How do I gym?
December 16, 2016 1:59 PM   Subscribe

I’m going to start going to the gym again and I’m looking for hacks on how to simplify this and integrate it into my routine. Married, no kids, one dog, Mon-Fri 9-5 job. One location of this gym is 10 minutes away from home; a couple locations are on the way to work. I’m looking for advice on things to do, think, change, or even buy that will help me remove any friction in getting to the gym on a regular basis. I want to build motivating, long-term habits--what helps you?
posted by jroybal to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
If you can afford it, paying for overnight locker & laundry service simplifies matters a lot. All you have to do is remember to physically show up. No worrying about bags, stinky workout clothes, etc.
posted by praemunire at 2:07 PM on December 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I find having dedicated times works a lot more than just going whenever you feel like it. Pick a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Mine is tues/thurs/sun at 6. It helps me a lot that I have a friend who goes at those times as well. I just go home from work, change, and go immediately after. No sitting on the couch for 5 min, otherwise I won't get up.
posted by monologish at 2:11 PM on December 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I know that if I go home after work and sit down, I ain't makin it to the gym. So going straight from work is clutch for me. I bring gym clothes to work because I'm too cheap to pay for a locker but if you can do it, get a locker. Also having designated gym days/times.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 2:12 PM on December 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have a locker at mine and it helps a LOT. Contains: outfit, towels, moisturizer, shampoo/conditioner/soap, sneakers/socks, water bottle, hair ties.

Other things

- all the stuff at the gym is GYM stuff, not stuff I need in my day to day life
- best toiletries are at the gym encouraging me to go there
- I have an ipad I bring to the gym (which has wifi) and that is the only place I watch certain TV shows. Those shows are also the length of a good workout.
- I have a bag that is just for the gym which has my gym ID, carries my ipad and had headphones and an emergency power bar just in case
- I swap out my gym clothes every other visit more or less and I bring home those clothes and replace them in my gym bag when I put them in the wash. So as I take the socks out for the wash I put new socks in the bag even if I'm not headed to the gym
- I use a habit app to encourage me to go
- I have a partner who is also trying to create a gym habit and we psyche each other up into going (or are supportive if we don't manage to do it)

When I was tracking calories it was really motivational to log all my workouts. You can think about what might be motivating to you.
posted by jessamyn at 2:15 PM on December 16, 2016 [10 favorites]

Yeah, I go straight after work or straight after something else outside the house. For me, the key hack is have my gym be really close to the other place where I'm going, like (city context) within two blocks.

I also tell myself that I can do whatever kind of exercise I want, once I'm there and suited up.

Another thing that helps me is finding a class I really like. That's motivating for showing up regularly at a certain time.
posted by the_blizz at 2:15 PM on December 16, 2016

first things first: you need to figure out if you are a morning gym person, a lunchtime gym person, a post-work gym person, or an evening (after dinner) gym person. each has its own excellent merits and hideous flaws, but the main issue will be which one you are not only willing to stick to reliably but which one you will enjoy the most.

this will depend on whether you prefer the gym crowded and energetic or emptier and quieter, whether you can stand to get up an hour earlier every day or lose an hour's downtime after work/in the evening, or eat a hurried lunch at your desk while working because you used up your free time at the gym. what works for all of us here in the comments may not be ideal for you personally and you won't know until you really truly try all potential options for at least a week.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:19 PM on December 16, 2016 [8 favorites]

I like to listen to audiobooks at the gym. Then I have to return to find out what happens next.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:28 PM on December 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Going during lunch is pretty great if you can swing it. I generally think it's best to pick a gym closer to work, not home.
posted by cakelite at 2:28 PM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Enough proper, comfortable workout clothing to last a week's work of workouts without needing to do laundry.
posted by florencetnoa at 2:39 PM on December 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I wear a t-shirt and sneakers to work, so ymmv, but I just pack shorts in my bag on gym day, always carry a padlock in my bag, work out in my work t-shirt and sneakers and socks, and then clean up at home. My workout is free weights and treadmill and I don't care if I'm there in black non-gym socks.
posted by zippy at 2:57 PM on December 16, 2016

The thing that worked for me was to sign up with my workplace's get fit program, which set a goal of minutes per week (starting at 120 and working up to 300 over the course of 3 months). Having this thing that I got to log my minutes into, and a team of people whose totals I needed to contribute to, this was enough external motivation to help me overcome the choice between spending 45 minutes doing something vs getting home 45 minutes earlier.

Nthing the suggestion to figure out what time works for you - I'm an after-work person, because that allows me to not care about showers/towels/etc and just go home. But everybody's different.

