running, can’t commit to scheduled team practices right now, and don’t like gyms much. But your post reminded me that there’s a Rok Haus in my town, and they offer pretty cheap and flexible classes as well as decent membership prices, and now I’m super excited about it!

    • THIS! Gym crushes FTW. If you need inspiration, just look at the story of Lacey Stone and Jessica Clark (http://equallywed.com/real-weddings-main/real-weddings-jessica-and-lacey.html). You could even meet and marry a lesbian supermodel, if that happens to be your thing.

      …As long as the emotional fallout after she moves away / rejects you / insists on remaining straight doesn’t drive you back into the arms of deep-fried Mars bars and Double Stuf Oreos, of course.

      • I was doing good reading through everyone’s suggestions, telling myself “Yeah, I think I can do that!” “Ooo, that could work for me!” convincing myself I’m totally down to get fit.

        Then I got to your last sentence and now all I can think is, “MMMM, MARS BARS AND OREOS!!!”

  11. this is so timely, I just started a new workout and diet regimen. Signed up for weight watchers online where you have to track and assign points to everything you eat. When you only have 5 points left at the end of the day you have to ask yourself, is that Lindt chocolate truffle really worth 9 points? The answer is often no. It really works.
    Also I agree that scheduling your gym time is key. Because you’re never going to spur-of-the-moment decide to go to the gym.

  12. Top 10 Reasons to join your local roller derby league, other than good exercise:

    1) have you seen this sport? This shit is entertaining. Your friends will actually want to come put and support you instead of making awkward excuses about why they had to miss your game

    2) it has been scientifically proven that contact sports are the best thing ever for stress relief

    3) most derby teams are filled with really hot, probably queer ladies

    4) most derby bouts are attended by really hot, probably queer ladies

    5) the only thing cooler than injuring yourself in a derby bout is injuring yourself In a fight club, but you’re actually allowed to talk about these injuries. It’s also 100x cooler than injuring yourself at the gym

    6) when you and Ellen Page serendipitously run into each other at whole foods, you will have a chains topic of conversation and the ability to invite her to see one of your bouts. Clearly the step after that is falling in love and moving in together

    7) when’s the last time you went skating? When you were 5? Guess what, it’s still really fun

    8 ) After parties are taken as seriously as bouts, and since you were just skating for an hour you can do whatever the hell you want, guilt free

    9) the swag: in no other sport do you get to wear a shirt that says “whip me” and still be appropriate. plus, free reign to buy all of the fishnet tights and booty shorts you ever wanted.

    10) I have a picture of Tegan Quinn at one of these things. Tegan Quinn. I shouldn’t have to say more.

    • i always wanted to learn how to roller skate/blade when I was a kid, and the one time someone was like, “REALLY?! I’LL TEACH YOU RIGHT NOW” we went outside and she horrifically broke her arm in a million places the second she put her skates on and that was ruined forever.
      but wow, for a second there I was almost convinced, Ash.

      • To be honest, I’m out right now with a broken arm. But arms heal and aren’t that bad if you have insurance, and derby has become addicting enough that I don’t care about injury. Plus when people ask how I hurt myself I just say “derby” and they look really impressed and think you’re hardcore. And sometimes really cute girls sign your cast and give you their phone numbers and then you have a date with them this weekend and then really you’re more worried about your hair than your arm.

        And by sometimes I mean that totally happened, so really broken arms are kind of not that bad.

      • How much of a baby gay? You have to be 18 or older to join any derby league. sometimes 21. Some leagues sponsor junior teams to teach derby skills, but that is generally only bigger ones (Like the Texas Roller Girls).

        First you should find out who your local derby team is. http://www.derbyroster.com/ is an international roster. Go check out the local teams website to see if they have some kind of Fresh Meat training program. Many have recruitment days where you can learn about the team. This isn’t super specific since derby is a DIY sport so team policies vary wildly. Ideally you can join a fresh meat program, which will teach you the skills you need before you start competing.

        Generally the best thing you can do is buy yourself some quads, go to the local rink, and start getting comfortable on them. Derby girls use quad speed skates. Most people start off with something like the Riedell R3s, which run about $120. Don’t buy any skate brand that has the words “roller derby” in them- they’re terrible.

