Six months on ….
From initially taking up running I’d got into a routine and getting out and pounding the pavements a habit. However, I was also starting to find running a 5km fairly easy going despite mixing up routes and trying to improve on my time. Then it started to happen; the prospect of putting my trainers on and getting out for a run rather uninspiring. I suppose it was a case of now needing something else to motivate me to maintain my fitness.
Old habits can easily start creeping back
As I could have predicted my motivation to keep fit started to wane. 3 runs a week became two then sometimes one or none a week. I was in danger of undoing all the hard work I’d done and forgetting the goals I’d been so proud of achieving. Sitting on that sofa watching Coronation Street instead of getting out there was starting to become more appealing and the norm. An old habit was starting to re-immerge.
So what next?
Maybe it was time to hit the gym? Over the years I have joined gyms. Kept it up for a few months, worked to a programme but gradually the motivation would ebb away and I’d stop going as regularly. Then I’d start not sticking to my programme and skipping the reviews I was meant to have. It always got to the point where I would go out of guilt, didn’t particularly enjoy it and (normally at this stage) ditch the weights/ resistance machines and rock up once in a while to jog on a treadmill; hardly breaking into a sweat in the process. Then I’d stop going completely and probably take a year before I even cancelled my membership, which to me was a real admission of failure. I was probably a Gym’s most desirable type of customer; never went but carried on letting them take my cash through my own sheer apathy. Probably sounds familiar to a lot of people.
Determined not to be a victim of the barriers to my fitness
In my defence I reckon I wasn’t completely to blame. Pre-kids I worked a punishingly long week building up my career. 3 kids came along and flopping in front of the TV summed up my free time. But I now recognise that whilst these were barriers to me committing to a gym routine I was not of the mind set of trying to overcome them.
Taking up running back in September 2013, made me re-evaluate the barriers that had previously stopped me from getting fit and being in the right frame of mind to try and overcome them instead of using them as excuses. These barriers were mainly time, being self-conscious about fitness, having no one to kick my butt into action and the guilt factor of being a mum; in my mind indulging in my own fitness journey was putting my needs above my children’s.
Finding the right Gym that ticked all the boxes
About the time I started running, ‘no frills, no contract’ gym’s seemed to be popping up everywhere. One opened down the road from me. So in March 2014, I decided to join the nearest gym to me. I figured that not only did it work out a just under £4 a week there was no contract so all I had to do was cancel my direct debit and that would be it. Plus, and this was a big selling point for me, it was less than I mile up the road from me (no more having to drive miles) and on the way home from work should the opportunity arise. Its close proximity to my home meant that I could run there if the mood was ever to take me! Ok managed that twice but still. So there you go; close to home and work, inexpensive and easy to cancel (but I was determined that wouldn’t be an option this time). When choosing a gym consider what you require from it; it’s pointless choosing one that may be close to home but does not have a pool that was on your list of desirables or you want to try classes but the class timetable at one particular gym doesn’t have them on at the times convenient for you.
In the space of 5 minutes, I’d joined online and booked an induction session. Ta-dah! To cancel my membership all I had to do was cancel my direct debit, simple! I’d been a member at Gyms in the past where it was incredibly hard to quit (brings to mind that infamous Friends sketch); that had also been a barrier to joining gyms in the past. Armed with a previously emailed pin number and instructions on how to enter via some bizarre ‘teleporter style’ tube (I really can’t explain it would take forever), I rocked up at my induction. I received the tour and was quickly shown how to use some of the equipment. As expected, with it being a no frills gym there was no offer of a personalised programme bring written and there was a slight sell with regards to using one of the available personal trainers, but that didn’t put me off. In my favour, I ask a lot of questions and have some basic understanding of the machines so it suited me just fine. However, I can understand how some people might find this all a bit daunting and be left feeling a little high and dry but that is not the fault of the gym staff but it’s the ethos of this sort of gym. If you want the type of gym where you get a regular private consultations and bespoke programmes then you will certainly pay more than the £15.99 I committed to a month.
Realising that getting into the Gym ‘habit’ takes effort and a bit of thought
Like when I took up running, initially committing to going twice a week, once I got into the routine of going it became habit. I’d previously overcome the perceived barrier of having little time to fit any exercise in and applied it to my approach to going to the gym. I ensured I always had kit ready and committed 2 evenings a week where I knew I had nothing else planned. If the weather was awful and stopped me from going out for a 5km run then I would go to the gym instead. It was like an extra visit in the bag!