Also Nthing the suggestion of finding some form of media you want to consume - audio books, ebooks, tv shows, etc - and forbidding yourself from consuming it except while on a bike/treadmill/elliptical/etc.
posted by aimedwander at 3:01 PM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I pack my bag and layout my clothes the night before (I do morning gym currently). Then there is no question in the morning: only workout clothes are available for me to put on and my clothes for the day are in my gym bag.

Totally agree with Obscure Reference. I enjoy working out right after work better, but love it when I get my workout "out-of-the-way" first thing in the morning, so end up doing that more often. I've done the lunch-time one for a period of time, but that requires about 90 minutes (workout, shower and eat) so ends up being too much of an interruption.

Also, be aware that the first week of January will have a huge number of "extra" people in the gym. They will be gone in a few weeks when they get distracted from their resolution. Hang tight through that period: it will clear out.
posted by chiefthe at 3:26 PM on December 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Dogwalker on the days you go to the gym so you can go straight from work if you can swing it. For years I traded with my neighbor.

Pack your bag when you get home for the next trip then either put it back in your car or hang it by the door on a special hook.

Have a schedule, write it down and if you miss a day make it up.
posted by fshgrl at 3:59 PM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh and for me the gym is for lifting thing and the dog is for cardio. I ski and run and trail bike with the dog since I have to walk her anyway. Or I bike to work for extra cardio since its not far and doesn't take much longer. I tend to think of cardio in the gym as a "waste" of my precious indoor time.
posted by fshgrl at 4:03 PM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

My gym is between my house & work, and I go 3 days a week (M/W/F) before work. I keep a gym bag packed so all I have to do gym days is get up & leave the house. If I don't go to the gym, I make coffee, check my email, have a little breakfast, and end up getting to work at the same time. The big things that make this work: I don't get up any earlier to go to the gym (but I get to work at the same time - go figure!) and I only have to make one decision, before I'm even awake. When I'm feeling really crappy, I'll tell myself, OK, I'll just go in, and use the hot tub & the spa. But by the time I get there I figure, sure, I can do a few laps. And I end up doing my regular routine.
posted by mr vino at 4:47 PM on December 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Partner partner partner. Even having a trainer is not as motivating as having a person you know and like and don't want to disappoint. Your partner can also do form checks and, if you're at roughly the same level, provide some friendly competition.
posted by wnissen at 5:01 PM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

seconding fshgrl, although i don't know if this works where you are (particularly if it's winter), in that i find cardio a lot more fun outside (in my case, on a bike). gym is short and focussed; cardio is part of something that is its own reward. i alternate days between the two, with one rest day a week between "leg day" at the gym and cycling again.
posted by andrewcooke at 5:22 PM on December 16, 2016

Suck it up and pay for a gym with convenient location(s), which it sounds like you are doing - good job. I like the suggestions for getting a long-term locker. If that's not feasible or you don't feel like paying for it monthly (and if you're using multiple locations, it might not be practical), get at least one gym bag that has everything you need in it - shirt, socks, shoes, shorts, headphones, toiletries, etc. A lock. Preferably have 2 such bags if you take a different car to work sometimes - I leave my bag in the trunk. Then you don't need any additional preparation on gym day.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 7:41 PM on December 16, 2016

My gym runs classes, which are free, but if you sign up for one you have to pay £3 if you miss it.

I find scheduling a timer to remind me to book the classes works, because clicking "book" is no effort and then I kind of have to go.

What it boils down to is having a commitment, either that you're meeting a friend or that you're booked in for something. You can make that commitment when you have plenty of initiative and when it comes to the time it's more of an effort to cancel than to go.
posted by larkery at 6:16 AM on December 17, 2016

When I was going to the gym regularly, I went to work 3 times a week in my gym clothes, with my work clothes and a bag of toiletries with me. I'd go straight to the gym, which was 5 mins from my office, puff away for the allotted amount of time, then shower and go to work. Going to work in gym clothes means you have to change before you go into work anyway. So I might as well actually do something at the gym. Another advantage of working out in the morning is that you rarely have conflicting engagements in the morning, whereas in the evening a friend may want to meet up for a drink, etc.

Speaking as someone with no willpower to speak of, the worst thing I could do was pick a gym time that involved going home or into the office first, then leaving again to go to the gym. So for me I could never have gone to the gym during my lunch hour, or gone home, changed into my gym clothes, and then gone to the gym that was 10 minutes from my home. Once you're comfortably indoors, it's so easy to come up with excuses - "Oh, it's so cold out", "Five more minutes... oh whoops, too late now" etc. I always had to make sure I went to the gym on my way to somewhere else, so I would have been going in that direction anyway.

Right now, I don't go to the gym but work with a trainer. I've scheduled our sessions for first thing in the morning so all I have to do is roll out of bed into my workout clothes and he's there. There's never any possibility of having conflicting engagements first thing in the morning so that's one less excuse for me to cancel.

