You want to exercise. Or at the very least, you want to want to exercise. You know the myriad benefits — weight loss, stress reduction, improved sleep, to name just a few. When you’re honest with yourself, you know you could find the time to squeeze in a couple workouts a week. You’ve even read enough fitness articles or followed enough #FitChicks on social media to know where to find a workout that checks your boxes, whether that’s with free weights in your garage or with girlfriends at the track. Yet the habit remains elusive. Despite your best intentions, your spark of desire, and enough knowledge to get started, every Monday you find yourself vowing that this will actually be the week you stick to a workout plan.
I think we’re making it harder than it has to be, and I think there’s one habit that can change that: at the end of every workout, write down one positive takeaway.
It can be anything. Maybe you went for a run in your neighborhood and you noticed the leaves changing color in a way that made you grateful to live where you live. Maybe a song came on your playlist that reminded you of that crazy night with that one friend, which made you smile. Maybe your workout gave you the chance to think through something in your mind that’s been hanging you up lately — a challenge at work or a conflict with someone you love. Maybe you were able to use the 10-pound weights instead of the eight-pound weights for the first time today, or maybe you ran for two extra minutes or did one more push-up, and maybe that made you feel really strong. Find the emotional high point of the workout — whether it had anything to do with the actual workout or not — and write it down. The writing-down part can be in the notes section of your phone, or in an actual notebook, or shared with the whole world on your Instagram, or maybe you have an accountability partner like I do and you text it to each other. However you choose to do it, write it down. Every damn time.
Are you waiting for me to tell you where to start? What workout to do? What exact regimen or plan to follow? You know what I think? It doesn’t really matter. When people ask me what workouts they should be doing, I always respond by asking them what they like to do. Start there. It can be running, or yoga, or walking, or weightlifting, or cardio dance, or whatever online video strikes your fancy. Find something that gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat, and don’t worry too much about what exactly that thing is. You can worry about that later if you want, but here, at the beginning, start by following desire.
By starting with something that has some genuine appeal to you, and forcing yourself to find a positive takeaway every time you do it, you train yourself to enjoy it, to crave it, even. You don’t need to be reminded to eat three meals a day, because eating feels good; it pays you back. Rather than thinking of exercise as a necessary evil or as punishment for an occasional indulgence, what if exercise could feel like something that paid you back? Something that left you feeling better afterward than you did before? Happier, stronger, calmer, more focused, more alive. What if the trick to making it feel that way is simply to train yourself to see how it’s already doing that?
So pick an exercise that makes you happy or makes you feel strong. Do it with enough intensity that you get a little breathless and a little sweaty. When you’re done, write down the best part, whatever that may be on any given day, in any given mood, during any given exercise. Set your own goals; maybe it’s three times a week, maybe more. And when you feel discouraged or tempted to skip a workout or quit early, go back and read what you’ve written down. Sometimes the scale takes a long time to budge. Sometimes new exercises take tons of repetitions to master. It’s normal to feel frustrated or tired or intimidated. But if you can focus on the good stuff, if you take the time to notice it and record it, you might be amazed to discover a different side of working out — one that can outlast a scale plateau and survive a learning curve and power through intimidation.
You might discover that you can, in fact, stick to a workout plan. And you might discover that you even like it.