        If the skates didn’t make it clear, derby is a pretty expensive sport. Most leagues require skates, helmets, knee pads, elbow guards, wrists guards and a mouth guard before you’re allowed on the track. So… start saving money? We generally use stuff skateboarders use for gears, and rely on brands like Triple8, Killer 187, Protec, and Smith Scabs. Websites like bruised boutique or sin city skates often sell fresh meat packages, that give you decent pads at a discounted price. If you message me I’d be happy to help, as gear is something I could ramble about all day.

        Other than practicing skating, work out on the regular. Building muscle prevents injury. In particular practice squats, it will save you when you start skating and your thighs and lower back hate you forever.

        In general if you google “Fresh Meat” you’re going to get a ton of information, particularly the blogs of people starting out on teams. If you’re in the US, you should also peruse the WFTDA website. WFTDA (the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) governs most US derby leagues, and they have their rule book and FAQ on their site.

        But if you message me I’m happy to answer any questions 🙂

  13. Food. I run because I love food, like really really really love food. And if I don’t run, I can’t eat heartily knowing that I’ll gain weight and be unhealthy. So yup, I run because that way I can eat whatever I want (except for junk/fast food though, it messes with my appetite, appetite which is reserved for better food).

  14. I actually do the agenda thing… Writing stuff like “Don’t be a lazy asshat” and “Your butt will look nicer in jeans if you don’t pig out today” makes me laugh and reminds me of my goal… Losing weight before I go to Europe with my friends in May! No one wants to look like a chubby North American en bikini in the south of France. 🙂

  15. Motivation: Fitting into my white breeches so I don’t have to buy new ones, thus spending money I don’t have for something I wouldn’t need if I
    a) worked out more
    b) snacked less.

    I ride two horses a day so that’s a start and soon it’ll be three, but I should start going swimming more regularly again and I should probably do something else, too. Winter made me lazy.

    Must. Get. Off. Ass.

    • Nothing better than dressage for your core 😉 ROCK IT, GIRL! I recommend no-stirrup work to open your hips/drop your leg and engage that core. Conversely, standing-in-your-stirrups work will help to drop your ankles and fine-tune those tiny little stabilizer muscles that help you regulate your posting. Also up-up-down-down posting rhythm, or up-up-up-down, or whatever your creative mind comes up with.

      Something to help with strength and flexibility, like yoga or pilates, in addition to a whole-body cardio activity (swimming, figure-skating, dance, gymnastics, etc.) is great for riders. WOO PONIES!

      • OMG dressage yes. Having grown up in Germany, the dressage has been bred into me. Might be the reason why I own one of the few Icelandics that can do flying changes. :p

        And yes, no-stirrup work is awesome, especially while posting over poles. (And I totally went figure skating with my BFF last week because we felt it might benefit the muscles.) I also go jogging sometimes with my older pony because she’s nice to keep pace with.

        Ah, show season’s a month away, I must fit into those damn breeches come hell or high water…

  16. Since things are starting to warm up significantly where I live, I took off my sweater and it appeared as if I was smuggling either a roll of take ‘n bake cookie dough or a miniature dachshund puppy under my shirt … which I found to be motivating.

  17. SO RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS! This post is personal-trainer approved. Oh gosh, I have A LOT OF FEELINGS about this. Like, a whole lifetime worth of feelings.

    Sarah, you nailed goal-setting. The same method you described is laid out in my CanFit Pro PTS manual as S.M.A.R.T. Goals should be:

    Specific — State the goal so that the exact result is understood. (So, e.g. with my equestrian clients, instead of “ride with better rhythm,” a more specific goal would be, “in 2 weeks, be able to stay on rhythm with that godforsaken metronome my coach insists on pulling out for a whooooooole minute.)

    Measurable — State a goal where success can be measured. (Instead of, “lose some weight,” go for something like, “lose 6 inches off my waist/hips in the next 12 weeks.”)

    Action-Oriented — State a goal that promotes action towards accomplishment. (E.g., instead of, “feel better about myself,” try “run 20km per week for 6 weeks.” Same result, right?)

    Realistic — Choose a goal that can be reasonably attained. (If you DON’T set realistic goals, you will be discouraged when you can’t meet them. I used to set unrealistic goals for myself all the time when I ran varsity xc and track, and beat myself up when I didn’t make them, and then feel like I was letting my team down. ALL OF THIS HAPPENED INSIDE MY HEAD. Review your goals with another person to make sure they are sane and sensible.)

    Timed — Set an appropriate deadline for meeting the goal. (Focus on long-term goals (6 months to 1 year) and short-term goals (weekly and monthly). Think of short-term goals as small, strategic steps toward achieving long-term goals. Perform periodic progress checks to keep you focused on the desired results.)

