Exercise has always been a part of my life.
Throughout high school, I was a three-sport athlete. And, in college, I got myself to the gym nearly every single day.
Despite being fit and healthy, I was unhappy with my body and uncomfortable in my own skin. I never looked forward to my workouts. But, my thoughts were riddled with fear of gaining weight, so I did them anyway.
When I couldn’t make it to the gym, I felt guilty. When I did make it to the gym, whatever I did there never felt good enough.
I was burnt out and bored with my exercise routine. But then, I discovered yoga and Pilates.
Suddenly, I was in the best shape of my life, flexible for the first time ever, comfortable in my own skin and, drumroll please: a person who actually looked forward to her workouts. For real.
Fast forward to today: I’ve been teaching these forms of exercise for more than 10 years.
During this time, I’ve discovered surprising secrets that help everyone, from burnt-out gym rats (like my former self) to couch potatoes, get excited about their workouts and rev up their results.
Here are five ways anyone and everyone can rev up tired fitness routines:
1. Exercise To Feel Better… Period
In the past, my workouts always revolved around numbers: run for a certain number of miles, walk for a certain amount of time, burn this many calories, lose that many pounds — you know the drill.
The problem is, numbers don't equal inspiration. They don’t make you excited to get out of a warm bed on a cool day to go on an early-morning walk.
They certainly don’t lovingly call you to the gym after a stressful day at work.
So, what does? Feelings.
Feeling strong, empowered, hopeful and better in general is what inspiration is all about. And, that’s what exercise can evoke if we give up our obsession with the numbers.
Whether you’re doing a 10-minute light walk or a 60-minute intense run, start judging how “successful” your workouts are by this one simple question: “Do I feel better now?”
2. Set An Intention
Take a moment at the beginning of your workout to decide what you want to focus on. Get clear with yourself about why you’re working out and what you want to get from it.
Helpful questions to ask yourself include why am I doing this? What do I need from this time?
You might discover that one day, you'll get an urge to focus on your breathing. You might not even know why, you'll just know that the intention of checking in with your breath throughout your workout feels right.
At the onset of your next workout, you decide there’s an alignment cue you want to focus on and keep checking in with as you move.
Another day, you decide your intention is to say something nice, instead of degrading to yourself when you notice your reflection in the mirrors at the gym.
Setting intentions is empowering. Intentions get you focused and evoke inspiration.
3. Find (Or Make) A Beautiful Setting
If you’re not feeling inspired to work out at a nasty gym on a particular day, don't go. Go on a hike or roll out your yoga mat instead.
The environment where you move has a huge effect on how you feel about exercise. Ask yourself: Where (and how) could I do this workout that would make me feel nourished?
Moving outside is always, always, always a great option.
A few more ideas for you:
- Even if you’re in the midst of your messy living room doing your workout, light a candle.
- Or, maybe today is the day you clean your living room before you do your workout.
- Buy yourself fresh flowers and put them where you can see them as you move.
- Cut and paste pictures from magazines to one sheet of paper. Use these pictures as representations of how you want your life and body to look and feel. Bring this sheet of paper to the gym and, whether you’re using the treadmill or the elliptical machine, prop it up in front of you.
4. Create Playlists That Inspire
Music, when chosen mindfully, can change the entire dynamic of your workout.
Create different playlists based on feelings. One might be titled, “inspiration,” another, “fun” or “energized.”
Then, regardless of what type of workout you’re doing or the intensity, decide how you want to feel during your movement and use a playlist to help evoke that feeling.
5. Practice Gratitude
At any point in time, you could find things to focus on that aren’t going well in your life. Or, you could find things to focus on that are going well.
Practicing gratitude simply means you’re choosing to consciously look for things that are going well. As a result, you retrain your brain (you literally create different pathways) to notice “good” and let go of “bad.”
Practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to increase your sense of happiness.
Here are the top three gratitude practices I use when I exercise:
- If my workout is getting really tough and I just want it to be over, I consciously shift my focus to how empowered, energized and healthy I feel to be moving in such an intense way. I think about how blessed I am to have a body functioning at this level.
- If I’m doing something rhythmic, like running or walking, and I’m starting to get bored, I’ll begin repeating the words, “thank you,” with each step. This may seem silly, but it prompts me to start thinking about all the fun and exciting things I have going on in my life.
- At the end of a workout, I’ll sit quietly for a few minutes and think about or write down a list of all the things I’m truly grateful for in my life.