Getting My Health in Order, Part IV: Exercise

11th January 2011

If you’re just joining us, we’re talking about getting my health in shape, which is on my life list. Here’s Part I where I outline the obstacles, and Part II where I advocate for acupuncture, Part III is an ode to my teeth (Also, check out all the tips in the comments of this post on overcoming fear of the dentist. Nice!). Please join us for this installment of My Body Thinks My Joints are a Disease, wherein I outline my aversion to exercise.

Let’s talk about the gym. Yes, let’s. Go get a pint of ice cream and meet me back here.

Now. Say you’re hurting and feeling fat. OK! Let’s put on some shorts and go somewhere public. Great. Are there lots of men here? Perfect. Now do something that makes you sweat. You’re all sweaty? Now stop, lay down on the floor, and contort yourself in ways so lewd you would blush to adopt similar positions while having actual intercourse. Great, great. See how every man in the room is openly gawking at you? Ignore that. Consult your copy of Kama Sutra and assume the next position in your floor mat routine.

So motivational, right? I know!

I Have Not, Historically, Enjoyed Exercise

Until the last six months or so, I’ve never understood people who like the gym. I mean I thought they were maybe a different species, in that I could never mate with one. When my weight, and later my health, made it necessary for me to get off the couch, I just… didn’t want to. It ran counter to my self image.

I did it anyway, but mostly whimpered while exercising and slept afterward. This is perhaps because my body was storing toxins in my muscles that were released when I moved in new ways. Or perhaps because I was weak like a hairless mewling kitten. Aside from acupuncture though, building the muscles around my joints has had the greatest impact on my day to day life. It mostly started with Tracy Andersen.

Exercise DVDs

If you don’t like the gym, but you can manage a bit of self discipline, I recommend exercise DVDs. I’ve come to love Tracy Andersen, despite the rocky start to our relationship:

“The next part of the abdominal series is the piking series,” Tracy Anderson says. What? Oh, it’s on Tracy Anderson. Through this section, I punish you by whimpering in disapproval. “This is the most difficult series for the abs” Tracy Anderson continues. I whack my right hand against a miniature xylophone, and glare at Tracy Anderson through narrowed eyes. Her tiny dancer body still fits entirely within my millimeter of vision. I stub my left toe on an abandoned Tonka truck. My millimeter of vision begins to swim.

Tracy is Gwenyth Paltrow’s trainer (free video clip). The videos are low impact, and really focus on strength:

I had resolved to try it for seven straight days, but by the second day I couldn’t rise from a reclined position. I also couldn’t hold my head upright, and my tongue felt all achy. I stopped after the second workout in self defense, but a strange thing happened, dear reader. As my stomach fibers began to recongeal, I could see a difference! After two workouts! Bryan concurs that I am not hallucinating.

After this year, I can make it through the post-partum DVD and her mat workout. That’s because last year I finally figured out how to convince myself to exercise regularly. Here’s how.

Self Discipline

As I mentioned above, exercise isn’t social for me; I prefer to keen on my hands and knees in the privacy of my own home. Also, getting to and from the gym eats up a lot of time. Unfortunately, the routine of the gym really helps me stick with regular exercise.

I desperately needed some self discipline, so last year I put a chart up on my wall — really it was just a small sheet of grid paper with a square for every day of the year. I decided I would move, at home, for 15 minutes each day and then check a box off when I did. I chose 15 minutes because it seemed like the bare minimum. Not doing it was the same as admitting I wasn’t willing to do anything at all.

The truth is, many days I’m not willing. On those days, I put a dot on the square I skip, and continue filling in boxes after it. Here’s my current chart, complete with typo, and a severe lack of motivation in the last few weeks:

But! I will eventually fill in all those dotted squares, I promise. Here’s the trick.

If I do an hour-long exercise DVD at home, which is what I often do, I get to check off three boxes — that day’s, plus two days I’ve skipped or two days I want to bank. That means, instead of punishing myself for skipping days, I just let myself make them up guilt free, as long as I do a few minutes more work than I’d have done otherwise. If I do an hour of something like walking, which doesn’t really get my heart rate up, I let myself check off two boxes.

