We’ve all been there: You stumble upon a photo of yourself from before your wedding or before your second baby was born, and barely recognize yourself. You were so fit and glowy back then! Then, awe swiftly turns to self-criticism: “Where did I go wrong? Why don’t I make time for exercise anymore?” You’ve been promising yourself you’d start working out again “next week” since your New Year’s resolution…from last year.
If you’ve had your aha moment and decided you’re going to start actually exercising and not just saying you will, there are many ways to get back on track. Read on and get ready to start a fierce new chapter.
Start out slow and set realistic goals. As nice as it sounds in your fitness fantasies, going from hardly exercising at all to hitting the gym five days per week will leave you with a case of workout whiplash—and be too daunting to pull off. Instead, ease back in with realistic, reachable milestones, like getting to the gym twice a week or running a 5K, not a marathon.
Join a gym. Many gyms offer promotional rates and negotiable fees, so take advantage. Having a shiny, new (or at least new to you) place to work out can be a big motivator. Bigger gyms often also offer in-house babysitting, so you won’t even have to schedule someone to watch the kids.
Sign up for—and pay for—a fitness class in advance. If it’s in your budget, buy a Spin/yoga/Pilates/Zumba/class of your choice that you have to pay for ahead of time—and that will charge you the class fee if you don’t show up. The idea of basically putting your hard-earned money through a paper-shredder has a way of getting you into your sneakers and out the door at last!
Put your workouts on your calendar. When you’re writing out the family schedule for the week, make sure to put in the times you plan to hit the gym. Treat it with as much importance as you would any other plans you write down. It’s easier to remember to prioritize exercise when it’s written out on your calendar and not just an idea in your head.
Find a workout buddy. Joining forces with a friend can be a great source of fitness inspiration. While you may not drag yourself out of bed for that pre-work run on your own, if you’re meeting your BFF at the park at a given time, you’ll be all but forced to show. As a bonus, friends jazz up your old boring old jogs with entertaining gossip!
Better yet, get the whole family involved. Making fitness-focused activities part of your family time makes it easy to get in some exercise without sacrificing time together. Try signing up for swim classes, taking a family hike, or even just heading outside with a soccer ball together. You can even work quick bursts of exercise into your chores, like racing each other to the mailbox.
Don’t beat yourself up. If work obligations or a sick kid get the best of you one week and you can’t work out, don’t sweat it. It’s OK to miss your new routine occasionally. In fact, even regular weeks should include days when you take a break from the gym. Aim for a routine that you can sustain and continue for a long time to come (less fad diet; more healthy lifestyle). Don’t be too hard on yourself. Leave that for the boot camp teacher at your new gym.