Strategy: 9 ways I trick myself into going to the gym
Want to start working out? I'm confessing the motivation tricks that get me off the couch and to the gym.
I've been going to the gym regularly for years.
It's kind of funny, actually: When I lived in a Manhattan building with a gym in the basement, I never, ever went. It was a matter of principle — no one told me I had to pay a gym fee on top of my exorbitant rent! So I steered clear of the treadmills.
I sure showed them.
But when a gym rep came to my previous job and handed me a tee-shirt I'd never end up wearing along with a hefty corporate discount to a gym chain, I bit. And now, more than three years later, I can't bear to leave it. I love the teachers! I know the schedule! The locations are so convenient!
You know what I've learned? It doesn't matter whether your gym is in your building or down the block or 30 minutes away. Most of the work of going to the gym happens before you even walk in the door.
Below, I'm confessing some of the motivation tricks that get me off the couch and onto the spin bike. I can't guarantee they'll work for you — I can't even guarantee they'll continue to work for me — but this is what works right now.
I tell myself I can decide whether I want to go … later.
This tactic has worked brilliantly.
Instead of spending the day fighting myself over whether I "feel like" or "want to" go to the gym, I postpone the internal debate until after my workout.
That way, I can have a nice, indulgent mental back-and-forth and bask in indignation and reluctance for as long as I want — on the train home, having already done my workout.
I've never been sorry.
I recognize that there's always a reason to bail.
I once wrote about how "there's always something," in reference to planning out your spending and your budget. It's the same for the gym. I'm not sure there has ever been a night where I couldn't think of multiple reasons not to go.
For instance, here's a list of reasons I considered not going to the gym in the last week:
• I'm tired.
• My calves are sore from a new class I tried.
• I don't have the shorts I prefer to wear for spin class.
• I got stuck at work and won't be able to make my preferred Tuesday night class.
• It's dark.
• It's raining.
• I forgot my headphones.
• I'm going to miss the express train home.
• I'm coming down with the cold that's been going around the office.
• I need to pack for a weekend trip.
• My gym buddies all bailed on me.
Just because you have a reason doesn't make it a good one. Go anyway.
I think of the money.
The brilliant thing about belonging to a gym, as opposed to those $35 boutique spin classes so many of my friends adore, is that since you've already paid, it gets cheaper every time you go.
That's amazing! If I go to one class in a month, it's a $90 class. Two, they're each $45. Nine classes? At nine, which works out to fewer than three times a week, I'm paying only $10 per class.
I listen for the 'but …'
The other day one of my office gym buddies and I found ourselves in the kitchen.
"You going to the gym tonight?"
"Well, I brought my stuff, but …"
And that's when we knew we had to go. As far as excuses go, ones that begin with "but" aren't even worth entertaining. How was that sentence going to end? "I brought my stuff, but … I'm feeling lazy. It's dark out. I don't really feel like it."
I make myself recognizable to the instructors.
I take classes almost exclusively. When an instructor enters the classroom, I make eye contact, smile, and say "Hi." When I'm limping out the door, I make sure to thank them. This accomplishes two things: First, it makes me not a huge jerk, and second, it means they notice when I'm not there.
When an instructor waltzes into class and says, "Hi! Haven't seen you in a while!" it's … extremely motivating.
I tell myself I can leave mid-class.
I say it, but I never do it. Once I'm there, in my gym clothes, sneakers strapped on, in a prime front-row spot, you can bet I'm not leaving. It's not like I'm doing a four-hour CrossFit workout or running a marathon — it's a 45-minute class, and I can do pretty much anything for 45 minutes. By the time I think of leaving, it's over.
I talk about going to the gym incessantly.
If everyone in my office knows I plan to go, I have to keep my word. True story: I wrote a version of this story last year. A few months ago, I was whining in the elevator with some colleagues about how I didn't feel like going to the gym.
"Better go back and reread your article!" one joked.
I went to the gym.
I don't expect to enjoy every minute.
I had a revelation while shuffling down the street to the gym on a dark, rainy night after nine hours at the office: "You don't have to like it," I muttered to myself as I dodged umbrellas. "You just have to do it."
That mantra has stuck with me through all the rainy nights, the cold nights, the nights where I just don't want to sweat through my shirt. There seems to be this idea in popular culture that you have to love your chosen form of exercise. You have to enjoy it. It's your hobby! It's the best! You're addicted!
But really, it's OK if sometimes it's the worst, and you hate it, and you consider battering your way out the window with five-pound hand weights. As long as you get it done.
I tell myself going to the gym is my reward.
There's no better choice I could be making at that moment for my health and well-being. It's a breath of fresh superiority.