Last year I went from sitting on the couch to working out about three times a week.


Well, obviously I have muscles I didn’t have before. The first time I could hold a plank position for more than five seconds, I was completely shocked. That’s been the biggest surprise for me, the sense of accomplishment when I see evidence that I’m getting stronger.

As for the pain, exercise reminds my body that I need it, and so far my body is rising to the challenge. If I don’t exercise, my knees, hips, and shoulders start issuing death threats. If I do exercise, they stop complaining after a few workouts, which is a pretty good deal.

I had non-injury related surgery on my knee when I was 25, and the plan is to avoid doing that again. So I’m choosing to exercise in hopes of maintaining my ability to walk until I’m 100 or so. And if fifteen minutes a day keeps the wheelchair away, that’s some excellent motivation.

Next, we’ll talk about what I’ve been eating. In the meantime, I’d like to hear your tricks for convincing yourself to exercise.

92 thoughts on “Getting My Health in Order, Part IV: Exercise

  1. agirlandaboy

    These days it’s easy to exercise because it’s the quickest way to get warm in our very old, very uninsulated 1912 Craftsman house. The trick will be to stay motivated when it’s no longer 45 degrees indoors…

  2. tessa

    Before I started grad school, I was a nanny and had free time after 6 pm every week day and went to the gym most evenings Monday through Thursday. Thanks to the helpful machinery that counts things for you there, I would write down miles ran / calories burned / steps climbed. I liked to get competitive one week or month to the next, and I especially liked adding up my year-to-date totals. I would do the same thing running outside by tracking my routes on Google Maps and adding up the miles. Sometimes I would build in rewards – like a new pair of fancy running pants, expensive jeans, or a massage after 50 or 100 miles, depending on how much I needed some more motivation.
    Ah, but since I started grad school, my exercise regimen has seriously declined (I go running maybe twice a month now). I’m holding out on jump-starting in May when I graduate…but I’m also looking forward to inspiring suggestions that just may convince me to begin something regular earlier than that.
    Thanks for the great posts, Maggie!

  3. jessicookie

    I definitely recommend exercise DVDs–they are the only option where I can’t say, “Oh, not today, it’s raining,” or, “It’s too late, the gym is closed.” The living room is always open and temperature-controlled.

    On days when I’m really not interested, I cut myself some slack and exercise at a really low intensity. We bought a used elliptical on craigslist, so I’ll just walk for a while with the TV on. No puffing and sweating, just enough to get my heart rate elevated a little. Exercising at low intensity is really good for your heart, too (it improves its efficiency when you keep it about 120 beats per minute, which is far from a max heart rate).

  4. Ange

    I make myself go to classes (although lately I’ve been canceling/skipping). I find that actually going to a class is more motivating than slogging it out on the treadmill by myself (but I have had to treadmill it lately too). Also? Friends. Making plans with friends is hugely motivating.

  5. Sarah N.

    I don’t work out. I don’t run. I don’t go to the gym. I’m with you, Maggie, I just can’t do it.

    However, since last summer, I’ve found myself at the gym one day a week, almost without fail. Why? Zumba. Zumba is a high-low latin-dance-inspired interval class. It’s a like a latin dance club and a step-aerobics DVD had some hot, sweaty sex and created a calorie-busting, booty-shaking baby.

    Even though I hate the gym and don’t “work out”, I’m the type of person who, given the opportunity, will dance until my feet fall off. The last wedding I went to, strangers were asking the bride and groom about “the dancing girl” (not even kidding). Zumba taps into my love of dancing (however uncoordinated I may appear). I found an instructor that I adore, and I go once a week. Even if I can’t figure out a treadmill and don’t touch weight machines, I go dance once a week. The instructors are trained so it’s not just dancing, it’s a series of steps and routines that are designed to keep your heart rate going and to tone your muscles. And I LOVE it.

