10 ways to trick yourself into working out
I have never been a sporty person, yet over the years I have blundered into the perfect solution to make myself more active. Some lucky souls needn’t bother with the ‘make yourself’ part of working out. You know the type: perfectly self-disciplined, look good in neon clothing and somehow manage to rock the scraped back, tight pony tail look. I am not one of these people. My scraped back pony tail never fails to make me look like a teenage Indian boy, and my self-discipline is at best shaky, if not falling apart the second my foot hits the ground, treadmill, or swimming pool floor. Despite having the workout staying power of a puppy, I have somehow managed to get myself out of the house on runs, swims, and the occasional ice cream van chase (still counts) fairly consistently, since the tender age of 17.
How do I do it? Well, I have come up with an elaborate system of deliberately fogging over my mind to suit the higher purpose of eventual exercise: I trick myself.
I am so prone to making excuses about why I can’t exercise (it’s raining, my hair’s too clean, it’s too late, I just ate cereal) that the only thing to do is to convince myself that I am not actually going to exercise. So this is what I do: I keep to my getting ready routine so religiously that it doesn’t leave me any space to think about what it’s for. Time after time, I will wake up, block out any ideas involving exercise, and tell myself I’m just getting into workout clothes because that’s what I’m doing. Why? Just getting changed. I leave the house, thinking only about leaving the house, step by step. I walk down the street, thinking only about that lamppost past the traffic lights. And what do I do when I’m there? I run.
And whilst I’m running, I have tactics to keep myself going. I tell myself that I have to run or the people on the streets will think I’m being lazy and not doing it properly. I tell myself that I have to get to that lamp-post, right there or I’ll never be able to have a great career (I mean, if I can’t even get to a lamp-post how can I get to an amazing career, right?). I sometimes tell myself that if that sixty year old can do it, I had better keep going and stop shaming my generation. I am deliberately hard on myself, I deliberately lie to myself to get myself to succumb to the force of what I need to do. And you know what? It gets easier every time I do it.
If you’re wondering why (which you should be) it’s because working out strengthens you up, mentally and physically. If you can make yourself do it, really push yourself and whip yourself into shape, it will help you in every aspect of your life: business, health, friendships, relationships, body image- it all goes hand in hand. It gives you the strength and discipline to really apply yourself, to push at every boundary and see how far you can go. It also makes you feel energised, vitalised, and pretty great about life. As Elle Woods says in Legally Blonde: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people don’t kill people!”. Pushing your body, although it may not seem like it, also means pushing your mind. And when you stretch those all important ‘brain muscles’, you create a whole new level for yourself and what you can aim for. So even if you don’t think working out is ‘your thing’, it will certainly help you improve ‘your thing’- whatever that is.
Here are some ideas for you to get started:
1. Dress for success – the night before!
Make sure your workout clothes are always perfectly laid out by the side of your bed, and highly visible. This way, it will be impossible for you to walk past them and pretend that they aren’t there or that you have better things to do. Remember: routine is key. The moment you see them you must put them on, and not give yourself a chance to think about what you’re doing. If that doesn’t do the trick, wear the clothes to bed!
2. Don’t overthink things
You may think you’re doing yourself a favour by visualising the entire journey from your house to the gym/pool/yoga class, but what you’re actually doing is looking for shortfalls. Don’t do it. Get there first, and then think about the rest.
3. Leave the house at all costs
In the comfort of your pyjamas, blankets and warm house it will be ten times easier for you to stay in make up excuses about the cold outside world. Don’t do it. Get outside, because once you’re out in the world you will feel a lot more sheepish about turning back.
4. Use your friends
If it helps, text a friend that you know is sporty or strong-willed, asking them whether you should go for a run/to the gym/class/pool. They will inevitably say yes, but more importantly, once they do you will feel like a coward in front of your seriously accomplished friend if you don’t get out there. If possible, choose a friend that is serious about your chosen workout method (e.g. if you’re a runner, text that friend that runs races!)
5. Make the decision the day before
The day before you plan (or hoped to plan) on working out, decide that you are going to go. Look to this event with the certainty of going to class or attending that work meeting; you may not want to do it, you prefer not to think about it, but it is necessary. When the day comes, remember that you don’t have a choice, and you’re only fulfilling your part of the deal.
6. Limit distractions
Don’t do anything that may postpone your workout, i.e. eating food (your two hour wait will become an eventual excuse), watching a film, starting a mundane activity that usually takes you hours to recover from. The moment you get up, get your things and leave. Don’t give yourself a chance to do anything else, because given the chance to give up, you will.
7. Don’t set yourself goals that will intimidate you
Although it’s great to have goals for how much you want to achieve it’s important not to overstretch them too early on, or you may end up feeling so daunted by the prospect of starting that you just won’t. I tend to prefer not knowing exactly how far or fast I’m going when I’m starting out (I recently started interval training over 8km and only realised this when I google mapped the entire route on a whim). For some people an end goal works fine but for others, it may be necessary for you to just get out there and give it your best. If you set too rigid boundaries, then you may be too intimidated to even try to reach for them.
8. Figure out what works for you
When I go swimming or jogging with friends, I may be far more likely to turn up, but I have found that I don’t push myself as much and tend to feel less satisfied with myself as a result. Making myself go on my own, despite being a constant battle(do the people in the street think I look horrible? Can I get there? Can I run past that hot guy?) makes me far happier and pushes way more of my boundaries. Figure out what works for you, and go with it. If you’re scared of going for a run or to the gym on your own (I know, all those beautifully sculpted bodies can be a bit daunting) then why not enlist a friend to go with you a few times until you’re happy to go on your own? The main thing is to figure out what you want for yourself and do it.
9. Don’t be scared of change
If you’re in the habit of working out, you will start to notice changes in your body, mood, and general outlook. Some of these changes may not be as welcome as others (greasy hair after a workout is one of them), and some may be so welcome that you may get scared that you won’t be able to keep it up (think about that summer when you lost 5 pounds and were so scared to put them back on). Remember that your body will change, and that is okay. The people that love you still loved you when you were bigger/smaller/lazier/didn’t smell of chlorine.
10 . What motivates you?
I’m not talking about motivation in the ‘traditional’ sense…What is your trigger? What is that one thing that would make you get out and exercise, even if you were the perfect size and had the perfect body? For me, that one thing is fitness. I don’t work out to lose weight, or to make myself look nicer (although these are welcome side-effects), I work out because I love feeling the strength in my body. I love feeling able, steeped with energy and ready to take on anything and to trust my body to do the same. Find out what it is that triggers you, and make sure you remember it on that lonesome street, treadmill, or pool full of pensioners.
If you have any other tricks that work for you, feel free to comment below with your suggestions! In the words of Beyoncé,” it’s time to get on that Freakum Dress” (get your workout on)!