    More advice for becoming a “Person Who Exercises:” if you are new to gyms, or you don’t know much about fitness theory, schedule some sessions with a personal trainer. I promise, they know all the things to make your workouts most efficient, safe, and to help you get the best results. You don’t have to go every week. Heck, go once or twice (many gyms offer complimentary sessions upon joining–TAKE ADVANTAGE). All trainers are different, as are all clients. Find a trainer you like. Ditch a trainer who makes you feel bad about yourself.

    Are you ready for a horror story about a bad trainer? When I started training, my fitness manager was a nightmare. I ended up quitting because his ignorance made me want to punch him in the face on a daily basis. I was recovering from a broken clavicle, and from long-term undereating, intentional sleep deprivation, over-exercising, and anxiety/depression. I was apprenticing alongside another girl my age with Hypothyroidism. We were both very muscled and lean. I would argue I was still way TOO thin for my frame. “So” he said to both of us, “you’ll need to work on your nutrition and improve your body fat percentage. Because you could both stand to lose some.” I’d just put some fat ON, and couldn’t imagine being the over-fit, unhealthy creature I was before. I was eating better than ever. He also told me that my heart rate was way too high and to just “calm down.” It doesn’t end there.

    Are you ready to hear why those big, intimidating machines at the gym are completely ridiculous and dangerous? Because my tirade begins here: the chain where I started was really big on promoting its circuit of workout machines, which I fundamentally disagree with. I’ve had countless health professionals tell me the same thing: these machines are built for the average person. Newsflash: NO ONE IS THE “AVERAGE PERSON.” Women especially need to be leery of leg press and leg extension machines. We can do serious damage to our knees and hips. Machines place our bodies in unnatural situations. I mean, when ARE YOU EVER going to do something in real life that isolates JUST YOUR BICEPS?! It doesn’t make sense. I firmly believe that if your body doesn’t have enough stabilizing muscle to bicep-curl 20lbs on a barbell, standing, you shouldn’t be doing 40 on a machine with every muscle in your body held/braced in place. It’s NOT SAFE, and how does it help you with your every day life if your muscles can’t work together?

    I was required by the fitness chain to go through the circuit 3x per week, to “make it seem more friendly to beginners.” With my shoulder held together by screws and strict orders from my physiotherapist not to do any overhead lifting, I could demonstrate how to properly use the shoulder press/lat pull-down machines at the lowest weight. (That was all I had to do to pass my Can-Fit Pro practical exam, too! They let me squat with a hockey stick in place of a barbell because the screws holding my collarbone together at the time would have snapped under the 40lb bar.) My fitness manager wanted me to actually WORK OUT on the machines. (Good thing I didn’t, because my shoulder later DID snap from a mere 15lbs of pressure.) Leg press/extension was out of the question from bilateral pateller-femoral syndrome. My elbows didn’t line up to do bicep curls on the machine (ntm bilateral forearm tendonitis), and it took my chiropractor the better part of six months to put them back in place. Did I mention that I also have exercise-induced asthma? I can run 15km no problem, but it took years to slowly train up to that, and my explosive and anaerobic power will always answer first to my lungs–read: someone shouting at me while I exercise, while useful to many people, sets off the anxiety and closes my throat in a heartbeat. Ask me gently to run a mile, and I’ll hammer out five of my own volition and probably STILL beat myself up over it. Your trainer has to be sensitive to what works for you.

    I BECAME A PERSONAL TRAINER because other trainers told me I had too many injuries to work out–so I researched and made my own regime of free-weights, plyometrics, balance ball/bosu modifications, dynamic workouts, and exercises from my physiotherapist/chiropractor. I dedicated myself to helping people who didn’t fit the normal ‘fitness model,’ and to serve as inspiration and a resource to demonstrate that ALL PEOPLE can work out. You just need safe exercises.

    My fitness manager, upon my explaining that I had too many injuries to ‘work out’ on the machines, but that I could DEMONSTRATE them properly, and do all the equivalent free-weight exercises no prob, hardened his face and asked, “how old are you?” “Twenty-one.” “You should not have that many injuries at twenty-one.” I wanted to say, “I GOT these injuries from killing myself for trainers LIKE YOU,” but all I could do was tear up in indignance and walk out. I never went back to that gym.

