Once upon a good intention my idea of going to the gym involved 30 minutes (max) on the elliptical. A few weeks and group fitness classes later I was over it. I canceled my membership and went on with my life. Feeding myself the same old line “I am not cut out for this”.

Today, I am a fitness resource for family and friends. I am a health influencer in my daily interactions. I feel “off” if I don’t get a workout in.

My fitness journey blossomed into a habit. It took time and failures to figure out what worked and what didn’t. Today it takes little effort or willpower to get to the gym.

Below are 5 lessons learned along the way. Realistic expectations, preparation, fellowship and attention to my body helped me find joy and reward in my fitness practice.

  1. Setting Expectations
    1. Adjusting my Schedule
      Through trial and error; over and under commitment- I found out what worked with my schedule. In the summer, I like to have a few days off to hike and play outside. In the winter, I’m less active so I incorporate additional cardio and lift days.

    2. Acknowledging my Capabilities
      If a program has Olympic lifts or complicated moves do I have the time and resources to research, practice, and perform them correctly? If not, I will end up frustrated or worse; injured and out of commission.

    3. It Begins and Ends with the Habit
      For me, first and foremost, it is about getting to the gym. It is easier to continue a habit than to build one. Some days are good. Some days are bad. I just keep coming back. When I change things, I start small. When I started working out, I did 30-minute videos in my living room. For lasting change- I cannot do everything at once.

  2. Being Prepared

    Staying prepared helps me eliminate excuses. I keep my gym bag packed and ready in my car.

    There have been many times where life suddenly came up (as it does) and I had to improvise at a park or different gym. Other times a friend or activity popped up. I like to be ready for those opportunities!

    I used to pack EVERYTHING. It was a lot to haul to and fro- especially if I didn’t use it every day. Now, I pack the essentials: workout clothes, flip flops, soap, face wash, sneakers and pre-workout. My gym bag is always in my car ready to go.

  3. Finding my Tribe

    My mom loves her Orange Theory Fitness (OTF) classes. She looks forward to catching up on the latest and greatest with her friends; friends that she only sees at OTF.  Group fitness works for lots of people.

    I, on the other hand, prefer to work out individually. I must be vigilant for my tendency to isolate. It is important for me to foster and invest in relationships with fellow fitness enthusiasts.

    The point is to find what works to involve others in some capacity. Humans are social creatures after all. Not only can we share tips and tricks but we can find compassion for one another’s struggles. When I am the only one talking to myself I am in trouble.

  4. Staying Accountable

    I need to know what I will be doing before I get to the gym. It helps me to have a program to follow. There are a ton of online resources, coaches or fitness classes that fit the bill.

    For over a year I have been following free programs from BodyBuilding.com and running programs like Nike Run Club. Both are easily accessible as mobile applications.

    If I feel like I am slacking, I sign up for a new challenge. I’ll  be running my first half marathon in 2 months and when I debate skipping my run (almost every time) I think about those 13 miles, shrug my shoulders, and get it done.

  5. Meeting Myself Where I Am

    Plans are important but I take into consideration how I feel.

    If I am feeling tired I might hone in on form and do additional reps with a lighter weight. If I feel like I have a lot of energy I may lift heavier. Angry or stressed? Great day to channel my inner cardio bunny! If I am exhausted, sore, and my body hurts. I was all in this week. Way to go me! It might be time for some yoga or gentle stretching.

Some days I am in the zone and feel fantastic as I move through my work out. Other days, I have to drag myself to the gym. However, those are the days where my little workout changes everything. If I have a clear trajectory, am prepared, supported, accountable and compassionate with myself then I am set up for success. I can dig deep, power through, and I always leave feeling good about what I have accomplished.

I can let this get very complicated- but it is not. To simplify things I remind myself to try everything and do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.