    Everyone always says that you need to find something you love, and really, it’s true. I have been going since July, and I love it. Next up: trying the Zumba for Wii to see if I can do it at home, too.

  6. Katie

    I love this series! I am a kindred spirit in the dental department and it’s great to read about the changes you have made. I have been trying to make some changes to my activity level this year. I started doing the couch potato to 5K training program right after Thanksgiving. I go with my husband to the gym and we both run, but not together. I also meet a friend there, so it’s like double accountability. We run on an indoor track and it’s nice to just move my body in a warm place, since it’s super-cold winter where I live. I have two boys and they run with us too sometimes or play with their friends while we run and walk.

    I also discovered Yoga Today videos that you can download or stream and I think they are really well-done and effective. I alternate yoga and running days and I find myself looking forward to the next morning when it’s a yoga day.

  7. Becky

    This made me cry. I’ve been struggling my entire life with my weight because of my lack of exercise. I just hate it. I do. People say I couldn’t possibly hate all exercise but I do. You add to it my need to be the very best exerciser to ever have exercised and I fail quite easily. Feeling like a failure is never motivating. Reading about your struggles with exercise and how you set yourself up for success got to me. If you can do it 15 minutes at a time, maybe I can too.

  8. Zoe

    I too am traditionally exercise-adverse, but have just started Bikram yoga and I love it! It’s done wonders for my carpal tunnel, achy hips and holiday pudge, plus it’s all about mind exercise, too, and I think ties in nicely with acupuncture. Highly, highly recommended.

  9. Rachel

    I’m horrible at exercising… but I definately need to start exercising regularly. When I do exercise – usually riding a stationary bike – I make myself stay for the length of a podcast. I find a really interesting podcast to keep myself interest. If my mind isn’t focused on how much longer or how long I’ve been doing the task, the time passes much quicker.

    I really like your idea of 15 minutes per time and paying yourself back for days missed or paying yourself forward for future lazy days. I think I might impliment that.

  10. Nora

    Buena Vista park + two small dogs who won’t take “let’s not climb that staircase today” for an answer. It’s all that stands between me and utter sloth.

  11. Sassafras Mama

    My motivation for working out is that it’s my primary means of fighting off depression. Meds have never worked for me, but working out does keep the dark thoughts at bay. The added benefit of feeling healthy and strong is also nice. After burning through 2 elliptical machines at home, I finally joined a gym. I do like a gym, because I love the fancy equipment.

    I run 3-4 miles 4-5 times a week, usually using an elliptical. I’ve added strength training. I am by no means all skinny minnie, but I’m proud of being tough.

    When I take off more than 2 days in a row, I feel unhappy. So the gym is my prozac and I love it.

  12. Becky

    I started running 10 months ago, using a couch to 5k app. In the beginning, I did it because the app said I should. It’s a 9 week program, and I figured I could do what I was told for that long.

    After that, it became something of a habit. Not a habit I liked, but one that I felt bad about if I missed. I’m also a huge fan of keeping track: my weight, time and mileage. If for some reason my iPod doesn’t record a distance, I almost feel like it didn’t happen. I’ve recently added a few days of Jillian Michael’s Shred, and I also use it to replace bad weather days.

    Even though no one reads or keeps track, I post my results on Twitter and blog weekly. I pretend like someone would care if I gave up.

    I won’t lie, weight loss is a motivator, too, although no a good one since I’ve been working out for 10 months and have only lost 3 of my 10 pound goal. I console myself by searching for muscles that may have never before seen the glow of the sun through my skin.

  13. ame

    i joined a crossfit gym after wasting a pre-paid year long Y membership. I literally went 4 times in that year – $100 per visit – not smart. now, i love crossfit and go at least 3 times a week. a few months into it and i can left heavy weights over my head, run faster and farther than i thought i wanted to, and i’m really close to doing a pull-up unassisted! i didn’t know i wanted to be able to do these things – i just knew that i needed something motivational to help me get active and stronger. this is doing it for me. strong people are harder to kill and generally more useful. i want to be strong and now i know what works for me!