I'm not saying any of this will specifically work for you. The key is to really know yourself, know what makes you tick. As a lazy person with a penchant for making excuses, I really had to make sure my gym routine involved as little opportunity for skiving off as possible.

Things that made my gym routine easier: Gym bag, microfibre towel, mini toiletry bottles to keep all my post-gym shower stuff in, water bottle, lovingly curated gym playlist.

first things first: you need to figure out if you are a morning gym person, a lunchtime gym person, a post-work gym person, or an evening (after dinner) gym person. each has its own excellent merits and hideous flaws, but the main issue will be which one you are not only willing to stick to reliably but which one you will enjoy the most.

posted by poffin boffin at 2:19 PM on December 16

posted by Ziggy500 at 8:05 AM on December 17, 2016

In contrast to what others have suggested (about setting a routine & sticking to it) I prefer to change it up from time to time.

Lunchtime workouts are convenient, but I find them to be very rushed. By the time you've changed before & after, and showered after, you only have about half an hour for your workout unless your office doesn't mind you taking 1.5 to 2 hour lunchbreaks.

Evening workouts you can linger at your own pace, but it can be very tempting just to go home or out with friends or dates etc and skip the gym.

Morning workouts are probably the best for setting a routine. Just wake up, gobble down some breakfast for fuel, and get out the door. That's what I'm doing now, but part of that is because it's summer here and the sun rises about 6am & wakes me up. In winter I'd be much more likely to favour the evening.

Decide for yourself whether you prefer to partner, do group classes or train solo. Many people feel more motivated if training with a friend or a regular group class.

I prefer solo, but that's because I love listening to podcasts while training. That works for both weights & cardio, but obviously not for group classes. You could also read (eg on a Kindle) on most cardio machines, but not conveniently if lifting weights.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:44 PM on December 17, 2016

If you don't use public transit Mon-Fri, then you can do what I once did and keep two plastic storage bins in your car - 1 for your stash of clean gym clothes/towels and 1 for any dirty workout or office clothes you come out of the gym with. I also kept several pairs of workout shoes (some for lifting days, some for running, shoes cleats for spinning, a yoga mat... That way, I was pretty much ready for a workout any time of day.
posted by phreckles at 3:18 AM on December 18, 2016

My gym is 10" away also. And I have found since around my 40's that without a morning workout I feel lethargic and unmotivated all day. I have a family so after-work workouts are not an option (or they are, but i choose to be available after work). I found it took me a few months, but eventually I was able to just keep a gym bag full of a weeks workout clothes in the car, and go on the way to work. Now I go and come home and leave with my kid for school then work by 7 am. Which means being up by 5 am.

It can sound crazy to be up at 430 or 5 am but as you age you'll find there's no other time where you are truly able to call your own shots. And you will also find that exercise is really the only way not to feel lousy as you age.

And experiment with eating. There is good evidence that you don't need food before a workout, and in fact a cup of coffee may be the best pre-workout routine.

And keep in mind you don't need to be in there for an hour. Many days I am in and out in under 30 min including a shower. Just be consistent.
posted by docpops at 8:29 PM on December 20, 2016

There is good evidence that you don't need food before a workout

i almost passed out at the gym (hypoglycaemia; not diabetic) and ended up seeing a lot of doctors as a consequence. every doctor i talked to was incredulous that i had gone (first thing in the morning) without eating. they were unanimous in saying that i must eat before going.

mayo clinic: If you exercise in the morning, get up early enough to finish breakfast at least one hour before your workout. [...] If you plan to exercise within an hour after breakfast, eat a light breakfast or drink something such as a sports drink.

australian sports commission: If you train early in the morning you should opt for a light snack about an hour before exercise.
posted by andrewcooke at 7:18 AM on December 21, 2016

Building a regular schedule is a necessity for me, and having people I'm supposed to meet there helps. The tricky part always feels like getting back on the schedule if something - work, illness, family in town - knocks me off of it.

I'm naturally a night person, but putting the workouts in the morning is the only time fully under my own control. (I have a two year old, work, my wife likes dinner at a time that doesn't give me enough time to workout right after work, and so on.)

For the gym, it always seemed like there were cardio folks, exercise machine devotees, people who took the classes, and the people who lifted free weights (barbells, dumbbells). I have fallen off all of those wagons, but find free weights the *quickest* way to workout where I feel I keep improving over time.

Specifically? I go with Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 program. I do a single, fairly heavy exercise for a few minutes, optionally do one or two other exercises, and then go home. I do that 4-7 days a week, but since it only takes 20 minutes... that makes it very, very easy to get back to it when I fall out of the routine, because it's Only 20 Minutes.

(For the four lifts that Wendler advises, it helps to find someone to teach them, or someone to review your form so you don't wind up injured. Heavy weights done wrong => no bueno.)
posted by talldean at 8:09 AM on December 23, 2016

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