    Now, I am an equestrian coach, working with ‘problem’ horses and nervous or older riders. I have combined my Can-Fit Pro training and Equine Canada Coaching training to incorporate biomechanics, yoga, breathing meditation, strength exercises, dynamic stretching, and cardiovascular exercises. (Do you have ANY IDEA how important breathing is for ALL sports and exercises?) I am also applying for Physiotherapy school.

    I am learning, now, in my human health classes, the Seven Dimensions of Health model: Social, Emotional, Environmental, Mental, Occupational, Physical, and Spiritual. When I thought I was so “healthy,” high performance runner and all, I was a total wreck in every other dimension. Increasing your health-span (how long you are independent and not institutionalized, as opposed to life-span, which is merely how long you live) cannot be achieved by following one or two dimensions. You need to look at yourself as a whole.

    Moral: being fit isn’t about being good at sports where balls fly at you (I’m sure not!), or being able to use the Frankensteinian machines at the gym (I sure can’t!). It’s about loving and working with your body to its best potential, and finding activities that make you feel strong and empowered. I do every cross-country sport that exists: running, bicycling, skiing, and equestrian jumping. I also sail dinghies, practice yoga and martial arts, and weight train using mostly gravity. I know now when to stop. I think of my body as part of me, rather than an “it” that is broken and useless. Nuture all aspects of yourself, and you will look AND feel better. IF I CAN DO IT, YOU CAN DO IT! AND I WILL HELP YOU!

    Much love, Autoexercisers. Much love.

  18. Haha I’ve been putting off exercising again lately.. but I guess I’m lucky that it doesn’t take me too much effort ( fast metabolism for the win!)
    I won’t lie, my only real motivation is the fact that I l-o-v-e looking good in lingerie haha. so once im nice and toned again. Totally going shopping :p

  19. I think my obstacle at this point is not wanting to go to a gym or yoga studio alone. I grew up really, really fit (from riding and manual labor), but I’ve never gone into a gym. I haven’t been athletic in years now and it’s beginning to take its toll. Gyms seem like a black hole of lots of machines I don’t know how to use. No one I know actually works out. Any suggestions on how to find someone to work out with?

    • There is a gym post coming up soon! Gyms are so hit or miss and incredibly intimidating. I hated them for years, and still dislike going into many of them. There are tons of other options and they’re coming up soon!

    • Check out Crossfit. Strength based circuit training using weight lifting techniques, rings, pull up bar, kettle bells, medicine balls, box jumps etc. Friendly competition for speed or reps or how much weight you can lift off the ground. Plus it is fun and a great community of people. Also recommended is a paleolithic diet in conjunction with the workouts. You will get really strong really fast.

      Also Victory Muay Thai. Hooah! Yes I love, love, love punching things. Bags, Pads, People… Gain focus and concentration and a warrior mentality. There is anger within me that is coming to the surface now. Very excited about this.

      Muay Thai is a traditional style of fighting, much respect and a great workout. Muay Thai is 8 points of contact fighting. (Knees, Elbows, Fists, Feet)

      The men I train with plus the two women are totally down to earth people, grounded and awesome. Well trained fighters are some of the gentlest people I’ve ever met.

  20. Can I make a recommendation? This website changed my life: http://www.stumptuous.com

    It’s run/written by an awesome lady trainer, geared toward women, no-nonsense, has a ridiculous amount of good advice for beginners and more experienced worker outers, etc. etc.

    Her biggest pieces of advice: FREE WEIGHTS & FUCK CALORIES. Love love love. 🙂

  21. In case # bajillion of Autostraddle mirroring my life, I just started a Derby Shred Challenge with a group of girls that I do roller derby with. We are monitoring what we eat/work out and shizz and to make it interesting we all put in 20 bucks. Whoever has the hottest before/after pics wins the pot.

    And yes, roller derby is the shit. Do it. Your life will get better times a million.

    Also, you know there is an Autostraddle derby group, right?

  22. Autostraddle is so incredibly relevant to my life. First you guys have a post on Montreal, where I JUST moved to, then you have a post on fitness and I just joined a gym today 😮 It’s like you’ve invaded my life.. which is good 😉

    Anyway, awesome post! I signed up for a personal trainer today… bikini season is quite the motivator.

  23. I’m on Spring Break right now and just staying in my little college town, so I have plenty of time to work out, and I was all psyched that I’m gonna spend break getting fit, but what happened??

