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GETTING THERE: THE FIRST HURDLE
THE FIRST HURDLE
Maybe you've blown the gym off all week. Or you haven't been in a month. Or worse, you can't remember the last time you used your membership card. Whatever the reason, it doesn't matter. The point is, you're there now. Well, at least you're imagining yourself at the gym, and that's one-sixteenth of the battle.
Many people don't realize that for the tried-and-true gym loather, the psychological battle begins before you even slip on your sneakers and head for the treadmill. Psyching yourself up to go to the gym after a hard day of work isn't easy; it often requires surmounting mental hurdles akin to climbing Mount Everest. The dread of knowing that your plans for the evening consist of being around sweaty people, bad lighting, and techno beats could dissuade even the most motivated person from going. That's when the impromptu no-carb diets commence and last-minute plans are made, all in an attempt to wiggle out of an evening of fitness. Because it's not simply about hating the gym, it's about the steely determination and sheer willpower it takes to overcome the first hurdle and drag our asses to a place we would do anything to avoid.
So the question is how to make the place we hate easier to deal with.
The key to easing the dread quotient of your workout is to set goals for yourself -- reasonable goals. Like: If I go to the gym:
Another important device is to remind yourself why you're at the gym and what you're hoping to achieve.
Whatever your motivation, having a specific goal in mind can really help focus a workout.
Remember the Half-Hour Rule
This rule may be obvious to the gym haters among you, but if you're at the gym for a half hour -- it doesn't matter what you did -- you worked out. It's like the "five-second rule," only you don't have to eat anything off the floor. Basically, the Half-Hour Rule allows you all the bragging rights you want. You can have a schvitz in the steam room, take a leisurely shower, and pamper yourself in the locker room. Because as long as you spend a full thirty minutes at the gym, you've passed the test. Now, pat yourself on the back and pick up a slice of pizza on the way home. Because today, you can honestly say you went to the gym.
Find a Gym Nemesis
This may sound strange to you, but I swear, it really helps take the sting out of a tedious workout: Find yourself a gym nemesis. Simply scan the crowd, lock in on someone totally annoying, and set about hating them like crazy for a good solid hour. By refocusing your hatred on an unsuspecting gym-goer, you'll release endorphins you never knew you had. Hate, after all, can be a strong motivator.
Another tip: You don't have to limit yourself to one nemesis. Collect an assortment of irritating characters to observe and mock silently. It can be "Crazy Dresser" one week, and "Slutty Girl" the next. Your new nemeses will help you pass the time and ease the boredom of a workout. And let's face it, anyone who insists on wearing sunglasses while sweating on the elliptical machine is probably worthy of your hatred. One minute you'll be wondering what would ever possess someone to apply body glitter before going to yoga class, and next thing you know, your time is up and you've finished a half hour of cardio. See, having enemies can be a good thing.
Throw Money at the Problem
When I joined the gym, I did it because I was trying to look hot for my wedding. I wanted sleek, sexy muscles and impressive, picture-perfect abs. But I quickly discovered my biggest obstacle wasn't just the hard work it takes to get those things, it was simply waking up. I couldn't do it. And it didn't matter when I went to sleep or how rested I felt, the moment the alarm clock went off, I knew it meant peeling my sorry ass out of bed and tossing it onto a treadmill. I just couldn't rationalize putting myself through that. And so I slept. Which usually led to oversleeping. Which meant bed head at work and having to sustain comments from coworkers like, "You look different today. Did you get a haircut?"
So I devised a plan. I would set up several alarm clocks, each one beyond reach of the other. That way, I reasoned, I would have no choice but to get up and begin my day with a quick trip to the gym. But once the alarm went off, the snooze button was all too inviting, and inevitably I'd end up wasting a perfectly good hour of sleep by slapping the snooze button every ten minutes. And since it's hard to consider that exercise, although my wrist did feel sore, I realized the only way to solve this dilemma was to throw money at the problem. I had to pay for a trainer.
If I couldn't get myself out of bed, paying someone $60 to $100 an hour would definitely do the trick. I can promise you that the second cash is involved, you will not be late. It's an unspoken rule of self-preservation: When money is on the line, you will be on time. It's survival of the fittest...or the thinnest.
If you can't afford a trainer, or would rather spend the money on a decadent steak dinner and hearty Chianti, then take the more affordable approach and buddy up. The buddy system is certainly cheaper, and think of it as time to catch up on all the gossip with a friend while you exercise.
Here's what you do: Find a friend who loves going to the gym and get on their schedule. You might have to lie a little -- make false declarations of love for the place you hate, or use some creative license when it comes to describing how often you go to the gym. Put yourself in your buddy's shoes -- who would want to take on a lazy, deficient workout companion like you? But no matter. Charm your buddy. Coerce them into incorporating you into their workout regimen. If you agree to meet someone at the gym, then you know you'll go. You may be willing to let yourself down, but chances are you won't want to let yourself down in front of a friend.
Mix It Up
Mixing up your workouts is important. Because if you know exactly what you're about to put yourself through, you'll start to avoid going. That's what I did.
I once hired a personal trainer to design a workout for me. I couldn't afford to see him every week, so I asked him to show me a routine that I could do on my own. Sounds pretty smart, huh? That's what I thought. So my guy showed me this whole set of exercises that began with cardio, moved over to weights, then sit-ups, and eventually ended with some tension-band stuff and yoga-ball moves. It was great, everything I could've asked for. But when he wasn't standing next to me, my workout quickly devolved from impressive to adequate to eating bonbons in bed. And eventually any pretense of exercise was soon replaced by a long nap in front of the TV. That's when I realized not only did I need someone there to push me, but my dread stemmed from knowing that I had that same workout ahead of me every time. What I should have done was mix up my exercise routine into manageable chunks, but instead I was trying to do everything...which led to nothing. So, as they say, variety is the spice of life. Fight the boredom by keeping your gym experience interesting.
Fabricate a Gym Crush
Fabricating a gym crush is based on the same principle as finding a nemesis. Except in this case, replace the hate with lust. In other words, find a nice piece of eye candy, a hunky man or sexy lady to stare at and center some vague sexual fantasies around, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly the hour flies. Making up a gym crush to pass the time is a very effective distraction technique. Just go easy on the staring. No one likes a pervert.
You don't want to go to the gym -- that's a given. But you force yourself to make the trip because your metabolism has slowed since college, and now it seems that everything you consume finds its way to your ever-expanding thighs. That said, there are some very legitimate reasons to prevent you from working out, some forces that are beyond your control.
For example, you're in the locker room, getting ready to work out, when you reach into your bag and you realize you forgot your gym lock. Ding! Ding! Ding! You just won yourself a "Get Out of Gym Free" card!
No gym lock = no workout. Think about it. You don't want to have to leave your bag, your wallet, your brand-new Juicy tee in an unlocked cubby, just begging for someone to steal them. Sure, you could always lug your giant workbag from the elliptical to the free weights, but that's a workout in and of itself. You're better off packing it in and trying again another time. But don't feel bad, you just got a deal breaker.
Deal breakers vary for each person. Mine are pretty straightforward. If I forget any one of the following items, I am free to turn around and leave the gym -- no questions asked. In addition to forgetting the gym lock, my deal breakers are:
Copyright © 2005 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.