Truth: when my alarm goes off in the morning to work out, I often lack the motivation that I had the night before. In fact, it’s more of a slump than a sprint to the closet. And while throwing on my hoodie and lacing up my sneakers sounded noble, my soft bed suddenly seems far more appealing. But I love my morning workout routine. And once I’ve won that argument with myself, have gotten to the gym, my heart thumping in my chest while my r&b beats are blasting, I feel infinite. If I can get to the treadmill or dance floor or yoga mat before 8am (ok, some days realistically, before 8pm), I feel that I can take on anything.
And that’s why I work out. I truly believe that when you care for your body, you are also caring for your emotional health. The heart is a muscle, and it beats in response to the varying emotions of fear and love and joy and uncertainty. Working out is a release valve that unravels those knots and unhinges the many daily struggles I choose to swallow whole throughout the day. Moving my body gives me a sense of self dignity. It’s not for the flatness of my stomach or the size of my thighs, but the way I feel in my own skin. The smallest training victories foster a confidence in and gratitude for my body’s mental and physical tenacity. It’s a kind of self assurance that infiltrates every aspect of my life.
So. Hit the reset button. Start off 2018 on a good note. This is isn’t about anybody else — do this for you. You’re a natural born hustler, baby. You owe it to yourself. For those of you who, like me, need a little motivation to get out of that plush bed, I’d like to share my top 6 tactics you can take to start this year off right.
What I’m wearing: lululemon Break Free Nulux Bra &
lululemon Leggings, H&M Fleece Jacket, Nike Flex Sneakers
COMMIT TO SOMETHING
If there is a defining trait of our generation, I would say it’s FOMO. When it comes to career options, dating decisions and yes, fitness, we often have attention deficit disorder. We either doubt any step forward, or over analyze everything and can’t choose any option. So we do nothing. This is how I first approached my workouts. I joined a gym, got a swim pass, did soul cycle and signed up for weekly workout classes. I committed to run a marathon, join a dance team and master the yoga headstand by the end of the year. When I lagged behind in all arenas, I gave up and defaulted to a night in over Netflix with the girls.
So last year when I chose to commit to yoga and dance, I had a kind of epiphany. Narrowing in on the ways I wanted to push my body made the longterm goal more visible. I had the head space to focus on something that was definable, and was able to narrow in on the ways I wanted to physically progress. Do you want more toned arms, or to be able to do the splits? Would you like to master your diving skills, or maybe perfect your tennis swing? Your fitness journey doesn’t have to be guided by guilt, but can be inspired by your eagerness to master a skill.
RIDE THE HIGH
There is no high like endorphin euphoria. At the end of a workout, I am euphoric. I’m eager to take on any task, and I suddenly want to reach out to my friends and family. I’ve become the most optimistic, exuberant version of myself. It’s a drug, but a good one. So when you lack the incentive to hit the gym, remember that high.
But also, the workout itself should be fun. When my workout routine becomes a a kind of self torture, I cop out—I think most of us do. But when I approach exercise as a release for both the mind and body, it becomes a means of self discovery and, well, fun.
It’s all about what works for you. If you hate going to the gym, don’t go. If you’d rather do your taxes than run on a treadmill, try yoga or cycling or kick boxing. Maybe you push yourself harder when it’s just you and your headphones, or maybe a room of fellow dance enthusiasts and a loud beat is your jive. Find what brings you joy, and keep going.
JUST GET MOVING
The hardest part is actually getting there, and some days the only thing that could get me there is the idea that I just have to do something. Anything. Maybe Monday morning hits hard, and the thought of sprinting a 5k uphiller is comical. So don’t. Just show up. Maybe you watch Stranger Things while you sluggishly walk downhill. At least you’re moving. And I’ve found that once I’m in my workout clothes and actually ready to move, the motivation to push myself almost always sets in. So stop being so hard on yourself, because a workout isn’t meant to discourage. In those moments of deliberation, make a deal with yourself to just get moving and applaud yourself for the smallest victories.
MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU
Where do you find time, between career, friends, dating, travel, school, that side project, cooking, cleaning? Just like you make decisions to live in a way that suits your lifestyle, fitness choices should be in synch with your daily routine. The important thing is to make definable commitments that are achievable.
If your gym is too far, knock out those twenty push-ups in your bedroom before you go to bed, or do 10 squats before breakfast. Consistency is more important than intensity. If you’re not a morning person, find evening classes that are near your apartment. If you are a morning person, plan the night before. Sleep early and wake up on time. If you must, sleep in your sports bra (legitimately worked for me for years). If you don’t make your fitness routine a priority in your life, life will happen without it.
MIND OVER MATTER
Sometimes I will actually get all dressed for the gym, fill up my water bottle, throw my hair in a ponytail—and then decide to stay in and cook dinner with my roommates. Our minds are our worst enemy when it comes to working out. How many times have you convinced yourself that you are too tired or getting sick or on your menstrual cycle? How easy it can suddenly become to excuse yourself of work-out duty! But you have power over your mind, and you have the option to push out the terribly unhelpful voice in your head that suggests the easy way out. You aren’t too tired, it’s unlikely you are sick and a period is a monthly occurrence we’ve all been dealing with long enough now to know it’s not an excuse either. Ignore, ignore, ignore. Mute it and move on.
I like to believe when I’m pushing myself that eventually, when working out consistently, I’ll be able to go faster, endure longer, and do it with more ease. But when I work out with people who inspire me, there is one common trait they all exhibit: grit. Sure, consistently working out does help them progress, but that’s not what makes them strong. It’s psychological. There’s something within that compels them to push their body to its limits, and once they have done so, they are more incentivized to push further. It’s not about their muscle or their genetics. What really differentiates the go-getters from the rest of us is their inner dialogue. How do you speak to yourself when you work out? How can your mind help push yourself to further physical limits?
FIND YOUR PEOPLE
Last year, I had hit a brick wall in my love life. I was in a rocky relationship, and the whole situation lacked clarity. I found a small dance studio on the fifth floor of an old studio in Soho, where a community of dancers warmly welcomed me. I started going daily, and it became my lifeline. We didn’t know what the others did for a living, or where we came from. And we didn’t need to. We belonged in a place that was irrespective of our outside identity. An when it was just us and the dance floor, our bodies weaving in and out in a physical demonstration of emotion, we never felt more alive. Sharing that with these people kept me going.
Whether you prefer to work out with a trainer, your lover, or your best friend, having a workout buddy to keep you accountable makes all the difference. Because let’s be honest, if you’re going solo, hitting that snooze button gets a little too easy. You’re a lot more likely to wake up for a workout if someone’s waiting for you.