    Both the school gym and my apartment complex’s gym decided “oh, there’s no one around this week, why don’t we just CLOSE for 9 days??” UGH. Plans ruined.

    So I tried to go to yoga instead. I haven’t done yoga seriously in about four years, and of course I decided that Hot Power Fusion Yoga would definitely be the most awesome. My body hurts like hell. Chatterangas are pretty much the worst thing ever, can barely move my arms. So now I have a week-long unlimited pass and I’m not sure I can make myself go again.

    I should probably try running instead. Except for I suck at that and it’s snowing. Gahhhh.

    • Many gyms offer free 3-day trial passes… or one-week passes. Then you can run there, or try their classes. They really want you to get a membership so they’ll be more than happy to show you around and try and convince you to join, when all you want is to use their overpriced facilities for free during break! 🙂

  24. I just want to stop being so chubby, but every time I make some progress towards getting in shape I always end up falling back into “f*ck this homework and give me twenty chocolate biscuits”. It’s time to get my ass back in gear!

  25. This is a fantastic post! But if you hate gyms, don’t despair. All you really need is a floor and an iron will (and maybe a pullup bar).

    This is a great bodyweight workout: http://nerdfitness.com/blog/2009/12/09/beginner-body-weight-workout-burn-fat-build-muscle/

    I am lazy and like to spend minimal time exerting myself so I try to do high-impact exercises like burpees, hill sprints and jump-squats. They suck, but they don’t suck for very long–usually about 20 minutes total.

    • i’ve switched back to my old routine of doing circuits now and am sooo glad i did. not only do they make me feel painfully good, but i’ve also been getting out later because of them and have been running into this cute girl in the locker room who unshamefuly checks me out all the time and just smiles big when i look back…..what im trying to say is circuits are excellent for you in almost every single way!

  26. Yes! I played team sports for about 12 years so I never worried about doing my own exercise routine because year round athletics kept me in shape and held me accountable to myself. But I just started a new diet/exercise routine under the motivations that:
    a) The impending reunion season / summer clothes season is upon me
    b) I unexpectedly lost my last internship and found myself with a TON of spare time on my hands (lemons –> lemonade)
    c) I’m starting a new job in a few weeks and moving to a new city for that job and would very much like to try out for their rugby team or queer soccer league without looking like an ass
    d) I like my girlfriend’s abs

    I started feeling GREAT after the first two weeks and really stepped up my workouts since then. It’s nice to have some clear goals and feel like I can tackle them.

  27. I don’t believe one should go to the gym with the motivation to change the way you look, least of all to change the way you look in a bikini at fucking Dinah Shore.

      • Really, you don’t think we can challenge ourselves a bit more, unpack the normative way of looking at things like this? And what about someone who looks at themselves in the mirror and thinks “you are disgusting, get to the gym or you have no self-worth”? That’s okay because it’s motivating themselves to get “healthy”? And no, that’s not an extreme circumstance.

        • Thinking like that is obviously unhealthy.

          I think what Emma was saying is that if you want to feel better about your body or yourself, and you think working out more is going to do that for you, that’s great. This article’s about that. If not, do something else and calm down.

  28. Yes, yes, yes: motivation is crucial and telling people you _will_ do something can really help, too. I talked about maybe joining our university’s gym for 1-2 years before actually doing so.
    My motivation for doing so was, and that might sound a bit weird, my wish to be able to go running again. I have a serious foot injury and couldn’t build up the muscles I needed by just running, so I started going to the gym, first with a colleague, then on my own.

    That was ca. 6 months ago. I lost about 20 pounds and can run 6 kilometres without my foot hurting too much.

    Another motivation that is really silly but helped was that I will graduate from university this summer, which means travelling which means women.
    Simple as that. 😉

    Also, something that can help by building a routine is not only finding a nice gym, team of any kind and so on; but finding something that is close to where you live and work. It takes me about five minutes to walk to my gym from my university/library/work and I can take my sports clothes to my office, so even when I can’t make it that day, the clothes will already be there the next day.
    This has helped a great deal with building a routine!

  29. I have been practicing yoga for several years now for three reasons:
    1. it doesn’t feel like a chore to do it
    2. it de-stresses me
    3. you get to be in a room full of girls with really sexy pants on

    • ABSOLUTELY! All of the studies I’ve found regarding sex and the amount of calories burned are based on heterosexual couples, but I’d be willing to bet that lesbians burn more calories than heterosexuals. (completely unfounded and biased opinion but I’m sticking to it!)

