I hate it, but I love it
March 10, 2010 12:30 PM   Subscribe

How do I motivate myself to stay in shape, when I lack a personal incentive? Or: How can I change my lifestyle so that I keep in shape anyway?

I've got a tried-and-tested set of weights, a pull-up bar, and a room large enough to let me work out without issue. Last year I got P90X, which I thoroughly enjoyed doing along with my roommate; I'm not daunted by the idea of intense workouts. I enjoy them when I get around to doing them.

At the same time, however, I don't feel a particularly dire need to work out. I'm not in extremely good shape, and I'm not superthin, but I'm at a healthy weight. So, while I want to maintain a solid workout schedule, and convert some of my dawdling time into workout time, I don't feel any passion about it. I want to either develop a passion or I want to figure out how to incorporate workouts in my life in a way that I don't need to feel zealous about it.

A few other considerations: I enjoyed P90X because it was a social activity. This year I don't have any group of friends who're into working out like I did last year. In fact, I feel a sort of social awkwardness about working out around other people. I've got a quiet roommate who spends his time watching talk shows, and when he's in the room I find it very difficult to start up any kind of routine. For the same reason, I think I'd feel awkward jogging. (Not that jogging helps build muscles in quite the same way balanced workouts do.)

So: How do I get myself committed to a workout pattern? How do I convince myself to start a 30-minute or an hour's workout when I'm busy lying about being a blah? Or: Are there everyday activities I could start doing that happen to help with fitness? (Climbing stairs is the first thing that comes to mind. Any similar things that work other parts of you?)
posted by Rory Marinich to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
There's a personal incentive, trust me. You'll be happier, more energetic, and correspondingly more attractive.

If that isn't enough for you, try making a financial agreement with yourself: if you don't exercise X times/week, you must donate $Y to an organization you dislike. This has worked very well for me.
posted by ripley_ at 12:38 PM on March 10, 2010

http://hundredpushups.com/ -- classic, but I have trouble sticking to it rigorously. I find that I have to integrate exercise into my life or make it somehow engaging in order to have good follow-through.

Things that have worked for me in the past: Rock climbing (even on an indoors wall -- it's the people you meet & the community you create that make it engaging, although it's infinitely better out there in the outdoors!), contortion class, dancing lessons, hardcore tag with my friends, aerialism (more circus performance stuff -- it's fun!), etc. For me, it's about not being bored, and I do that through finding things that are a mix of engaging the body & engaging the mind and by having other people involved & committed in the same activity.
posted by kitarra at 12:39 PM on March 10, 2010

If there is literally "no personal incentive" why would you do it? Why do something that won't help you?

With that said, I would just find gym friends. When your there strike up conversations with people. Inevitably you will end up working in sets with people and can set up a routine. Then your friends at the gym will depend on you to be there at certain times to spot for them, or give them motivation. Everybody wins.
posted by lakerk at 12:40 PM on March 10, 2010

I have only ever been able to workout when I've found activities that are fun, or that make me feel much better afterwards. Cycling (outdoors), hiking, yoga = fun and therefore addictive; cardio = feeling awesome afterwards. You can also set a weight or cardio goal you're working to reach; I can also be motivated by working towards quantifiable progress (distance, weight, etc.). Are you a data nerd, or the kind of person who feels warm and fuzzy from meeting or exceeding set goals? Seeing results will also motivate you. Have you found a routine that helps to change the way you feel and/or look, or the relationship you have with your body?

To get motivated-- I have really cool podcasts I only listen to when exercising (even when exercising = walking instead of taking the bus); also, I only really watch crappy TV when I'm on a cardio machine at the gym.

Good casual everyday stuff: walking everywhere, or cycle commuting. Chasing a dog around, if you or a friend has one. A set of small hand weights you can use while watching TV.
posted by availablelight at 12:40 PM on March 10, 2010

Start walking or riding a bike or rowing a boat to work. Walking / riding to work is the only fitness routine I have been able to stick to in 20 years.

If you find another answer please let me know!
posted by pandabearjohnson at 12:40 PM on March 10, 2010

There's a personal incentive, trust me. You'll be happier, more energetic, and correspondingly more attractive.

Yeah! That's why I want to do it. But that's not an incentive on the level of: I can't climb stairs without being out of breath, or I'm teased every time I go out in public. Like, it's a reason to want to do it, but it's not enough of a reason to really give me a drive.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:42 PM on March 10, 2010

My opinion: Who cares about your roommate? As long as you're not making a huge, interruptive racket, go ahead and work out anyway. What's to feel self-conscious about? I mean, is he going to point a finger at you and laugh condescendingly at your well-sculpted physique? Yeah, I didn't think so, either.
posted by Citrus at 1:02 PM on March 10, 2010

Find a CrossFit affiliate. It's basically like P-90X (just a little less lame) in that it's a general conditioning program based on short bursts of intense acitivity with a wide variety of movements. If you join a CF gym you'll do the same daily workout as everyone else there in a class setting. The social aspect can be fun and motivating.

Anyhow, you need to find a goal to find motivation. To train really hard, you have to really want it. But doing something like CrossFit will expose you to lots of different training possibilities and may help you clarify your goals.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:18 PM on March 10, 2010

It sounds like a class or group would help. How about boxing or martial arts? Or a rowing team? Or a boot camp class? Or Salsa lessons?

I never worked out in my life until I had to fill up my school schedule in order to be full time (for financial aid reasons). I had to go to the gym at my school a certain number of times a week in order to get an A. Doing that for a whole semester finally instilled the habit of working out. Now I go for internal reasons, but I never could have started without an external motivator.
posted by serazin at 1:24 PM on March 10, 2010

PS - I am not at all motivated by staying "in shape". I don't personally give a fuck about how much fat I have or whatever. But I am now addicted to the good vibes that come from cardio and the feeling of strength and power that comes with weight training. So maybe there's a way you can re-frame the issue to access whatever it is about working out that will motivate you.
posted by serazin at 1:27 PM on March 10, 2010

A very similar question was asked yesterday.
posted by salvia at 1:50 PM on March 10, 2010

There are online communities like DailyBurn that will hook you up with a buddy so you can motivate each other. I haven't tried this but imagine a little bit of competition wouldn't hurt. What about joining a soccer league or cycling team or something like that?

Everyday activities that happen to help with fitness: there's walking or biking to work, of course. You could get a mini stair stepper and use that when talking on the phone, waiting for pasta water to boil, etc. Get one of those doorway chinup bars and do a few every time you go through.
posted by lakeroon at 2:03 PM on March 10, 2010

my incentive was when i stopped fitting into my skinny jeans. 80% of my jeans... are skinny cut jeans. believe me not being able to fit your clothes is a pretty good incentive to work out.

in the past i've done group "challenges" with friends where we all banded together and each person had their own goal- get back down to your jean size, exercise 50 min a day, whatever. we sent each other progress reports and chastised each other whenever we fell behind. pretty good incentive is trying not to be embarrassed in front of your friends who are clearly working so much harder than you are lol
posted by raw sugar at 2:10 PM on March 10, 2010

I think this article has some pretty good personal incentive. Particularly the latter half of it.
posted by sickinthehead at 3:12 PM on March 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I cater to my vanity by putting a laminated photo of Rosie the Riveter juxtaposed next to the Pussycat Dolls in my wallet.

Outside of gyms, I get off a few stops earlier on my commute on Friday and walk home.
posted by ayc200 at 4:52 PM on March 10, 2010

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