Try smiling up that hill and other tips to help you stick to an exercise routine
I was doing my last long training run yesterday before next Sunday's Marines Corps Marathon, and Micki, my running partner, headed back early because she had a family commitment. When she got home she sent me a text to let me know she tried consciously smiling as she was running up one of the hills, and it helped.
This may seem like such a small thing, but it takes focus and energy away from the negative to instruct your face to smile. I will definitely try this.
Micki knows I'm always up for suggestions and support, and her text reminded me of a Facebook post I had seen a day or two before. One of my favorite former bosses, who’s abundantly caring and supportive of hundreds of employees over the years, posted that he doesn’t need the latest computer home assistant to tell him to turn off the lights.
“I need an Alexa to tell me to put down that Snickers bar and get off my lazy butt.”
A genuine cry for help, right? No matter how hard you push yourself you always feel better after exercising, so let’s find a way to get ourselves out there!
Here are a few of my go-to hacks
Register for a race or walk. I’m registered for the Marines Corps Marathon on October 22. Am I ready? Who knows but that’s not the point. If you’re signing up for the first time, make it a friendly race, maybe a 5K (a little more than 3 miles) that supports a cause you care about or one that promises beer at the finish. Or just have fun saying "5K" as if you use the very je ne sais quoi Metric system all the time. But check out the race cut off and make sure there’s plenty of time for you to take a reasonably leisurely pace. After you sign up, tell everyone you know and talk about your training, the race, and your worries. A lot. Now that you’re a finisher, go order that 3.1 decal for your bumper and you’ll be right up there with the big boys. Don't know how to find a race? Try the Runner's World race finder or here.
Make a training calendar. You don't have to be a professional athlete, heck you don't have to be an athlete, to have one, but you've got everything else on your calendar so why not make this one a recurring appointment? Talk to everyone about your training calendar. That way there’s a good chance at least one person will ask you about your swim or your run or your barre class and you’ll be able to share every detail. If you have a trainer or a sports doc or a physical therapist, that’s an easy one, but don’t rule out the checker at the grocery store. As in, “I’ve just finished a swim and am making Snappy Peanut Butter Energy Bites, can you tell?” RunnersConnect has tons of ideas on how to start a training calendar.
Use a fitness app to track your workouts and friend everyone you know. I use MapMyFitness (for activity) and MyFitnessPal (for nutrition) — these two work together — and I get live notifications whenever my “friends” or family members log a workout. That way if you're tempted to miss a workout and you get your friend's notification you might feel that little nudge to head out to the trail after work.
Get extroverted. Even if you’re an introvert. It’s great to have an exercise partner, but since this is not always possible or feasible, you can feed off the mojo of random people exercising around you. Whether you’re out for a run on a trail or in the neighborhood or at the gym, make sure your body language is just a little friendly. I’ve noticed even a slight wave or a hello from a passing runner pushes me to go a little farther. At the gym, take the treadmill next to someone else and turn and say hello. Guaranteed even if that person is deep into a TV show, he or she will snap off those earbuds and chat for a second or two before saying something supportive like, “Have a good workout.” Find out if your personality is sabotaging your fitness goals. Then you can figure out what to do about it.
Regress. As in the opposite of pro-gress. I was introduced to the idea of “regression” as it relates to exercise when Kevin McGuinness, my Washington, D.C., physical therapist began suggesting ways I could make changes to an exercise or even my exercise routine in order to rehab my hamstring injury. For example, reducing mileage, load, or reps or even squatting on a chair as opposed to squatting. Basically there’s more than one way to regress so live it up.
Get new gear. I'll just say it straight out. This is absolutely one of the best parts about exercising, and I've got a rolling dresser in my closet just for my workout clothes. Maybe go out and get a different pair of running shoes or spring for a pair of Balega Ultra Light No-Show socks or a game-changer pair of goggles. It doesn’t have to be something you truly need but should be something techy and super snazzy. Talk to everyone about your new gear, why you ordered it, where you got it, what they think about it. If it’s an item you ordered online, track the delivery progress and when the package arrives, Instagram the hell out of it. And if you're an outlet shopper or a bargain hunter, OMG, you can score big time at Nordstrom Rack, Marshall's, TJ Maxx, and even some online retailers. Check out Jimmy Jazz and Jack Rabbit.
Talk about it. When I returned from my first marathon in Jamaica and was reading up on different approaches to recovery I came across a suggestion that it is overwhelmingly therapeutic to talk about the experience. In excruciating detail. After you go for a run make sure you tell someone about it. Don’t wait for someone to ask you. Grab a kindred spirit and say, “Do you want to hear about my run?” And then be sure to ask your co-workers, friends, and family about their workouts. You might be opening the floodgates but it’s worth it if you get to talk about you for even 5 minutes. An added bonus is you might learn something clutch.
Hydrate. I know I am so bad at this. But especially if you work in an office and in winter when the air is dry, we know we feel better when we drink more water. Everything works better in your body when it's hydrated - your muscles and even your brain. I use a citrus juicer to squeeze the juice of one lemon into a large shaker and add a handful of fresh mint leaves and a teaspoon of agave before filling the whole thing with water and ice. I take this with me to work and save it for the afternoon when I feel like crawling under my desk. Berries and cucumbers are great in there, too. In the shaker, I mean, not under the desk.
Have fun. There are a lot of people out there having fun exercising and you should be one of them. It’s not like there’s a finite amount of fun available. Everyone can have some. You’re at work all day and hopefully you love your job but you can love exercising, too. Figure out what aspect of exercise makes you smile, even if it just means quality one-on-one time with yourself, because when you’re approaching your edge and sweating like crazy as you climb that hill, I know for a fact there’s a little smile in there.