  30. I’ve been slacking since graduating. Moving from a fun campus where I biked everywhere and had a gym a short walk away, to a boring suburb will do that. You go from trying to look good in a college town full of hot girls to being unashamed of wearing pleated shorts in a cul-de-sac full soccer moms. Now that I’ll be moving out of the ‘burbs and back into hip civilization, I need to step it up.

    This post came just in time. I had just decided yesterday that this week was going to be my last junk food week.

  31. I joined rugby last month. Now there’s motivation! Now I’ve got a teammate who convinced me to do a year long push up challenge with her. It’s a good thing I’ve been enjoying this so far…

    But yes, team sports, if you’re the type of person for them, are great.

  32. I would love to join a team sport. But only when it’s warmer out. So I’ll make my morivation to general train to join a team sport in May? June? Meta-fitness!
    I meant to type “motivation,” but morivation is an awesome compound word to me.

  33. My workout and diet regimen: Do movement that makes me happy. Follow Michael Pollan’s famous advice. (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”) Never freaking touch a scale.

    I also find it helps to have a gym and pool in the basement of your workplace…

  34. Because looking hot is the most important/only reason to exercise? You should go to the gym so you’ll look better in a bikini?

    What a disappointing, immature and irresponsible message. It’s also one I can get anywhere else on the internet, so I think I’ll skip these thanks.

    • I think what you’re getting at is a tension regarding objectification. The difference between Sarah’s message (and Autostraddle’s ideals in general), and mainstream fitness advice for women, is the male gaze.

      The subtext in Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health, Prevention, etc. is this: be beautiful to win a man’s affections so that he can look after you. These articles loosely convince you that you’re “doing it for yourself,” but in a subversive and uncomfortable way. In these articles, you won’t find photos of beautiful women posed for themselves in a way that truly and naturally makes them feel empowered–you’ll find them dressed up, posed, and photoshopped unanimously for the male gaze. They are caricatures, parading a male ideal.

      Now, look at the photos in this article. We see women who are beautiful because they feel powerful and take ownership of their bodies. Sarah’s “look good in a bikini” message is cheeky, because she is re-possessing the phrase coming from a place of true personal empowerment, of woman-as-provider, woman-in-control-of-her-body. It’s not, objectify yourself so you can hand yourself over. It’s, be beautiful and own yourself and DO YOU.

      It’s OKAY for a good feminist to be promiscuous or dress provocatively. It’s OKAY for a good feminist to love her body and want to show it off.

      Slut Walk, Take Back the Night, actual REAL femme lesbians insisting that we exist, that we can be taken seriously, that we won’t leave you for a man–

      The point is that we are challenging paradigms. We are re-possessing. This isn’t the same-ole shit being spoon-fed back to you. Look closer, look deeper.

      • I’m sorry, but I have to say that you’re very wrong here. I see no reclamation of anything here at all, and I fail to see anything subversive or tongue in cheek just because the gaze isn’t articulated as expicitly male. I also think you missed the point– this isn’t about objectification at all, but rather, the twisted norms of “health” and “good bodies” that we’re fed day to day.

        I found the article disturbing in how it promoted these “get to the gym because otherwise you’ll feel like a lazy shit” and “my motivation is to ‘look good’ in a bikini”. What is the implication of exercising to improve your body shape for a bikini? C’mon. Sure, you can ‘do you’, but you can also challenge yourself and unpack the views you hold

        There is definitely a mentally healthy approach to exercise and doing fitness activities (which I think many commenters have expressed), but the spirit of this article relied on unhealthy ideologies of fitness and changing body shape.

        • Okay, i get really tired of hearing people say how mentaly unhealthy and self esteem decreasing gyms are. THEY AREN’T….that is unless you’re still looking at it from the gym and sports equal jocks equal stupidity equal conforming to social norms etc .stereotype. scientifically speaking your brain is stronger duringand after excercise, and it doesn’t haveto be vigirous excercise either. Everyone has a diffrent energy level just like everyonehas a diffrent sex drive. I happen to be on the high end and love to work out hard. It boost my self esteem greatly knowing how many miles i cycled, stairs i climed, and distance i elipticaled. If i find myself sitting arround and not doing anything produtive i dofeel like a lazy sac, but thats because of all i do in a usual day.i see going to the gym as an art form, body expression, you are the ball of clay and you can choose how to shape it in an aray of diffrent ways.i dont know anyone at my gym who berrates people based on how they look. Thats unproffesional in ALL THE WAYS and so very childish. If you had that gym experience im sorry about that but that place probably isnt healthy for anyone. You should love your body and all the things you can do with it, you would be surprized of what its capable of. Before i went to the gym i would have never said this or even though of my body in sucha positive light in such a short amount of time had i not gone to the gym long ago.
          In other words you do you bro, but dont bring people down for being diffferent.