Yes there have been times when my enthusiasm has started to diminish that is only natural. Getting motivated enough to actually get to the gym is half the battle won but it can be hard, especially when it is not quite routine yet. 18 months on I must admit I am a bit of a Gym Addict but in a good way. I’ve never been fitter; but I must add that is not entirely down to the gym but it has certainly helped. I’ve overcome the barriers that stopped me from joining and going. I can fit my gym schedule around everything else in my life and I still run; in fact I’m a better runner due to all the training I do at the gym.
So if you are thinking of joining a Gym or re-joining then below are the tips I used and still use to keep me motivated. Some may work for you, some won’t:
- Be prepared. I make sure I always have kit ready, packed in a Gym bag (I do the same with the kids PE kit so I’ve done the same for me minus the plimsolls). Plus not having gym kit is an excuse not to go.
- Find a training partner. One of my friends happened to join at the same time as me; same age, same level of fitness, same goals. By arranging to go together we rarely cancelled, plus we both muddled through getting to grips with using the equipment. Having a giggle but also encouraging each other to push on!
- Put together a playlist. This was great when I was on my own, I could switch off and just get on with it. Also music can take your mind off things when you exercise. If I’m not in the mood for music I often listen to a TED Talk.
- Mix up your gym routine by attending some of the classes on offer, doing a combination of cardio & weights some days or concentrating on sprint intervals on the treadmill. This kept things interesting and also meant that my body didn’t get used to the same old routine; shocking the system by doing a HIIT class certainly helped my fitness levels when I started to plateau.
- Develop a more structured approach to my gym visits. For example I would keep cardio to 20 minutes and weights to 40 minutes. If I attended a class I made sure my next visit focused on a weights/cardio workout. Sometimes I concentrated my workouts around my either only my upper or lower body. I made sure I knew what I was going to do before I arrived so I could just get on with it.
- Be realistic about how many times a week you could commit to going and when. Late afternoon seemed to suit me best in the week and mornings at the weekend. So I aimed to go twice in the week and if the weather wasn’t great I’d ditch my outdoor run and go to the gym at the weekends. Sticking to this became habit so after awhile it became second nature. Having the gym just up the road from where I lived also helped greatly, I could get there quickly so there was no excuse not to go.
- Set realistic, short-term goals. I entered a 10km Mud run so I had to up my running distance to 10km as well as building up core strength to survive the obstacles; this gave me increased motivation to go to the gym and get the most out of my gym routine. That goal achieved I set another one! Then another …
- Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t go. Sometimes life gets in the way. Don’t dwell over missed sessions. Get over it and get your self back when you can, don’t use it as an excuse not to ever go back.
- Finding something to motivate you and then visualise it – for me it was the buzz of knowing that by toning up I’d stopped wobbling and dropped a dress size. It made me want to go more! Find your motivation might be a holiday or even to prove someone wrong!
- Remind yourself of why you started going in the first place. There are times when I lose focus about why I started the gym. For me, it was the next step in my fitness journey, complemented my running but also I hated my wobbly bits and going to the gym meant I didn’t have them! It’s good to re-focus on your original goals.
- Track progress. When I embarked on training to run 5km I recorded speed and distance. This was a great motivator and I’ve applied this style of progress tracking at the gym. I try and keep away from religiously tracking my weight but instead have done it via the size of clothes (I dropped 3 dress sizes in 9 months) and the weight of what I can lift. I recently got a buzz out of being able to dead lift more that my bodyweight; building up my strength took a long time which makes me even prouder of this achievement.
- Enjoy the post gym session buzz – you’ve worked hard, got a bit of a sweat on, felt you made the most of your visit. Enjoy it and remember that ‘buzz’ when you need an extra bit of motivation to get you there! that buzz is even better if you really had to drag yourself to the gym.
- Reward yourself and celebrate success – I steered away from rewarding myself with food or alcohol as to me that defeated the object. I bought the odd bit of gym gear when I dropped a dress size, and downloaded an album to add to my playlist or simply enjoyed a bit of relaxation time away from the kids. Rewards will motivate you and reinforce positive habits. Even a post on Facebook or twitter is a great way of shouting about your success but don’t be smug or arrogant about it, It’s a great way to say I did this, I’ve kept in there, dug deep and achieved my fitness goals, especially to those that ever doubted you could do it!
I’m now looking for my next fitness challenge; I’m not quite sure what I want to aim for yet but what I do know is that my time at the gym will no doubt play an important role in achieving what ever challenge I set myself.
I’ll leave you with one final thought and something that one of the trainers at my gym once said that kind of put it all into perspective for me. 1 hour at the gym is only 4% of your day, when you look at it that way It’s not a great deal of time to commit to (some of the HIIT classes are only 30 minutes long) and not a lot of time to stay motivated for!