20-something miseries

How to Start Working Out More: Advice From Someone Who Would Rather Set Herself on Fire Than Go for a Run

Disclaimer: Fuck weight loss culture. If you want to lose weight, that’s great. If you don’t give a hoot about your weight, that’s great too. I have done everything in my power to make this post as disconnected from weight loss as possible, but I’ll admit that the weight loss redemption arc has been indoctrinated into my head just as much as anyone else’s and some of it might have slipped in here. If it has, by all means ignore it and know that I am rooting for you in all your exercise goals regardless of weight.


Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you a tale about my history of working out. I played sports growing up, so I never really “worked out” as in going to the gym or going for a run. But then I went to college, and even though I played a few intramural sports, it wasn’t the same and my physical activity took a hard nosedive. I tried to get into working out; I went to classes, I tried different exercises and different equipment, I downloaded work out apps,  the whole shebang. None of it stuck. I would go for a week or two, and then…poof, my new workout “routine” would disappear.

The reason I never stuck to anything is simple: my reason for going sucked. Any time I worked out, I did it because I thought I “should.” I should really lose some weight (UGH), everyone else makes time for this, I should too, I’m so much weaker than I used to be, I should get strong again, etc. “Should” is never a good reason to do anything. Sometimes there’s a good reason lurking beneath that “should,” but in and of itself, “should” is a shame-filled word that never results in meaningful change.

Now, I work out 10 times a month. Is that a lot? No, of course not. Is it more than I used to do? Hell yeah. I’ve been working out consistently like this for 4 months now, and that’s absolutely huge for me. I haven’t done that since high school. So how exactly did I turn things around? I found better reasons to go to the gym.

Reason #1: Better sleep. Before I started working out more, I would lie in bed, mind exhausted, body totally confused about why we needed rest when we hadn’t done anything all day. Now my brain keeps me up sometimes, but my body is always ready for sleep.

Reason #2: I can focus better. Without fail, I am always more productive on days when I work out in the morning.

Reason #3: Endorphins, baby. My brain is a cesspool of negativity, so I try to combat that in any way I can. When I work out, I force my brain to release those happy neurotransmitters it’s so damn stingy with.

Still, some days even all these benefits don’t seem like enough of a reason to subject my body to exercise. I hate working out. The title of this post is barely an exaggeration. So I also have a few strategies for how to actually get myself to the gym:

  1. Find a distraction. My sister likes to watch Parks & Rec while she runs, I bring whatever book I’m reading at the moment. When I first started working out, I randomly decided to bring my book and read while I ran on the elliptical. Half an hour went by like that, and I realized maybe working out didn’t have to be so bad.
  2. Find a routine. I’m not one of those people who can stick to a strict routine. If I tried to tell myself to go to the gym on specific days at a particular time, I might not go at all. But telling myself I just have to go 10 times in a month gives me some wiggle room to pick and choose my days. If a strict routine works for you though, lean into that!
  3. Once you’ve decided to go, go. This one is super hard for me, but I’m learning a few tricks for making it happen. Each night, decide whether or not you’re going to work out the next day. If you decide yes, then you’re going, period. Don’t give yourself an out. If it helps, set out your clothes the night before so you can get ready on autopilot. If you start wondering if you realllllllly have to go, do your best to shut your brain off, send it back to bed, but send your body to the gym. Because the answer is no, of course you don’t have to go. You’re going because you want to go—maybe not in this moment, but overall, you do want to go. But if you stop to think about that when it’s early and you’re tired and crabby, it won’t take much to talk yourself out of it.

If all of this isn’t enough to get you to the gym, that’s okay. No really, I tried to get into working out for six years before it finally happened. When you’re ready, you’ll be ready. If you’re not, that’s okay. Maybe other things are just more important right now. That’s more than fine. Maybe you need more time to find your own reasons for working out. That’s fine too. Maybe you aren’t the most disciplined person in the world and you struggle to make yourself do anything you don’t want to do. I know that sounds bad, but guess what? That’s fine. That was me for a really long time, and even though it’s kind of embarrassing, it’s the truth, and the sooner we recognize the truth, the sooner we can change it.

Good luck in your exercise endeavors, and let me know if any of this helped you, or if you have any of your own tips and tricks for getting to the gym!


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