          • Okay, I’m not talking about me, personally, but I work in programs helping people who do have exercise disorders, and while it’s great that gyms are an awesome space for you, they are simply not that way for everyone. You can’t unequivocally say, as you did, “THEY AREN’T”, just because you want it to be so. And also, “i dont know anyone at my gym who berrates people based on how they look.” That’s fine that you haven’t been made aware of that. But gyms are not utopian places where oppressive interactions, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, ableism, suddenly cease to exist. In fact, those things simply DO get expressed intensely in gyms.

            But this isn’t really about whether or not gyms are great spaces… I wasn’t really trying to address that at all. What I was saying is that we are so mired in social norms of “fitness” that we perhaps put ourselves in this self-shaming idea of health and perfect bodies without realizing what we’re doing. If you have a positive view of your body and movement, great. But that doesn’t mean we can’t continually question these assumptions.

          • okay….i needed to slow down because i was projecting a rant of all the negativity i have heard from other about gyms (yes they did say all the gyms) on to you. also it’s not going to the gym that’s an art form, that’s just space being provided, but exercise. i do understand that people who go to these spaces or place get clumped into a category/stereotype that doesn’t hold true. that was the point i was trying to make. not necessaraly about gyms, but excercise fitness and the bad rap it get from another side.

            you should know that the “social norms” or the “mainstream belief” about anything and especially health and fitness is for the most part far from what it truly is.

            you are right that i can’t say all the gyms aren’t that way, because i’m sure there are places that are. i can say, from my experience working in a gym i see people that come in who are all body shapes, all walks of life, all ages, some who are physically impaired in one way or another, suffering from illness, different in dress, opinions, and ideology…..and so far, i haven’t run into anyone that gave a single shit about that. for the most part it’s people making chit chat and talking about their health goals they’re working to accomplish.

            the author wrote about her experience at the gym and what motivates her, not what should motivate others.

            i do know in a way where you’re coming from because i did have a friend who had this exercise problem where she worked off every single thing she ate, up to the piece of gum she chewed. obviously that’s unhealthy and i honestly don’t believe it’s anyone’s intention to take it to that level. that being said exercising and diet do go hand in hand, but you have to be knowledgeable about it before you jump in, like everything else.

          • hmm, I feel like there is nothing wrong with striving to be mentally and physically fit, which is what going to the gym does for me. I feel more empowered and healthy after a good workout.
            And, this may be controversial, but I also feel like the fat positive movement has made it un-pc to say that actually, it is unhealthy to carry tons of extra weight around, and yes, I do want to lose weight and be thinner. Especially around my midsection: if you’ve ever read anything about how diabetes develop, that women with a lot of extra belly fat are more likely to develop diabetes.
            So yeah, I am not going to feel bad about about going to the gym and exercising and trying to lose weight.

        • Hey, now. No one is wrong or right. We’re all upholding our individual ideals and perceptions and exploring why we think how we do.

          Can you elaborate on what the twisted norms are, and why they exist, if not for objectification? I can’t quite wrap my head around that one, but I would love to hear another opinion.

          This post isn’t a hard-and-fast, “you will feel like a lazy shit if you don’t go to the gym.” It was Sarah saying that’s how SHE feels, throwing herself out there, and leaving an open forum.

          And I’ve got to ask, what’s WRONG with wanting to feel as though you look good in some particular article of clothing that you love?

          I work out primarily to quell my anxiety, increase my physical energy and mental function, and because I love the way my muscles and body feel after I’ve built them strong. But I also love how confident I feel in my muscles, like I worked HARD for these and I am PROUD of them and I’m not going to flaunt ’em thoughtlessly, but I’m not gonna hide them on purpose, either. They make me feel sexy. What on Earth is wrong with that?

  35. my motivator is STRESS. I moved somewhere new and was constantly frustrated by my inability to speak the language and so going to the gym was a way to be productive and not have to talk to anybody. it ended up being great, though, because the trainers there were really nice and would practice speaking with me. the fringe benefits of limitless hot showers and hot ladies helped too.

