Seven Tips to Make Working Out Easier

by ashleyd on February 8, 2012

Life isn’t easy and neither is finding balance in life. For example, the weight loss adage goes something like this:

  • 80% diet
  • 20% working out

Well, unfortunately for me, I haven’t quite mastered that whole 80% portion. I’m a born and bred Southern girl with a strong sweet tooth and a love for Diet Coke. I’m human and no matter how hard I try, my diet hasn’t totally cleaned itself up over the past few years. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve vastly improved but I’m no where near perfect. But, that other 20%, working out, is a whole different story.

I have somewhat of an extreme personality; I either commit to something all the way or I don’t commit at all. Therefore, when I joined Weight Watchers in 2005 and they told me I needed to start working out in order to overcome my week 3 plateau, I joined a gym and started waking up five mornings a week before my 9am classes senior year in order to break a sweat. This is when my relationship with running started.

Over the past five years a lot has changed in my life:

  • Graduated from University of Georgia
  • Moved from Athens, Georgia to Philadelphia
  • Started a new job
  • Survived a long distance relationship for 2 years
  • Got engaged
  • Moved to New York City
  • Started a new job with same company
  • Moved in with my fiancé
  • Started a blog
  • Married above fiancé
  • Trained for and ran two marathons
  • During all that change, one thing has stayed constant and that is the 20%- working out. Therefore, for this week’s installment of Tuesday Tips, I figured I’d share a few tips and tricks with you all since I receive a comment or email each week regarding “how I do it” while balancing career, marriage, friends, and the blog. Realize that the below list includes things that may seem like common sense to some but others it may create an “aha” moment or spark an idea. I hope these help you commit to your workout plan so you can look back a year from now and feel like you’ve made headway on the 20%.

1. Find a friend: It is much easier to commit to a workout if you know there will be someone waiting for you. This can help fight the snooze buttons on the alarm, the post work slump, or the winter blues. Whether it’s running, walking, Zumba, or even a trapeze class, I guarantee you it will be more fun with someone else.  I know that at least one morning a week I need someone to drag me off the treadmill and onto the sidewalks. Luckily, Jocelyn lives in my neighborhood and was just that person last week, even when it was cold and rainy! Working out with a friend provides a low cost to free alternative to cocktail hours and dinner dates while allowing you to catch up at the same time you break a sweat. Who doesn’t love efficiency? 004 2. Join a club or a group: What if you’re the first of your friends to commit to working out and therefore have a difficult time finding a friend to break a sweat with on a weekly basis? Lucky for you, there are a plethora of free or low cost groups you can join. For example, in almost every town there is a running club associated with one of the local running stores. Most times these clubs cater to power walkers through elite runners. When I was running in Philadelphia, I joined a Main Line running club out of Bryn Mawr Running Store which I found by searching “Philadelphia running clubs” on Google. In addition, if you have a Lululemon in your city, they definitely feature multiple free group workouts each week ranging from yoga to running. Just use their store finder tool to find your local store’s website or Facebook page. Another resource is local health bloggers. If you’re new to blog reading or writing, use Google and try a few different search terms. This sounds crazy but it’s worked for me before. When I moved to NYC I knew very few people outside my fiancé and his co-workers. Therefore, I started looking up NYC health blogs on Google and came across Melissa. We ended up meeting when I emailed her about NYC races and gyms. Joining a club or group helps keep you accountable, can push you to do things you didn’t think possible, and can be a great way to meet new people.

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3. Always be prepared: In case you didn’t know, I grew up in a scouting family. Therefore, the motto “always be prepared” has been engrained in my head from an early age. While this can apply to many things, for me it is a perfect motto for keeping up with workouts. I don’t have a figure 8 ball which I can consult or trust on a regular basis. My work schedule changes by the day, and sometimes even by the hour. But, I always keep a gym bag under my desk filled with the essentials: old gym shoes, shorts, top, sports bra, rubber band, headband, and water bottle. This allows me to join friends at the gym on a whims notice or leave the office for a quick stress relief when I know it’s going to be a long evening. In addition, this always alleviates the “i forgot my clothes at home” excuse which used to plague me quite often.

4. Make hitting the snooze button harder: If you’re anything like me and Bo, your natural inclination when your alarm goes off, especially during the cold and dark winter months, is to hit the snooze button. No one wants to leave the comfort of a warm bed. But, if the only chance you have to workout is before the craziness of the day begins, then you have to do everything you can to ensure you don’t hit that snooze button. Over the years, Bo and I have learned that we have to make it harder because we both love using the snooze button. If you put your alarm, whether it’s a cell phone or actual alarm clock, somewhere in your room which requires that you get out of bed to turn it off, you’ll be far less likely to hit snooze. Also, we find that annoying alarms work best. This means the louder and more disruptive the better. There are no harps or favorite songs going off at 5:15 in our household. Instead, both of our cell phone alarms are set to the tug boat setting and one goes off at 5:15 and the other goes off at 5:20.

