We all know that exercise is good for us and many of us are trying to boost our activity level. I feel very lucky to have found ways of being active that don’t just work for me—they help me thrive. Please be nice to me when I say that I am a runner who loves to run. I know—if you aren’t there–it’s a hard concept to grasp. I know because it wasn’t always this way. Before I found my inner-fitness fan, I struggled with failed workout attempts and exercise plans that were destined to crash and burn from the beginning. Periodically, amidst the Jane Fonda VHS tapes and the aerobics classes, I would try running. It seemed convenient and low maintenance and like something I “should” do (falling for the “should” was my first mistake). I hated it.
Here are five things I did to make sure I hated running. Feel free to apply these tips to sabotage your fitness plan:
Mistake 1: I was hungry
My early urges to run usually coincided with an urge to lose weight. I’d start some ridiculous diet and then decide that I needed to up my results with exercise. This meant that I was huffing and puffing and I was hungry. Starting a workout with no fuel in your tank is a guaranteed way to feel exhausted, unfit, unhappy, and uninspired (by the way, the diets didn’t work either).
Mistake 2: I went too fast
I was going to start to exercise and I was going to RUN darn it. So I’d fly off my front porch and my lungs would be burning before I’d gone any appreciable distance at all. I had no plan for how far I was going to go or any thoughts about pacing myself to go the distance. I just ran. Not very far. And then I felt discouraged. The first time I ever thought that maybe, just maybe I might like this running stuff was when I tried jogging/running/and walking to slower music. I grabbed a cassette tape (remember those?) of music that made me happy but didn’t have a fast driving beat, and I decided to just keep moving until it was over. I ran slow, I walked when I got tired, and I was happy at the end of my workout. Mixing joy with exercise? What a concept!
Mistake 3: I chose the wrong environment
I still have horrible memories of trying to become a runner on a hot humid sunny afternoon in the Midwest. I was literally running around a cornfield. It was a big flat square with absolutely no change in scenery. That didn’t work for this aesthetically-oriented person. Now, this is especially significant, because, at the time, I lived only a mile from Lake Michigan. I was really good at sabotaging my fitness plans because it never even occurred to me to adjust the timing of my workout to take advantage of a cooler morning or to drive to the more beautiful, slightly cooler location and try running there. That running stint didn’t last long.
Now I know that beauty is one of the things that fuels my desire to be active. One of my favorite things about running is the opportunity to get outdoors and into nature. If you aren’t into sabotaging your workout plans, know what environment works for you and plan accordingly. Indoors, outdoors, boisterous or quiet? Soothing or upbeat? It’s all possible.
Mistake 4: I went at it alone
My mental talk went like this: “I’m not a ‘good’ runner so I don’t really want anyone to see me. Won’t it be fun when I’ve built up some endurance and can ask a friend to go running with me?” Guess what? It never happened. Now, had I asked a friend to support me and run with me from the very beginning—who knows? I do know that one of the best things about running now is the weekend runs I take with friends. What busy woman couldn’t use more uninterrupted time to chat, gossip, connect, and just catch up? My running friends have encouraged me to keep going, to restart, to try new things, and to stretch my abilities in ways I probably never would have done on my own. Toughing it out by yourself when you are a fitness newbie is a prime way to stall your momentum and motivation.
Mistake 5: I judged myself
Constantly. That little voice in my head told me how out of shape I was, how out of breath I was, how everyone was looking at me. I did not have a “little engine that could” mantra going in my head, but one that defeated me and contributed to making every working out an uphill battle. I didn’t celebrate each workout, but instead kept looking ahead at how far I had to go.
I still run up hills that I don’t think I can get up, but I’m older and wiser now and I absolutely know that I’m not going to get to the top if my head doesn’t cooperate with the mission. Every strong runner I know has some kind of positive mantra or phrase that keeps them going during tough times. I’d bet that every workout dropout has the opposite.
So that’s how I screwed up my workout motivation. What have you done to sabotage yours? Better still, what could you do to set it on a more positive track?