  36. Find something you love to do. I love to surf, that in itself keeps me fit and when it’s cold/flat, I’m motivated to train to keep in shape for when the waves are good. I dislike exercise being a another chore and ‘thing’, and try to incorporate it into daily life.
    Also, if you know you look good, it makes you feel good. For me anyway. So yeah, working out to look hot in a bikini is totally legit.

  37. hi these are things that motivate me:

    1. getting to read magazines on the gazellatron (aka the elliptical)
    2. i have fibromyalgia, so if i am inactive for too long, my body starts to hurt so bad, starting with my knees, and then my elbows and my back, and then it’s like JUST THE WORST
    3. i work from home so every day i need an Outing, and so every day I either take an outing to the gym or i take an outing to run errands. So the gym is good for getting me out of the house.
    4. it makes me feel more in touch with my body and therefore more confident, and like a more well-rounded person.

    I’d like to add for anyone who is lucky enough to have this option, that I go to the YMCA and they have a women’s-only part of the gym. Really all I ever do there is go on the gazellatron and use the ab machine, but I feel more comfortable in the women’s gym than i have at any other gyms i’ve been to, and i’ve been to gyms all over NYC, brooklyn, long island, westchester, boston and new jersey as well as in ann arbor (michigan) and lots of school gyms or whatever.

  38. My motivation was that super cute fitness instructor (who I believe is totally, totally gay), but then her schudule mixed up, mine also and I lost it;< But when I started going to the gym for weight lifting workout I didn't really need motivation. idk, maybe that's the routine…

  39. Motivations – A-CAMP, a Scrabble tournament, the midnight premier of The Hunger Games. All things that I would give my left ovary for but alas being in Africa I am cockblocked by the Atlantic Ocean!

  40. I’ve recently started roller derby and nothing motivates you to get your ass in gear like collapsing with exhaustion right at the end of a session. I don’t mean in a bad way, I just mean in an “oh man i’m so tired I could, whoops i’ve just fallen over, man my arse hurts” way.

    Also derby is super fun! Skating! Hot ladies! fishnets! Tiny shorts!*

    *tiny shorts not objectification, they’re just the comfiest thing to wear i’ve found, Full range of moment in the legs, without sweating at the knees!

  41. Having dogs that need to go out for walks got me into trail running. Agree with a previous reply that you can’t really ignore those sad eyes and them bringing you their leashes…
    I started martial arts, kungfu specifically; after a while it becomes a way of life and I love my training and feel bad if I miss a class.

  42. I’m sure someone said this and I missed it (I swear I looked) – join a team! It’s a spin-off of the “tell a friend” idea; but join a club team for the sports you loved in college and high school. Pride and the desire not to look like a chump will help you.

  43. My motivation in the beginning was wanting to feel better. I had no energy, stress was killing me (yaaay grad school) and no endurance.

    I could not run a mile. And by run I mean jog at the pace my 62 year old mother speed walks.

    So I joined a gym (a low-key gym that wasn’t too scary, t-shirts required so no body builders showing too much off while I huffed and puffed). Then I set goals.

    First, I signed up for a 4 mile Pub Run where you drink 3 guinness in the course of a 4 mile run. Figured it would be good to see if I could do 4 miles and also chill enough I wouldn’t get freaked out by the “real” runners and how slow I was.

    I finished it (only 4 min faster than my Mom walked it sans beer the next year) and had a great time. I was starting to feel great and decided that I should set the goal higher. I would do a half marathon.

    I bought expensive shoes to add economic incentive to keeping moving. I hate paying for things I don’t use. Also they eliminated the problems running that first race in old old tennis shoes caused.

    When I don’t feel like exercising my motivation is thinking about how great I will feel after. My energy and endurance are so far beyond what they were when I started exercising about 18mo ago it’s unreal. I’m a lot healthier and happier.

    Team sports are also great for motivation. I joined a rugby team (something I can’t imagine having the endurance for a year ago) and it’s been a blast but also made me push myself even more than I would’ve solo.

    The best motivation for me is focusing on what I want (feeling good, meeting my goals) and being realistic about what it takes to get there (put the Nutella down, go outside).

    I finished my first half marathon last weekend and the sense of accomplishment was like nothing else. Better than graduating from college (I always knew I could do that, running for more than 10 minutes on the other hand used to seem like a distant dream or nightmare).

    Excited about this column! Let’s get movin’, Autostraddle!

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