  14. Kat

    Oh man, this hits close to home. I just bought almost all new clothes so that I wouldn’t have to exercise to fit into my old ones.

    Sad, sad, sad.

    15 minutes a day doesn’t sound so very terrible. I have dogs to walk and stairs to climb.

  15. avb

    I don’t go to a gym either. I walk or run along the Hudson River path. Since I never know what the weather is going to be like, I walk 2-3 miles every day, telling myself I have to save up miles for the day it rains. Or snows. Also, if I run instead of walk, I will only do 1 1/2 miles. If I choose to walk, it’s a minimum of two miles. Once a week I go to a boxing gym and work out my arms. Nothing crazy, just some bag punching and drills, just so I remember how to lift my arms higher than computer keyboard height.

  16. Abby-Wan Kenobi

    I love your redemption system. That would totally allow me to not feel like an utter failure at working out.

    In college I used to work out in the mornings – I’m not really a morning person, but I felt good in that routine. I usually didn’t have anywhere to be before 8:30 or 9am so it wasn’t too painful.

    Now I have to be at my job by 7am and not look like a homeless person, so my morning workout doesn’t really fit. My new strategy (which kind of works) is to do relaxing or healing yoga a few nights a week. I can do it at home late in the evening without ruining my sleep (or social life) and it really helps with the stress I bring home from the office. It doesn’t raise my heartrate much, but I’m on my feet most of the day so I burn plenty of calories, I just have no muscles.

    I get my yoga tapes off of Netflix Instant. They tend to rotate the options, but there’s a whole fitness section where (if you are already a Netflix user) you can try out the vids for free.

  17. carly

    i go through fits and starts with exercise– sometimes I’m super dedicated, three days a week. sometimes, getting up to find the remote seems like too much effort. but last year i began working from home and I just felt like a lump. I used to at least walk to the train, walk to my office, and then repeat that to get home. home based? i walk to the fridge. to get another snack. so when i actually started to feel like a lump with back pain, i signed up for a package at my local yoga studio. I knew that if I didn’t go once a week, I would be losing 15 dollars a week. I hate losing money, so this was a strangely effective way to get me out. It has been working so far, both in getting me to exercise and in feeling better physically.

    Love this series. get my health in order is on my 2011 list.

  18. Margot

    Maggie, I think your point about finding the MINIMUM that you’re capable of putting forth is key. A thing that is most basic and accessible and gets you over the hurdle of going from the “nothing” column to the “something” column. For my Mother, it was a Fitbit. But it’s the first, biggest step. And you SHOULD make it easy on yourself.

    I started with 20 minutes of running or walking every other day for two weeks. By then the results were already so blinding I just couldn’t continue to ignore them. Namely, with my anxiety & insomnia, because working out makes me sleep like a passed-out frat boy. Now I feel like the excuses (wrong weather, no time, too annoying) are easier to bypass because I am a tattered mess if I don’t make myself do it anyway. I can’t afford NOT to anymore.

  19. Amanda

    I am currently in a ton of pain, when I allow myself to admit it, I know with 100% certainty it is that I have not done any restorative core work since having 3 daughters in 4 years. I look great but the strength of my abs is weaker than cotton candy.

    Sigh. Must overcome the pain and realize that it is the working out that will make me feel better, not the couch.

  20. Tina

    I, too, can relate to this. Growing up I was short-sighted, uncoordinated and completely bookish – no team sports for me! Which meant no exercise for me either, until in my twenties I discovered Les Mills fitness classes.

    I started off with BODYCOMBAT, which is martial-arts based. I loved all the kicking and punching – great stress relief, and made me feel kinda like a ninja.

    Then I fell in love with BODYBALANCE, which is a mix of yoga, tai chi and pilates. At the end of an hour I felt like I’d strengthened my whole body, ironed out all the kinks and was left feeling calm and energised at the same time. (Bonus – this class includes a relaxation at the end. They actually make you lie down and rest for 10 minutes!)

