How I Learned to Stop Hating the Gym and Love Exercising

Marla Herron

June 5, 2018

Love may be too strong a word, but I certainly like exercising now, and it didn't take very long to drastically change my relationship with it.  If you're like me, I know that exercise is essential for good health and well-being, but I lacked the desire and motivation to do it. Today, I’ll briefly share three steps that led to my change of heart. 

Step 1: Getting to know the gym in a deeper, more meaningful way.  I knew what the gym looked like on the outside - oddly shaped, the late-30s, but I didn't know the gym on the inside.  I was pretty shy about introducing myself....what to do?  I decided to ask a student worker to introduce us.  On the appointed day, I decided to wear basic black yoga pants and a long, loose t-shirt.  Alex (the student worker) and I met at the campus fitness center, and he showed me around.  To my surprise, not much had changed in the 15+ years since I had been in a gym. Alex patiently demonstrated how to use all of the equipment that interested me. A few days later he told me, "Showing you around encouraged me to start exercising again - thank you!" 

Step 2: The beginning of a beautiful friendship.  Once I felt comfortable with the equipment and layout of the center, I had to somehow motivate myself to start exercising on a regular basis. As a good student affairs professional, I drew on human behavior research.  I knew if I could make the exercise routine a habit, my chances of success would greatly improve.  I quickly learned I was too tired at the end of the day to exercise, so I forced myself to go first thing in the morning.  Also, I decided to pay monthly for the membership so I would not get complacent about going.  I even skipped the convenience of the payroll deduction plan and opted for the very old-fashioned - personal check! When I hand the desk clerk my membership form and check each month, I'm renewing my commitment to keep exercising.

Step 3: Being kind to myself.  Mindful self-compassion is treating yourself with the same kindness you would show a cherished friend.  It is a simple concept, but many of us habitually treat ourselves with harsh self-criticism.  Every morning when I begin exercising, I monitor my inner self-talk and chose to say only positive and supportive things to myself.  At first, I felt silly encouraging myself (sometimes even out loud), but I wanted to find out if self- compassion had an impact on my motivation.  Over the past four months, there was only one morning I couldn't exercise.  Instead of criticizing myself, I accepted the way I felt and opted for some gentle stretching and yoga.  Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading researcher in self-compassion, found that self-compassion is a more effective motivator than self-criticism. 

It only took a few weeks of consistent exercise to dissolve my hatred for the fitness center.  Now, I look forward to going, and I can tell the difference in my body and mind. 

As the region IV-West Wellness and Health Promotions KC rep, I'd love to hear your success stories and advice about exercise!  Please share any comments with me at [email protected]

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