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I was doing the stairmaster at my gym a few weeks ago before the New Year and marveled at all the empty treadmills. The gym is a ghost town in December and in January, it would be packed.
Swamped with people who are ready to get fit.
Swarming with exercisers who have the best intentions of making this a lifelong change.
Packed. The staff will actually have to enforce the 30 minute treadmill limit.
And then, like clockwork, around the 3rd week in January, the crowds will thin out.
People will start to get frustrated that they can't keep the pace up. They will admit that they actually really do hate working out and so they won't.
But the people who are regular gym-goers in December and throughout the year simply have a different mindset than the sedentary public.
The biggest difference is that fit people do not exercise to lose weight. We exercise for self-care. To sort out our thoughts, to listen to a podcast, to maintain our health as we age.
Wanting to lose weight is not enough to keep you going back to the gym. It is a welcome by-product of consistent exercise and good nutrition, but you must find ways to fall in love with the process.
If you hate it, you will stop doing it and will eventually want to avoid it. But if you exercise because you want to rock out to awesome music or because you get to drop the kids off at childcare and get an hour to yourself, you are much more likely to keep showing up.
I joined the gym after my 4th baby because I had 4 kids under the age of 5. I desperately needed some sanity. I happily drove to the gym daily and dropped them off in the able and willing hands of our gym's childcare workers, and walked into the weight room prepared to crush my workout that day.
For me it wasn't about losing weight or even getting stronger. Regular exercise was about finding myself again. It became my therapy.
So what about you? How can you become fit in 2017?
HERE ARE 5 WAYS YOU CAN START TO THINK ABOUT YOUR WORKOUTS
1. Have Fun
Consistent exercisers double up. Instead of just running or lifting alone, they plug in a good set of headphones and listen.
Are you hungry for knowledge? Listen to a podcast! I love learning about business, so Amy Porterfield and Donald Miller are my go-to podcasts. If I'm feeling motivated about finances, I like to listen to Dave Ramsey.
Most of the time, I'm ready to go back to my old self, or Sarah-before-kids and rock out to good music. No Raffi or Jim Gill, I can listen to music that makes me feel alive and amazing.
2. Feel Sexy
Last spring, I walked into an Athleta and bought 3 items of clothing that cost me more than they should have, but I wear them multiple times a week because they are so functional and they also make me feel athletic and pretty.
Get excited about what clothes you get to put on to workout. Rock them and walk into the gym confident that you look like the real deal. Then kill your workout.
You would be amazed how much harder you will work in a hot tanktop vs. a frumpy t-shirt (and the confidence to wear clothes that show your muscles will grow as you show up consistently and your mindset begins to shift from feeling bad about yourself, to feeling strong and empowered).
3. Be Comfy & Warm
Do you see those people running on the side of the road? I just feel so bad for them! It's one thing if they really enjoy it (like my dad, he's a marathoner and really loves his long distance runs), but if they are doing it hoping to get their dream body, they are making themselves miserable for nothing.
Research is pretty clear that long slow cardio is actually detrimental to fat loss because it begins to degrade the muscle, but also because our bodies get used to the activity. They become efficient and the run that used to burn lots of calories now doesn't take as much energy.
To change the way you look and really lose some serious fat, get into a gym and start lifting heavy weights. Challenge your muscles and they will never become efficient. Plus, your ears won't freeze off in the gym and you can stay nice and warm.while you get ready for that bikini in a few months.
4. Keep Your Sanity
I have 4 kids. I love them to death but I think they take turns trying to drive us crazy. This month, it is my 3 year old's turn. We are walking on egg shells so he doesn't lose it. We stick to his routine very carefully so nothing surprises him.
As careful as we are, he still throws tantrums and whines. The other kids fight. Children are very self-consumed and it can drive even the most patient parent to the edge.
Load your kids up into the car. I don't care if it's raining, I don't care if your house is a mess. Drive to the gym and drop your kids off into the hands of the day care workers who can give you a much-deserved break.
You need it. If you are a parent, you need time to yourself. Drop them off, turn on your adult music and go get some therapy in the weight room. Pick up heavy weights and feel empowered.
You will be a much better parent because of this time you poured into yourself.
5. Don't Get Bored by Long, Slow Cardio
You don't have to dread your workouts or constantly look at the clock on the treadmill wondering "WHY HAS IT ONLY BEEN 2 MINUTES?!"
A solid leg workout or arm and shoulder day has 5-6 good exercises that really challenge your muscles, but the time flies by.
I can't tell you how many times I've been lifting, totally in the zone, and I'll look at the clock.
"Wow, 60 minutes. I should probably stop. That's good for one day."
Lifting weights is so empowering and fun, it doesn't feel like an eternity when you're working out. You're constantly trying to lift heavier or focusing on your form, and moving on to the next exercise. It's very mentally stimulating and there is a certain energy in the weight room that just doesn't exist in the cardio area.
You can run. You can do long, slow cardio. But I beg you, don't let it be the backbone of your routine. You need to have a solid strength training routine that is developing your muscles.
Long-slow cardio then becomes something you do on a rest day, to think or stretch out your muscles.
Fall in love with that gym time. Make it a point to be active most days. Prioritize it. And watch in awe as your body starts getting stronger and you begin looking fit and toned. You might have just turned 45, but exercise is the fountain of youth. You will feel like you're 26 again.
Sarah Mueller is a registered dietitian and mom of 4. She served in the Air Force in her life before kids, and these days she runs an online nutrition & fitness business during naptime. She loves to help moms get back into their pre-baby jeans by getting them off the treadmill and into the weight room. She works hard debunking common myths like sugar is evil and heavy weights will make you bulky. She also loves to collaborate with Personal Trainers who wish to add value to their services by offering nutrition counseling or education with a dietitian to their clients.