    I loved it so much I actually became an instructor, and now this short-sighted bookish girl gets up onstage twice a week to teach other people. I can’t even begin to express how revolutionary this has been for me – I never expected to do this in a million years. Now it’s one of the best things I do.

    I’m not alone in loving these classes – they’re done in 13,000 gyms around the world.

  21. Catriona

    Well, I’m sort of a gym junkie. That helps :) I have a monthly planner in which I keep track of what I’ve been doing, exercise-wise, so I’m accountable if I’ve been slacking off. It’s easiest to motivate myself, though, if I’m training for a race or if I’m going to a class – I *love* spin classes. It’s so cold outside right now that I can rarely drag myself out for a run, so I’ll probably register for an upcoming 10k or half marathon so that I’ll have to run anyway.

  22. Ms. Huis Herself

    You’re one of my exercise inspirations, Maggie! Your Life List gave me a kick in the pants – I’ve always wanted to run a 5K, and after my friend did the Couch-to-5K program and ran in one, and I saw your Life List, well, I put it on mine. (Actually, I put on to run a 5K BEFORE I turn 40… and as another item, to run one AFTER I do.) So I started last February & ran in my town’s 5K in July. And then I ran in another local one in October!

    So, between running outside to music when it’s nice and watching Buffy (up to season 3, ep 6!) or TV while running on the treadmill when it’s not, I’ve been running pretty regular 2-3x a week for almost a year now! Thanks, Maggie, for the inspiration & also for these posts, too!

  23. Megan G.

    The ideas of losing weight, losing fat or changing my body do not motivate me, and, in fact, make me feel like I’ve failed before I’ve even begun.

    I do know, however, that it’s important for me on a near-daily basis to heat up my own internal furnace. That sounds kind of dirty when I type it out, but hey, that image works for me, and I do not want to question it. The concept of losing weight is too tied in with the punishing/deprivation part of my brain, while the idea of getting stronger and become more capable, and, the now kind of embarrassing furnace metaphor, inspire me in an “I’m taking control of my body” kind of way.

  24. eliza

    Grew up HATING all exercise. I have the same colouring as you, and I was the palest person I’ve ever seen. Things changed about five years ago when I met (and am now marrying) a man who lives on his bike and is one of the fittest people I’ve ever met. Not surprisingly, that’s made a difference to my fitness!

    I’ve found that the trick for me is that I have to be *going somewhere*. Exercising for the sake of exercise, despite the fact that I know it has a point, always feels utterly pointless. But if I’m getting on my bike to go somewhere? Well, I actually need to keep going, don’t I, to get to where I’m going, so I can’t pike out after five minutes and sit on the couch. At first riding my bike terrified me – I couldn’t stop picturing myself with horrific injuries. But you pass that point eventually, and it becomes fun! Last week we did a 50km bike ride together, and my body didn’t even hurt the next day. (I was so proud.)

    Also, running and pilates. I don’t do much running but I try to make myself do a couple of k when it’s a nice day, because we live by the beach. And pilates just makes me feel strong and happy and relaxed, and more toned than I’ve ever been.

  25. Jenn

    The thing that has really worked for me is the social aspects of the gym- once I got over my self-conscious fears, I found that I really enjoy classes and have made some incredible friends in them. Regardless of how tired I am, I’m at 3 or more classes a week simply because I’d really like to see my friends. I’ve found gym people to be some of the most accepting and encouraging people I know- they’re just as proud of me for my successes as I am, no matter how small they might be.

  26. Sara

    I just finally got into exercise, after baby #2, and one of the main reasons was for the alone time. I know how sad that sounds. Now, though, the lovely alone time is also making me feel better mentally and then the weight loss and increase in energy are snowballing to make me crave those 3 nights a week at the Community Center. I’m never going to be thin, I no longer aspire to thinness, but man do I love feeling healthy – mentally & physically.

