In a workout slump? These t
ips from Motherboard Moms and fitness pros will rev up your exercise motivation.
Peel Back the Layers
“Springtime makes it easy to work out. When you know that you aren’t going to be wearing bulky and concealing clothes much longer, it gives you plenty of inspiration to get going!”
—Kelli W., West Virginia
Do it: Goodbye, sweatpants; hello, jogging shorts! You can run but you can’t hide from (or in) revealing warm weather workout gear — and that’s a good thing, says celebrity personal trainer and food coach Kathy Kaehler (she works with Julia Roberts and Kim Basinger). “As warmer weather approaches, breaking out your summer lineup can motivate you to commit to exercise on a daily basis.”
Boost it: If the tank top that fit you in the fall is feeling a little snug, Kaehler encourages you to squeeze in and bear it: It’s all too easy to revert to stretchy pants or a loose top. “Get used to that too-tight feeling and use it as motivation to hit the gym and watch what you eat,” Kaehler says. Once you’re back in spring shape, reward yourself with some new figure-flattering pieces, like tanks with supportive panels along the torso or molded bra cups, or pants with rear-shaping technology.
Just Show Up!
“I’ve lost 120 pounds in the last two years, but it’s still hard for me to get myself on the treadmill or to go to the park to run. I give myself permission to walk or run only a mile, but once I start, I always go longer — and I’m always so glad I did.”
—Debbie C., Tennessee
Do it: Woody Allen once said, “Half of life is showing up.” Motherboard Mom Debbie C. has figured out that getting herself on the treadmill or to the gym is half the battle. Once there, she’s more likely to work out than waste her time, energy, and money by doing nothing. And once she does start exercising, it kicks up her endorphins as well as her competitive edge, paving the way to fabulous results.
Boost it: Arm yourself with an amped-up playlist. Songs with between 120 and 140 beats per minute, or BPM, can get you working harder and longer, while distracting you from any discomfort. Try Push It by Salt-N-Pepa, Drop It Like It’s Hot by Snoop Dogg, the dance remix of Umbrella by Rihanna, or (flashback!) The Heat Is On by Glenn Frey. “Tell yourself, ‘I’m going to do two songs,’” trainer Kaehler suggests. “With your favorite songs, you’ll be doing two miles in no time.”
Take a Good, Hard Look
“When I start slacking on exercise I stand in my underwear and look at myself in a full-length mirror, front and back. That’s all it takes to get me motivated very quickly!”
—Christyal A., Texas
Do it: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, am I delusional, feeling thin and tall?” There’s nothing more honest than your own reflection to show you where you are on the path to fitness. “Many times, we keep thinking our bodies are who we used to be — more athletic, slimmer, our high-school bodies,” says NBC 5 fitness expert Andrea Metcalf, author of Naked Fitness. “But when we look in the mirror, we reconnect to the reality of the body staring back at us, begging us to do something.”
Boost it: Rather than dwell on the negative, jot down a happy thought about your body and soul, like, “You are woman, inside and out” or “You’re strong and capable,” and post it to your mirror. “Positive affirmations halt and remove the common need to feel ‘perfect,’” says Caitlin Boyle, founder of OperationBeautiful.com and author of Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-it Note at a Time. Overly negative thinking about your body will just crush your spirits and make you feel as if you’re not worth the time or effort required for healthy living.
“Work out early in the day. The later the day gets, the less likely I am to go to the gym. Live an active life—get out and walk the dog every day, take the stairs instead of the elevator.”
—Diane P., New York
Do it: Early birds are more likely to stick to their workout routines than people who wait until the evenings, Metcalf says. More a.m. benefits: You’ll jump-start your metabolism and start the day with a sense of accomplishment, and you’ll sleep better. In fact, a study published in the journal Sleep showed that overweight or obese women who exercised in the morning slept better than those who worked out at night.
Boost it: Adopt a dog! You’ll be forced to wake up early and take a walk, and you can vary your tempo or tackle hills to challenge both of you. Dog owners who regularly walk their four-legged friends are less likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or depression than non-dog owners. High-energy dogs will do the best on long walks: Consider adopting a border collie, Labrador retriever, Jack Russell terrier, or Dalmatian.
Walk This Way
“My trick is simple: I walk wherever and whenever possible. Walking doesn’t feel like exercise but it does the trick. I take pride in wearing fitted dresses to the spring weddings I get invited to. I have to say, turning a few heads at age 41 feels great!”
—Lisa F., New Jersey
Do it: Not many things in life are easy, free, and effective. But walking is! As the American Heart Association’s preferred method of exercise, walking a mile “not only challenges the cardiovascular system, but is as effective as running a mile but with less impact on the body,” says fitness pro Metcalf. Besides burning calories as you make your way from home to work to lunch, regular walking helps lower cholesterol, strengthen bones, and lessen the risk of type 2 diabetes. So that’s why 61 percent of Motherboard Moms say that walking is their favorite spring activity!
Boost it: Try adding an upper-body move, like waist rotations (raise your elbows to shoulder height to engage abs and strengthen delts), or alternate between walking forward, sideways, and backwards — just not in traffic! Or listen to your favorite podcast or a book on tape.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
“My daughter inspires me to exercise. I got her a kids’ yoga DVD and she begs me to put it on for her. She even pulls out the yoga mat. I let her do her yoga and then I am motivated to work out to my own yoga tape.”
—Diana B., Nebraska
Do it: Considering our nation’s dismal childhood obesity statistics — about one-third of American kids and teens are overweight or obese — any chance to do something active with a little one is beneficial. And when you work out, you’re modeling a smart lifelong habit for the next generation while ensuring you’ll be around to watch them grow up.
