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There was a time that I would go to the gym, use the elliptical for 25 minutes, break a kind of sweat?, and call it a workout. Because I hated working out. Loathed. Did not enjoy. Was slightly offended anytime anyone anywhere worked out at all. Which is super weird because now I’m a group fitness instructor and personal trainer at the Bari Studio (obviously I’m biased, but Bari is one of the hottest new workout methods in NYC and if you haven’t gone, please just go sign up for class so you can understand how powerful this method is and this run-on sentence can end.)

Can you sense the 180?

My fitness aboutface happened when I was stuck in a variety of ruts that were just not reflections of me. I was pretty sure my life was the ultimate failure and everyone around me would be sucked into my Black Hole of Wah Wah if I didn’t pull it together. So I decided to make some (uncomfortable) changes.

Sidebar: If you start something new and believe that if it’s the right choice, then it should feel great, you’re completely missing the point. New = uncomfortable. And uncomfortable DOES NOT = bad.

So as I was calibrating my newfound personal agency, my interest in fitness reared its sheepish head. I wondered if my inner aggression toward fit people might just be an overcompensation – that I might actually like working out. So I gave it a shot and it turns out I do like it. A lot.

Over time, I have met many people coming back to fitness for the first time in a long time. I look at my clients’ progress and my own and know that this initial hump of “getting into fitness” is just a hump before a sweet, majestic climb to your personal best. So here I’ve compiled seven tactics for scaling that hump and getting yourself on the road to loving fitness:

1. Sleep. You fitness-haters will love this one! Sleep has to be your first priority – get enough of it, consistently, so you can springboard off the energy you gain from your ZZZs into a new fitness routine. If you’re exhausted, there’s no way in hell you’ll want to try something different, you’re just trying to get through the day. Sleep is actually even more valuable than we think: this study shows sleep disposes of toxins in the brain. Go to sleep, grab some energy, and while you’re at it get yo’ detox on.

2. Take photos to track your progress. I’ll admit, I thought this was silly advice when I got it (from Craig), but it’s super satisfying and helpful. Photos let you see progress and inspire you to make more. It’s hard to see day to day changes looking in the mirror. Take the time out to check in with yourself. Plus we just had a great post from Craig on HOW to take an awesome photo, so maybe you will create some art along the way!

photo 1

Along those lines, any kind of intelligently interpreted measurement system is super helpful in getting you excited about your new fitness routine. At Bari, we use the BodyMetrix system to take ultrasounds of fat thickness. Sounds fun, right?! Well for some reason it is. Really fun. It’s motivating to see where you’re starting from and to decide where you want to go. It takes all of the guesswork out, it makes you accountable to your progress, and leaves you with something measurable so you feel empowered by your choice to work out. If you and your gym don’t have a fancy machine, do circumference measurements, or just use an old pair of pants as your benchmark. The point is: track yourself.


3. Get a team. Accountability is so huge. When Craig and I lived in Brooklyn, we’d go to the gym together a couple times a week, but when he left to work at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival for a few months, MAMA DID NOT GO. Big surprise. He was my motivation, and I happened to like spending time with the guy. Sometimes, before our own goals feel valuable enough to us, we need to hitch our wagons to someone else’s. If you don’t have a friend who can be your accountability buddy, check out a group class – pick a time every week to go, introduce yourself to the instructor, and resist the temptation to be anonymous. If groups aren’t your style, get a personal trainer. A trainer can work one on one with you on your specific goals. I have worked with people on goals ranging from weight loss to increasing their energy level. Tell your trainer what you want to achieve and get to work knowing you’ve got someone in your corner.

4. You have GOT to get some good tunes. A new fitness routine can be PAINFUL – not just from tearing your muscle fibers and building up lactic acid – but if your head isn’t used to “workout mode” it can be tedious, maybe even boring. When I create workouts, I create them in tandem with a sassy playlist that mirrors the ass-kicking we’re about to endure. Find what inspires you, what moves you, what gets you to go that extra mile. My biggest advice on this one is to get on Spotify. Pick a song that’s your total jam, and play Spotify Radio from that song. You’ll be motivated to take a run around the block just to get some one on one time with your new playlist.

Here are a few of my tried and true favorite workout songs:

spotify list

Okay I can’t give all my secrets away, sheesh… 

5. The 30 Minute Experiment. Schedule 30 minutes every other day for a week. One half hour where you have nothing else scheduled, nowhere to go, nothing to do. Try to fill that 30 minutes up with a walk, or a jog, or maybe try a push up, some crunches, whatever! The point is, you have 30 minutes that you don’t have anything else to do but work out. So you might as well lace up those sneakers and see what you can bust out. 

6. Consciously rewire your brain to like fitness. Holy crap is that even possible?! Yes. photo 2Whenever we learn something new (like.. say.. a fitness routine..) we create new neural pathways in our brain. At first those pathways aren’t habitual and can feel effortful, but keep putting yourself in that space and over time you’re strengthening and rewiring your brain for optimum performance. For more smartypants stuff, this article explains the science behind this phenomenon.

7. Use fitness as a metaphor for something bigger in your life. It’s true that working out gives you a healthier physical life. But looking at fitness in a way that helps you become more balanced, present, and clear can far outweigh any physical accomplishment. When I started working out again, I realized that it was not how many push ups I could do – it was the fact that I tried at all. Life was clearly telling me that it’s all about showing up. We happened to just show up on this Earth. How inconceivable, random, and brilliant is it that we are even alive?! And now all I can do with my life is try my best. That’s the essence of your workout: just show up, and do the best you can. Tomorrow might be better or worse, but you’ll know that you showed up and gave it all you had today.

Pick one or two of these tactics, whatever combination works for you, and see if you can come to fitness with a new mindset. You are more capable of this than you could ever imagine. Try it out, and let me know what you discover!

What are your favorite ways to work out? What is the best motivation you’ve come across to get your butt to the gym? What tactics inspire you the most?

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