Previously, I discussed how we need to overcome the obstacle of not considering ourselves “gym people,” and particularly stop caring how we look, and how others perceive us working out. You’re not going to fail, or look stupid when you’re getting active.
This, of course, is easier said than done. You may legitimately feel uncomfortable going to a traditional gym. You may not be able to afford it. You may not know where to start. All of these are valid reasons… they just need to stop being excuses.
Here are some of my tips of things you can try. Because being active TRULY is key to a lifestyle change. (now I’m That Guy!)
- Look for an all-female gym. Healthworks in Boston saved me — it was the ultimate safe space, especially for a woman like myself who is genuinely and massively uncomfortable feeling like a piece of meat in front of men. Gyms like this, often small ones, do exist. Curves isn’t for me, but it is for many people. And if you live in Boston, for God’s sake, it is worth the money: GO TO HEALTHWORKS.
- Find a gym you will actually go to. Whether it’s the one that is the most expensive, or has a whirlpool, or is never crowded, or is right next to your house — find a gym that you actually like. If you don’t like your gym, you won’t go. If you don’t find a gym you will actually go to, move on down the list and find something else.
- Find a personal trainer. I found my personal trainer at my gym, but there are tons of PTs that you can find independent of one, who will work with you at their studio, or even outside. Search until you find someone you’re comfortable with — there are PTs with all sorts of backgrounds, body types and focuses. Maybe you find someone who used to be fat. Or a woman. Or someone who will yell at you (because you need that)… or won’t (because you’ve rather have a cheerleader/coach). Working with a PT for an extended period of time will not only help you tone/work on specific areas of your body, but they will teach you how to do all sorts of exercises/weights the RIGHT way, without doing harm to yourself. Eventually, you may feel you can do those exercises by yourself (at the gym) or even at home. Or you will find your PT soulmate and stay with them for life
- Find stand-alone cardio/dance classes. In L.A., for me, this is Slimmons. I know there are many other cities that have similar dance/aerobics studios, or even local community centers. These are generally ala carte, so cheaper than a gym (only pay when you go), and if you go to something like Zumba, you can really have fun with it – a 45 or 90 minute workout goes by in a flash! In Hollywood, you can even take Bollywood dance classes! Classes are also a gym option — you can join a gym and only go to their classes, avoiding the meat market going on at the cardio machines.
- Forget about masochistic cardio workouts. You know the girls you see running on the treadmill/on the Stairmaster/elliptical working out at a furious pace for 45 minutes to an hour, seemingly without breaking a sweat? Feel sorry for them. If you want to burn fat — and not go insane — monotonous cardio workouts are not the best thing for your body. If all you do is short interval bursts on a treadmill (don’t worry about all the other machines — I’ve had several PTs tell me they don’t find them useful) for a half hour, 3-4 times a week, you’re golden. Getting your heart rate into a fat burning range and then letting it spike and fall, spike and fall… does excellent things for burning fat. When I go to the gym, all I do is 30-45 minutes of cardio intervals, on a treadmill, with a good playlist. It’s actually kind of fun.
- Workout at home. This has never worked for me, personally, but a LOT of people have had success with Wii Fit, Kinect sports, dance video games, even free workouts you can get On Demand from your TV provider (including Exercise TV). Or, go the “old fashioned” route and get a DVD workout, like Sweatin’ to the Oldies
- Try running. I realize running sounds super daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! And the best part? You can do it outside, by yourself, for FREE. Here’s the thing about running outside: no one is watching you. Even if you’re around other runners, they aren’t analyzing you. It’s a solitary, reflective activity, where you don’t need to feel judged. You don’t have to run far or long. Try short bursts — sprint for 20 seconds, then walk for two minutes. You do this for an hour and you’ve gotten quite a burn.
- Buy clothes (and other gear) that inspires you to work out. God help me, but there’s nothing like getting a new pair of pants/shirt/shoes/heartrate monitor and wanting to try it out. Then again, in the past I’ve bought a workout outfit to “inspire” me and it went unused for two years. But once I *started* working out (or, at least, was determined to), buying new clothing and gear has definitely been a kick-starter. Whether it’s something you feel “cute” in, or a fancy heart rate monitor with all sorts of fancy stats, find something that makes you want to move.
- Find music you like to move to. There are just some tunes that we can’t help but move to — music that makes you want to dance. One of the reasons cardio/dance classes are so fun is the music — some sassy, Latin-pop beats in Zumba; gay club music at Slimmons (nothing like working out to Cher!). And running can be made or broken by a good playlist — if the rhythm is wrong (or just not your style), you’re not going to push through and keep running. Go through your favorite uptempo tracks. Check out some of my playlists. But some compilation CDs. Put together a workout playlist — or specific running playlists — and give them a try. I have seriously GONE to the gym, just to try out a new playlist. The power of music.
- Find a workout buddy. Now, this can be dangerous, especially if you rely on other people too much — if your friend flakes, or you both get busy, next thing you know, you’re not working out at all. But there is something to be said for a support system, and external motivation. Personally, I like to keep appointments, so if I tell a friend I will meet them at the gym, I meet them at the gym. Lately, it’s been finding Slimmons buddies that has motivated me to go. How can you say no when all your friends go three times a week? Find a friend to try that class. Find a friend to run with once a week. Hold each other accountable!
Does anyone have any other tips? What gets you active?