5. Track It: Just like tracking food helps with managing your diet, I find that tracking my workouts helps keep me motivated. There are a number of wonderful tools out there, ranging from spiral notebooks to computer programs but at the end of the day, Daily Mile is my favorite tool right now. The important thing to understand about this website is that it’s not just for runners. As you can see from the below screen shot, they make it easy to enter everything from yards swam to miles ran or cycled. In addition, they have numerous other actives in the more section. At the end of each week, they send you an email with how the week compares to your average and even give you an inspirational phrase for the week: groovy progress, rockstar, etc. During marathon training, many of us looked forward to this weekly email which not only showed our progress from a mileage and pace standpoint, but also gave us that “pat on the back” that you need when the going gets tough.

image 6. Do what you love when you love it: If you follow me on Daily Mile, Twitter, or just on this blog you know that I am a morning workout person by nature. It’s far easier for me to make it to the gym before work than after work as I often have the 7pm slump when all I want to do is go home and curl up on the couch. I have to use groups and friends to motivate me for evening run clubs or yoga classes. Therefore, I use the mornings as my “core” workout time. I plan in my head that I will workout Monday through Thursday from 5:30-6:30 each morning. Anything in addition to that is just an “extra” workout. That way if I have to cancel on an evening workout due to work or hit the slump, I know that I already logged a workout for that day. It’s also important to break a sweat in the way that makes you the happiest. I’ve tried to commit to spinning and Bikram yoga twice before, once in Philadelphia and once in New York. At the end of the day I don’t love those workouts as much as I enjoy running, weight training, or power yoga. I’d find myself skipping workouts or not pushing myself while I was on the bike or mat. I finally realized that it was because I had no passion for these workouts. If you focus on doing the workout you love during the time period of day that you love, you’ll be more successful.

7. Tell Others: Do you find it hard to workout while you’re traveling for business? What about working out before work or after work? Try sharing your plan with someone who your with and see if that doesn’t change things. I started telling my co-workers, casually during dinner conversations, that I was working out the next morning in the hotel gym and this immediately made waking up during business travel earlier. Often times, they’ll join me because they’re inspired by my strong ethic. I’ve done the same thing with Friday long runs. It’s tough to log 11 miles before work in a foreign city, but if your team members know you’re doing this you’ll not only get tons of cheers when you see them but you’ll also feel accountable. When I was on a girls weekend beach trip, I knew that running 20 miles would be tough between our late night chats, alcohol, and vacation mode. Therefore, I told my girlfriends in advance that I’d be doing my 20 miler while we were at the beach. They were supportive and even ran a few miles with me while also motivating me to keep my plan in place, especially when tempted with the idea of hanging out on the beach instead or sleeping in.

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I’m sure I’ve inadvertently left something off this list, so I’ll keep it updated under the soon to be updated Exercise page on my blog. Until then, if you have any questions, feel free to email me as always.

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{ 13 comments }

Cm @ Lazy Healthy February 8, 2012 at 1:49 am

That’s so funny, I just sent you a friend request on DailyMile last night! I also the community tracking element really motivating.

Lesley February 8, 2012 at 2:18 am

Great post! I don’t think I’ve ever commented, but I do really admire that you have a full time job and still find time for fun and working out. It really is something I strive for, so you are inspiring! I appreciate the advice on ‘finding work out friends’- most of my friends aren’t into exercise the way I am, so this would be so helpful for me!

Meg February 8, 2012 at 2:26 am

Aww, look! I made the blog. : ) Love that photo of all of us. Did you see where DQ got home from his deployment today? XOXO

Ricole Runs February 8, 2012 at 3:36 am

Great post ! I also dominate that 20% part of working out but struggle sooo much with the 80% eating right part. It is just so hard to stay on the wagon all the time when there’s so much delicious food in the world! Great tips though, thank you!

Adara February 8, 2012 at 5:17 am

What time do you generally get to bed at night? I think I need to make an adjustment to my bed time!

Ashley D February 10, 2012 at 10:37 pm

I normally go to bed around 10:30 which allows me 7 hours.

Life's a Bowl February 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm

My biggest struggle right now is hitting the snooze button! I was on a roll of going to the gym before work but lately I’ve been opting to sleep in a little later and workout in the afternoon… I can definitely notice that my workouts are easier in the afternoon because I’m tired from working all day :/

Ericka @ The Sweet Life February 8, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Great post and ideas, Ashely. I love reading about others who workout before work because of the afternoon slump as well. Sometimes, I feel crazy but so many times I’ve said I will work out after work and NEVER do it because of the “slump.” I have the same idea about the “extra” workouts. Encouraging post!

Ashley D February 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm

I have come to think of my morning workouts like coffee! They give me a huge energy burst!

melissa (fitnessnyc) February 9, 2012 at 12:27 am

great post! I love the tips!

Ashley D February 10, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Thanks Melissa! They have helped a ton!

Jenna February 16, 2012 at 3:44 am

This is a great post! I work out in the evenings, but am trying to make the switch to morning workouts, because of the afternoon slump. It’s just so hard to force myself after sitting at the office all day!

I do have a question though! I’m a new reader so I don’t know if you’ve addressed this but do you eat before or after your morning workout. I’m inclined to eat before just because it saves me the hassle of packing breakfast, but I don’t know if I could eat at 6:45 and last until my lunch break at 12:30. If I packed my breakfast I could eat it after I shower at the gym (around 8:30, work starts at 9) but I’m not sure how appealing tepid oatmeal packed in tupperware is. What works best for you?

Lisa Eirene January 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm

The diet part is definitely the hardest. While I count my calories and do pretty well, I do struggle with the TYPE of food I eat often. I agree that diet is a huge part of it!

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