How I Made Exercise a Priority

I love running. I specifically love running half marathons (soon to be marathons, I hope).  I didn’t always like it—in fact in 7th grade my mom made me join the cross country team and I would walk 3.1 miles. I broke my hip in high school. One time my field hockey coach told me she was surprised I even finished two miles. I guess it was a special type of stubbornness that made me a runner. But I did it because I wanted to challenge myself. First, I ran a half-marathon on a whim. Then, I wanted to try and be a “real runner” and tackle my first marathon. I realized I loved planning for the races—you can’t just roll out of bed and run 13.1 miles. You have to build from 0 to 12, and then run your race. And while I wheezed and huffed and walked all around those 13.1 miles in Agoura Hills, it felt fabulous to actually make it through that first race.

To learn to love running, I realized I had to change my mindset. For me it was a competitive attitude (and lack of a team sport) that pushed me to live a more fit life. I’m not saying exercise is always fun for me, but I have learned to make it a time. Why do I make the time? How do I make time? Why do I schedule exercise and make it a priority?

I set a goal and make a plan

One way I force myself to workout is to set a goal, like a race, and then work backwards to create a training plan. Each takes up 14-18 weeks of a year and, a few races in, you have a whole year of training.

I make it fun

Do you hate exercise? You might be doing the wrong kind of exercise! I don’t mean you aren’t doing the Self Magazine endorsed “right exercise.” I mean you have to find the right type of exercise for you. For example, I don’t get Zumba but some of my friends don’t get kickboxing. You have to make the exercise not feel like work and make it fun. Find something amazing and give it a try. By the time you cool down, it will be like you just went to the best therapy ever! Whether it’s trying a new spin class or aerial yoga or Just Dance, you have to try things until you find your staple.

How will you know when to find the right thing? I’ll give you a hint. When you are posting Facebook statuses and taking Sweatie Selfies—you found the right thing. I can’t shut up about my workout and have to share it with all my friends.  I brag about my new cycle shoes I got on sale. It’s like showing off a new dress—except it’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment and self-worth! We were even talking about this at my boot camp this week: who wants to give it all they’ve got and get yelled at when you can work with someone who will make you laugh and feel good about yourself?

I find a buddy

Sometimes, finding something fun is about creating something social. Consider finding a workout buddy: your buddy can keep you entertained during the boring parts of a ten-mile run. Or it can just be someone to commiserate with after a killer crossfit workout, or someone to make fun of your bad moves in Zumba class.

A workout buddy can also push you to be better. I used to do TRX training sessions, but the private ones were expensive. I switched to the trainer’s group boot camp classes to save money, and soon I discovered another perk: I’m a bit competitive. Okay… a lot competitive. Working out with other people at boot camp pushes me to hold a plank ten seconds longer or sprint instead of jog. So partner up!

I plan ahead (and pay ahead)

For some, money is the best motivator. I’m not telling you to go out and purchase an Equinox membership if you are not going to use it. But getting money involved in my exercise regime does help! For example, a lot of boutique spinning studios like SoulCycle require cancellation by 5:30 pm the night before class or you lose the class. This means when I book a 6:00 am bike, I get out of bed because there is no way in hell I’m losing that thirty dollars.

I also recently signed up for GymPact. This app allows you to set a goal of X amount of workouts a week. For every workout you miss, Pact charges you at least ten dollars. If you complete your pact, you earn a portion of the money collected from the people who missed days. I like this because it forces me to get moving for at least  thirty minutes a day and earn money while doing it. It’s not a lot but I’ll be up to twenty dollars this week after five weeks. It’s something!

But Liz, I’m broke! I can’t make it to fancy classes.

When I have to workout at home, I always queue up cool online videos like Blogilates, Daily Burn and Lionsgate BeFit (all free or dirt cheap) but inevitably I find myself skipping out for another episode of House of Cards.

This is where you have to decide if you really are serious about making exercise a priority and and figure out how to motivate yourself to do it. Invite someone to do a home workout with you. Refuse to buy those new shoes you want until you do three weeks of workouts! It takes twenty-one days to make a habit—I know you can do it. You just have to tell yourself you can.

Photo by Meaghan Morrison
Photo by Meaghan Morrison
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