Confession: Sometimes I skip workouts.
I love lifting and getting sweaty just as much as the next lady meathead, but sometimes I just really, really, really don’t want to go to the gym.
We’ve all been there; even those among us who identify as gym-junkies and fitness fanatics have had periods when getting to the gym was the absolute last thing we wanted to do. Sometimes that feeling is a message: It could be time to rest, recover, or reduce the intensity with which we exercise.
But other times it’s just…resistance. And as Steven Pressfield says in his poignant (and must read) book, The War of Art, “Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.”
In this case, your “work” is your fitness—it’s the very real and essential act of self-care that is movement. Yes, you heard that right: exercise is fundamentally a form of self-care, and the very act of moving is to honor your body’s need to do so. If we care for our bodies, we find that all obstacles in life become more surmountable.
Alas, sometimes the resistance that stands between us and our fitness is thick and relentless. I don’t subscribe to the “no excuses” adage that so many fitness trainers throw out; I think there are lots of excuses, and many of them are extremely valid. But sometimes it’s not a matter of excuses at all—just a matter of fighting resistance, making things more realistic, and removing obstacles that stand in the way of us and our workouts.
Thankfully resistance can be overcome; what follows are four simple strategies to assist you in doing so.
OVER COMING FITNESS RESISTANCE
(AKA HOW TO GET YOUR BOOTY TO THE GYM)
The oldest tool in the anti-resistance toolbox is also one of the most effective: Ask other people to hold you accountable. This can be done by signing up for a class that you’re expected to attend, having a gym buddy, or simply asking a loved one to hold you to your intentions.
With the wonders of modern technology, we can even look to devices and online communities for accountability. Exercise trackers such as FitBits and online communities such as Facebook groups are effective and alternative methods of increasing accountability.
The base rationale is this: If you say you’re going to do something and other people are counting on you to do it, you’re more likely to actually do it. The two times I went to the gym last week were both enforced by my husband after asking him to make me go, no matter how much I resisted. It’s not necessarily a long term strategy, but it works in a pinch and is fantastic way to get started.
The Path of Least Resistance
If resistance is the issue, it makes sense to take the path that involves as little of it as possible. What I mean is this: When resistance is bubbling up from within you, do your best to limit external resistance.
- If evening exercise is the aim, keep your gym bag in the car so that instead of going home after work, you go straight to the gym.
- If early morning exercise is the aim, sleep in your gym clothes or lay them out the night before. (Sleeping in them might feel icky for some, but I recently wore the same sweat pants 8 days in a row, so what do I know?)
- Try to find a gym that’s close enough to your home or place of work that getting there isn’t inconvenient.
- Consider keeping some fitness equipment at home, such as kettlebells, ropes, or bands.
If you can create a situation that involves fewer external obstacles, you’ll increase your likelihood of overcoming resistance.
Minimum Effective Dose
Part of what keeps so many of us from committing to a consistent fitness routine is the misunderstanding of what that has to entail. If, like me, you were bred to believe that workouts need to be long and comprehensive in order to be effective, allow me to disprove that myth.
While it’s nice to be able to commit to an hour long+ training session when time allows, this isn’t always possible. Further, we fall into the trap of thinking that if we can’t do said training session, we might as well not do it all.
Erroneous! Erroneous on all counts!
Minimum effective dose is the smallest or shortest amount of something you can do while still eliciting a positive response. So rather than commit to hour long workouts, consider 30 minutes or even less. If all you’ve got is 10 minutes, use those 10 minutes to move—because yes, it counts.
And here’s why: when it comes to fitness (and just about any other positive habit), consistency is more important than perfection. If perfection is the goal, we’ll rarely-if ever-reach it. By setting ourselves up to only go to the gym if we have plenty of time, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. What happens when we’re slammed with a project? Up all night with an infant or a sick kiddo? Traveling and pressed for time?
If we set out to move consistently, regardless of the length of the workouts, we’ll be more likely to create a sustainable, long term habit.
Along this same vein, consider that not every workout needs to be “hardcore.” A brisk walk or just 15 minutes of yoga can be highly effective when consistency is the intention, because the more consistently you move, the more movement becomes your norm.
Reframe Your Reasons
As a recovering dieter and obsessive exerciser, I understand the struggle to conform to societal pressures and strive for an “ideal” body. Even after healing my body image issues, I found myself over-identifying with my athleticism and putting a great deal of pressure on myself to “perform.”
Unless we’re actually competing (and even then, to some extent), this pressure is unnecessary. When we stress and obsess over the reasons behind our pursuit of fitness, it can often be difficult to step into a space of ease and adaptability. We wind up making things feel very serious, and in the process can bump up against a mountain of resistance.
But if we can learn to move for the sake of movement, to view fitness as a means of self-care and a method of honoring our bodies, we can begin to overcome this resistance.
Take the “shoulds” and the “musts” and the seriousness out of fitness, and ask yourself instead: What do I actually enjoy? What makes me feel alive? How can I move in a way that honors my energy levels, my preferences, and my limitations?
Resistance is a very real struggle. It manifests within us, paralyzing and debilitating us, and is further exacerbated by many of life’s external obligations and commitments. But, with the right tools and a willingness to adapt, resistance can be overcome.
Fitness, as it turns out, doesn’t have to be so serious. It can be something that adds a tremendous amount of value and meaning to our lives, if we can learn to overcome the resistance that stands between us and our body’s inherent desire to move.