Boost it: Take the mother-daughter bonding out of the house: Mixing up the settings and trying something different will prevent boredom. You can have wheelbarrow races in the backyard or play hopscotch. Volunteer to coach her softball or soccer team. If you’re the daughter in this scenario, convince your mom to try something new: Theresa Hill, 27, of Chicago, kept gushing about how much she was enjoying her triathlon training and how “anyone can do it” until her mom — who is 55 — eventually said, “Hey, maybe I should try.” The two now swim, run, and bike together when possible in preparation for their sprint triathlon in the fall.
“I set a specific time to work out as if I have an appointment. I also attend classes at the gym so that each day is something different, whether it’s kickboxing or yoga. That keeps me from getting bored. I enjoy the classes so much that I don’t even realize that I’m working out. And the weight is just falling off!”
—Yvette C., Florida
Do it: You wouldn’t blow off dinner with your BFF to watch The Bachelor, would you? Of course not, because you two made a date weeks ago and wrote it down in your calendars. Doing the same for your workouts is effective because it holds you accountable, explains Nikki Kimbrough, a Gold’s Gym fitness expert and personal trainer based in New York City. And variety keeps you motivated to continue booking appointments. “Once you start to get bored, even subconsciously, you’ll start to make excuses to not exercise.”
Boost it: Keep mixing things up with cardio, weight lifting, stretching, and classes. Maybe try Zumba on Monday, a yogalates class Tuesday, circuit training Wednesday, running with a girlfriend Thursday, and lap swimming Friday. Not only will your motivation remain high, but your body will show faster results.
You’ve Got a Friend
“The best motivator for me is to sign up for a class or a gym membership. If I’ve paid for it, I will hit the gym at least three days a week. Having a workout buddy also helps. The two of you can keep each other accountable.”
—Heidi B., California
Do it: When it comes to working out, you’ll get by with a little help from your friends. According to Metcalf, people who have strong social support for their weight-loss goals have an 80 percent chance of success, versus just 10 percent for those on their own. “Buddy systems and putting your money where your mouth is will give you a better success opportunity than going it alone,” she says.
Boost it: Up the fun factor and plan an “exercise date” to the park. Play tag, monkey around the jungle gym, or race each other around the baseball diamond. You can even challenge more friends to join you for a group workout, then head out for a healthful brunch afterwards as your reward.
Dress for Success
“My best tip for those days when you just don’t have the motivation is to put on your workout clothes and shoes anyway. I do this and sooner or later I get the urge to go out and run. It’s amazing how it works.”
—Kristin D., Hawaii
Do it: “I completely agree!” says trainer Kaehler. “I live in my exercise clothes and, yes, it makes you more likely to take a class or head out the door and take a walk, or get on the floor and do some exercises during a commercial.” When you’ve completed one step of the process — getting dressed — it makes the second step — doing it! — that much easier.
Boost it: Stash a pair of running shoes or cross-trainers and a fresh workout outfit in your car and by your bed. They’ll serve as a constant reminder of your goals and will eliminate the ever-so-common “But I don’t have my stuff!” excuse.
Just Kidding Around
“Since my dear little boy hit 18 months old, my exercise routine includes the following: Deep-knee bends (picking up toys and tossed food off of the floor), weight lifting (into and out of the bouncer, the high chair, the tub), aerobics (attempting to get a diaper on, dancing to Sesame Street songs), and running (in the yard, through stores, across the park). If you pay attention to how you move, you can exercise all day long when you have a young one.”
—Alicia M., Michigan
Do it: As a mom of three, Metcalf loves this tip. “When you’re time-starved, you have to be creative,” she says. “Making your life work with your exercise is crucial.” But you don’t need a toddler to buff up (although Julie Bowen attributes her ripped arms to lugging around her 22-month-old twin sons, John and Gus). New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who cobble together 150 minutes of weekly activity—including basketball, running, brisk walking, or, yes, housework—tend to be six pounds lighter than their less-active counterparts over a 20-year span.
Boost it: Incinerate more calories by setting a timer and doing traditional chores like making the bed or picking up clothes at a timed pace. Metcalf says that at a quick clip, you can burn 100 calories by sweeping for 22 minutes, raking leaves for 20 minutes, playing vigorously with your kids (think tag or dancing) for 22 minutes, or doing general housecleaning for 30 minutes.
“We had a contest at my work between about 20 women, kind of Biggest Loser style. It really got me motivated. I was getting on the elliptical every night, watching what I ate, etc. When it was all over, I didn’t win the contest…but [after] about six months, I’d lost about 30 pounds.”
—Heather L., Nebraska
Do it: Attention, mouse potatoes: A new study in Preventive Medicine suggests that sitting at your desk all day adds extra pounds around your waist—the worst place for them to accumulate, healthwise. Staging a contest taps into your innate competitive spirit, keeping you motivated and focused on the end goal. Because nobody wants to finish last, you’re more likely to hit the gym regularly and watch your nutrition, Kimbrough says. And like Motherboard reader Heather L., even if you don’t lose the most pounds, you’ll still win!
Boost it: Bring a healthful meal and snacks from home to avoid getting derailed by the coffee cake and donuts that seem to magically appear within 10 feet of your cubicle every day. Pack a lunch that combines lean protein, carbs, and a little fat, like a salad with 4 to 5 ounces of grilled chicken or tuna and as many green veggies (spinach, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers) as you like, or a whole wheat tortilla filled with a few tablespoons of hummus, spinach, sliced tomatoes, feta cheese, and black olives. For a snack, try low-fat Greek yogurt, a handful of almonds and dried cranberries, or two hard-boiled eggs.