  27. jennifluff

    I’m a hyper lady. If I don’t exercise, things go very badly for me and everyone else who has to share space with me. I used to teach a yoga/pilates class, and nothing motivates you to work out like getting paid. But my class was canceled (boo) so I’m back to my own devices for working out.

    I have a stationary bike, and just found that if I plant it in front of the TV and put in an episode of Mad Men, I’m a pretty happy camper. Or biker, if you will.

    I really enjoy walking with my best friend…because we’re both trying to save money, we’ve replaced lunch/coffee dates with long walks because they’re free and we get to feel all good about ourselves on all fronts when we’re done.

  28. Allison

    My husband and I share a car and since he works out of town, I am stuck having to figure out how to get to and from work in a city with an inefficient bus system…

    So I bought a bike!! I ride 6 miles a day at about 12 mph which I learned burns about 400 calories. Now that’s not a lot but it’s a start!
    I guess that my motivation for exercise is that I need to get to work and I don’t want to buy another car.

  29. Elizabeth Louros

    I have always exercised. I have done different things at different times in my life. Now I go do weight training three times a week, go to yoga class about three or four times a week, and run about 8 miles. On the weekend I hike and ride my bike. Sometimes I don’t want to exercise but knowing it my body toned gets me there.

  30. kate

    BIG GOALS. My motivation was my life-list dream to run a marathon. Two years ago (at the age of 44), I announced (after several glasses of wine ahem) to a table of friends that I was going to run a marathon. Nevermind that I hadn’t run at all in YEARS. Over the next few days, I told EVERYONE I knew, so that I would be held accountable. At first I couldn’t run a mile without stopping to walk. Nine months later I ran 26.2 miles in the Portland Marathon.

    Find an exercise you love (don’t worry about what other people do that works; YOU have to love it or you won’t stick with it). They say it takes six weeks to form a habit, so just keep doing it, no matter how little you can do at first. *Gradually* increase your distance/time and soon you’ll be hooked on improving. It is so, so worth it!

  31. sugarleg

    Duke and Rocco, my two 75 pound Golden Retrievers. those cheery haircovered beasts are way more fun when they are entirely exhausted, and the only way to achieve this is by running. so about two and a half years ago, I officially became a runner. I am now FORTY and my body looks like that of a 25 year old.

    so yeah, also, vanity is an excellent motivator.

    keep up the good work Maggie!

  32. greta

    I’ve always, always hated intentional exercise, especially gyms. I never minded going for walks or other more passive exercise, but rarely actually did it. Needless to say I’ve gained a few pounds each year since my mid-20s, and it shows. I tried the DVDs and Wii-based exercise games, but really just didn’t have the personal motivation or self-discipline to do it regularly. After my father in law died of a sudden heart attack (in our living room!) last April, I got the motivation I needed to get my health in check. I’m still working on the Dr’s appts, which I’m also behind on, but I did start going to a gym regularly. For me, the key was finding a gym that didn’t totally intimidate me or gross me out. They can be very different. Our gym has a very low-key, all ages clientele, and honestly even when I started I was in better shape than half the people there. I never felt like anyone was staring at me, which is important. There are 3 sources of motivation that have worked for me:

    1) I go with a friend, so I know that someone is expecting me to be there, and since it’s a very chatty friend it makes the time there go by much more quickly. When she’s there, I can easily spend an hour getting vigorous exercise, and enjoy it. Most of the time I barely notice I’m exercising. (I really notice when she’s absent.)

    2) Now that I’ve been doing it for 6 months, I’m definitely seeing results. It took a few months, which was discouraging, but now not only am I stronger, I look better. My clothes are looser, my face is thinner, and I just feel… healthier. Seeing results is good motivation to keep at it. Now that I know it works, I want to keep it up. I’d like to get back to the size I was when I was 22. I’ve lost 15 pounds, but I have another 20 or so to go. They’re not going to disappear on their own.

