I haven’t worked out for a week, but I’ve got a really good excuse. This excuse involves lots of Kleenex and orange juice, and I’m pretty sure that’s all you want to read.
However, when it comes to working out, many of us make up far less legitimate excuses like not having enough time, not having clean workout clothes, being too tired, being in a bad mood etc. Here are eight practical tips you can employ that help make those excuses even less valid, so you can fit more exercise into your life:
1. Do it first thing
Dr. Barbara Brehm is a professor of exercise and sport studies at Smith College in Massachusetts and the author of Successful Fitness Motivation Strategies. In her book, Brehm explains that first thing in the morning you are at your lowest point of stress in the day because nothing has happened yet to put you in a bad mood. People who exercise first thing in the morning have the highest adherence rates because they haven’t had the chance to make a bunch of excuses not to.
2. Set the alarm
On the above note, if you’re going to exercise first thing in the morning, make sure you set the alarm early enough to allow time for exercise before work. I know that when the alarm goes off, you’re going to be tempted to reset it and sleep a little longer, but realize that the extra bit of sleep you get is going to be lousy because:
a) You have to waken yourself to reset the alarm.
b) The alarm jarred you out of sleep in the first place, and it’s always hard getting back into a deep sleep after that.
c) You might feel a sense of guilt for going back to sleep instead of exercising.
So, when the alarm goes off, make a point of just heading straight to the bathroom and flicking that bright light on. Then you’ll be awake and have nothing better to do but workout.
3. Always have your stuff ready
On days that I workout in the morning my exercise gear is sitting on the floor right next to my side of the bed, and when I used to work in an office I would also have everything I needed packed and ready the night before, in terms of clothes and toiletries. I used to also work out at lunch regularly and had a pair of runners that stayed at the office and would bring in an entire week’s worth of exercise clothes to stash in a bag under my desk so I never had the excuse of forgetting my stuff. Always plan for having the proper gear ready and at hand. Place your gym bag in the car or in the front foyer so you never forget it, and have your personal hygiene routine down so that you can efficiently make yourself look and smell good if you need to go to work after your workout.
4. Get enough sleep
Do you really need to stay up late to find out who is getting a rose on The Bachelor? If you’re tired, then you won’t want to exercise, especially if it’s an early morning workout. Instead of TV, get into a good book and take it to bed. Get horizontal and comfortable, read a few pages, then zonk out.
5. Do it with a friend
Workout partners can be very motivating because they expect you to show up. They are an external pressure that makes you accountable. If they’re expecting you to be there for a run, a class, or just to be on the elliptical next to them at the gym, then you better go, or you better come up with a great excuse. I vote for going.
6. Sign up for classes
Things like yoga, Pilates, and boot camp classes are really expensive, but I think a big part of its value comes from the motivation factor—for a lot of people these classes are totally worth it for this reason alone. If you’ve paid for a bunch of classes and the instructor and other attendees are going to wonder about you if you’re not there, then this pushes you to go. Also, it becomes part of your schedule. It’s factored in to all the other stuff you have to do in a day and you see it there in your calendar, so it’s serving as a reminder that today is a day to exercise.
7. Get out of the house
Dr. Shauna Burke is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Western Ontario, and her PhD dissertation focused on how social context affects exercise performance. What she discovered is that people who exercise alone at home have the lowest adherence rates. I think this is because it’s so easy to quit. You jump on a treadmill for five minutes and there is nothing external pushing you to keep going, and there are a lot of distractions like phones, doorbells, kids, televisions, computers and refrigerators tempting you away. Conversely, if you got on a treadmill at a gym and quit after five minutes you’d feel foolish, so instead you keep going.
8. Just get dressed
I can’t tell you how many times this trick has got me out the door to run on days that I really didn’t want to. On days when I’m at my computer working on a deadline, or when the house could use some cleaning, or I’m not feeling energetic, or a host of other garbage excuses. I just get dressed into my running gear. It takes two minutes. Then, in my running gear, I go back to the computer or empty the dishwasher or do whatever non-running task and I feel strange. Something about having running clothes on makes you feel like you should be running, instead of sending out another email or checking Facebook. Sometimes it takes an hour before I reach the turning point, but I always end up heading out the door. Eventually.
One final bit of advice is to write down the excuses you use to not exercise and then work out your own strategies in advance on how to deal with it.