During the first few weeks of my first “real job,” I remember feeling confused as to how I was expected to spend so much time just…sitting. Inside. Without a window. In front of a computer screen.
Then, after a long day of sitting, I would walk through the front door of my parents’ house (three cheers for living at home to save money!) and promptly collapse on their living room couch, utterly exhausted from sitting all day. My mood changed, my energy levels dropped, and I began to wonder how I was going to get through the next 45 years until retirement.
But what bothered me most was how I had no energy for anything after work, other than to eat dinner. Work, eat, sleep, repeat.
To paraphrase Drake, I knew I was really too young to be feeling this old. I took a look at what was different in my life versus when I was in school, and realized that one major thing was missing: exercise. I have always loved working out—well…as long as it’s not too strenuous or doesn’t get me too sweaty. Sorry, I’m honest!—and not moving for most of the day was having a serious negative impact on how I was feeling.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that working out = good for you. Or that regular exercise has been proven to have a positive impact on the way we think, making it relevant to our performance at work. We all know this. My problem has always been making excuses for not making time to exercise.
Not to brag, but I’m the queen of excuses. Let’s look at a quick list of actual excuses I have used to talk myself out of a workout:
- It’s not a hair washing day
- I can’t work out in glasses
- It’s too early in the morning
- It’s too late in the evening
- I can’t sweat in my makeup
- I can’t wake up on time
And the list goes on. But I learned to help myself, and I want to help you, too. There’s a lot of talk of self-care as face masks and lounging around, but to me, self care is taking care of your body and mind, and exercise helps with both. Here are my five tips for creating (and maintaining!) a fitness routine, when the last thing you want to do after work, is work out.
1. To thy internal clock, be true
Are you an early bird or a night owl? From my experience, its immensely easier to schedule exercise at a time where you naturally have more energy, rather than fighting biology. I am a night owl through and through, so I do better when I plan to exercise in the evening. Now, that’s not to say that someone who tends to stay up late can’t work out in the morning, or vice versa. I tried it for a while myself a few years back, and managed to keep up a morning routine for a bit. I even documented my journey for FitnessMagazine.com.
But, since I tend to hit the snooze button multiple times on a regular morning (my husband can confirm), a morning workout makes it more likely that I’ll oversleep, skip it altogether, and beat myself up about it for the rest of the day
Be real, listen to your body, and incorporate exercise into your day, rather than rearranging your life.
2. Look good, feel good
This one does double duty.
One, it’s been proven that when you look good—whether that’s wearing a certain outfit, or having your hair and makeup done, or wearing a uniform—you feel good, thanks to increased self-confidence. While I don’t believe you need to spend hundreds of dollars on workout clothes, having a few cute pieces in rotation makes working out WAY more fun. Honestly, do you really feel good in your old sorority t-shirt? Do those leggings with the smallish hole that you can only see when you lift your left leg spark joy? Old Navy, Target and Gap are some of my go-to spots for activewear that won’t break the bank.
Two, and this one is obvious: Working out regularly will benefit your body in positive ways, under the clothes.
Elle Woods said it best: “Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy and happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!”
3. Spend your money wisely
“Why pay money for a gym, when you can workout in your living room?!”
I see this question everywhere–from fitness influencers on Instagram, from advertisements, and from my mom occasionally.
Well, because my living room is small, I want to practice my form with a professional, and I need motivation from other humans—THAT’s why I pay money for a gym.
Again, this comes down to knowing yourself. If you have the discipline or feel more comfortable working out in the privacy of your own home, by all means, do that! Peloton is a cult I just haven’t gotten into, and there are plenty of apps that will guide you through a workout step by step. Nike Training Club is one that I find helpful during the rare workouts I do at home, but also at the gym.
Ultimately, you need to invest in what works for you. Paying $100 for barre classes that you take 14 times a month is a better investment of your time and money than a dingy gym for $75 that you only use 8 times a month, because you can’t stand the dirty locker rooms. You don’t need to sign up for a top-tier, year-long membership at the most expensive athletic club, but you can’t hate where you go, either.
4. Keep your commitments
Would you cancel a meeting with your boss, because you’re a little tired? Or put off dinner with your best friend because you’re just not really feeling it today? Probably not.
So treat your workout times as can’t miss meetings with the CEO of your life—you. Add it to your calendar, reserve your classes ahead of time, tell your colleagues you need to leave the office on time on Wednesdays because you must go to spin, no excuses. Your workouts are meetings with yourself.
While you’re at it, prepare ahead of time for your meetings. Pack your gym bag, fill your water bottle, bring a snack if you need it. Plan ahead for success. Embrace being a total bag lady with the new amount of stuff you’ll need to carry.
5. Find a friend
Finally, I think this is what helps me most—finding a workout buddy to keep me accountable. And though I have made it to many barre, yoga, circuit classes saying, “Hi, I don’t want to be here,” to my friends, I made it because I didn’t want to be the one to bail. And you know what? Not once have I ever regretted a workout.
What am I missing? What works for you? And I’ll inevitably be bored with my current gym in, oh, about two months—share your current workout obsessions with me, I would love to try something new!