    3) I’m a stay at home mom, so I try to go when my daughter is with me. Winter days can be long when we’re home together, so it gives us both a break from each other – she has fun in the kid’s room there, and I get to have an hour or two to myself. It’s basically childcare that I’ve already paid for, so I might as well take advantage of it! Making it part of my routine has made it easy to go even when my friend can’t, and my daughter enjoys going to play and do her “exercises” too. Bonus: I get to feel like I’m setting a good example for her.

    Thanks for sharing your health trek with us, I’ve found it very inspirational. I don’t have any longstanding health issues, but I’ve been neglecting my own health pretty much since my daughter was born – I was working, my husband was finishing his PhD, and everything was just so crazy and overwhelming. Now that things have settled down a bit I’m trying to get back on track, but once you get behind it feels pretty overwhelming! Reading about your struggles has helped me approach this as a process, one at a time – I have an ob/gyn appt this week, and once that’s done I’m going to try to make appts with the primary care and chiropractor too.

  33. Allison

    Also, is it wrong to put “baby” on my motivation list?? I’m not terribly overweight but I have another 20-30 pounds to drop to be a healty BMI and I’d like to lose it before have a baby…

  34. Nell

    I find that if I stop thinking about it like exercise, and start thinking about it like “playing games,” it’s totally helpful. It’s way easier to play tennis with pals, challenge myself to HORSE, play tag with my dog, or just play catch with my sister. Admittedly, I like the gym, but “playing” is way more fun.

  35. Kristi

    I too have fought the idea of exercising and the gym. But now that I’m four years shy of my 40th birthday I realize I need to take control of my health. I’ve been trying out different exercise dvd’s through the library, hulu and youtube. On days that I don’t have much energy I can usually find a ten minute or low impact video online. This way I feel I’m doing something even if it’s not as intensive as other days.

  36. jillian

    Nia is an excellent technique, because it is cardiovascular exercise that emphasizes experiencing pleasure rather than pain. In Nia, you actively seek out the joy of movement, laughing while you dance, punch, kick, etc. It also has a mind/body component and can relieve stress and focus your attention on making mental and emotional, as well as physical changes in your life. I have always danced, but Nia has helped me to love my body a little bit more, which I would have thought an impossible feat. It’s pretty fabulous, (and there are hardly ever any men in class).

  37. dgm

    I think I’m a member of that weird species because I just love exercise and being active so very much. For whatever reason, I have always had this mindset, and goes way beyond wanting to look thin. It has more to do with the fact that the feeling of moving and using my body in ways that challenge it is absolutely exhilarating and empowering.

    Of course, some days I wake up and don’t want to exercise, so sometimes I’ll just take the day off, or sometimes I’ll just say to myself, “do X amount and that’s it.” After I do, I never ever feel worse; always better.

    For those who don’t love exercise but think they should, I suggest doing what you did–commit to something reasonable at least 4-5 times/week (otherwise you will make up constant excuses about why you can skip yet another day). Make your the goal the ACTION (i.e., an exercise DVD), not the number of pounds or inches lost. I’d also say to really think about the kind of movement that best suits you. For some, it’s dance. For others, yoga or home videos. Maybe it’s hula hooping or jumping on your kid’s trampoline, or maybe it’s a martial art. There are so many great possibilities.

  38. dina

    I’ve always *hated* exercise. It comes from hating sports, which hasn’t changed since I was the slowest and most uncoordinated kid in first-grade PE. Team, competition, speed = I’m on the nearest couch.

    But I’ve turned myself into an exerciser. How? How did this happen?

    * In college I started swimming laps. I love swimming laps. Peaceful, quiet, meditative, and solitary. Plus you can get out of breath, but not really sweaty.

    * Ten years ago I discovered Spinning Classes. I like bike riding, but sometimes the weather and the gear and my phobia of flat tires… Spinning is AWESOME! Loud rock’n’roll and a killer work-out. (Different from swimming in every way, esp. the sweaty part, but you have to have balance.)

    * At some point, with a lot of determination and frustration at my aging-and-weight-gaining body, I started running. The hardest activity to get used to. I think I turned 30 and suddenly my clothes from the previous summer didn’t fit, and I got pissed and jumped off the couch. Ten years later I still run, though I break no records for speed or distance. Half an hour is enough for a good self-pat on the back.

    By now, the guilt of not exercising is far worse than exercising. I’ve discovered that I’m grumpy on days that I don’t, and happy and proud on days that I did. I try to make it all about *that feeling* — not my weight, not how my clothes fit, not what my friends are (or aren’t) doing. I just want to be happy about who I am and what I do. Smug self-satisfaction or healthy confidence, either one, it’s working.

    And yes: Zumba is awesome!

  39. Kim

    No tricks, just vanity issues. My EX-boyfriend had an aversion to arm flab, which he referred to as dinner-lady arms. Nice, huh? Well, it stuck. Now, thanks to a perverse SPX workout, I’m rockin’ some nice guns!

  40. melissa

    My motivation is my own health and this unattractive belly I’ve now got going. I could blame the two children, but we all know that became untrue about two years ago. I recently began using’s Daily Plate to track my calories and exercise and we bought a treadmill right before Christmas so I could stop going to step class at the gym and work out at home. It’s more convenient, I do like doing it and I don’t feel like I’m neglecting my family to do it. I’d love to try Zumba though, it looks so fun, but I know I wouldn’t stick to the DVDs if I bought them. I will drop these 20 pounds and I will keep using the treadmill. I WILL not be embarrassed come pool time this summer. I refuse.

  41. swankette

    The only thing that consistently works for me is finding the money in the budget to hire a personal trainer that I see once every week or two.

    I instruct my trainer that the first thing they are to do every time we meet is ask how many times I’ve worked out in the interim. If it hasn’t been frequently enough and I don’t have a good excuse then they are to kick my ass extra-hard during that training session.

    This way when I’m having one of those days where I don’t feel like working out I ask myself “Am I so ill/tired/busy/whatever that skipping today’s workout will be worth the ass-kicking trainer will give me next time I see them?” And, frequently enough, I find the motivation to get the workout in.

  42. Kathleen

    Working out at home is definitely my style too. I have an elliptical machine and I have lots of yoga videos and I alternate between the to disciplines. I too have a time minimum: 20 min. What motivates me is it’s my “me” time. I can turn off my brain during yoga or watch DVR’d TV while on the elliptical. The other motivator for exercise is food. I cook and write cookbooks so, the longer I’m exercising the bigger plate of pasta or cake or glass of wine I can have!

  43. Becky

    1. I have a workout buddy, and we are committed to showing up to two classes together, same time every week.

    2. Classes — so much easier for me to feel like it’s out of my hands when I’m in a class, as opposed to relying on myself to get on the treadmill and punch it to 11

    3. On my online dating profile, I said I have a “firm Danish ass” (I wrote this well before firmness was achieved).. sounds silly, but this motivates me a LOT

    4. I do not focus on a single (or particular) day — whether it’s a success or failure, or whatever. I try to let the workouts get done without too much mental fanfare, because it takes a lot of workouts and a lot of time to pass before the effects get seen/felt.

    5. Mix it up. Zumba, step, pilates, yoga, walk, NIA. I get bored easily. In addition to my Y membership, I take yoga at an awesome-yet-expensive studio, with whom I barter flyer design for free classes. I am poor so this works for me.

  44. Sarah Berry

    I’m sorry to say that I have absolutely no tricks for exercising other than I know that I’ll be in less pain if I do it. Um, that being said, I haven’t done it in 5 months (the shame!).

    But I just wanted to add that I can relate so well to what you’re saying – I have a condition called Hypermobility Syndrome where the connective tissue around my spine is too loose and causes chronic pain unless I’m really good about exercising the small muscles.

    I’ve been wanting to try Tracy Anderson forever, so maybe your grown-up version of a sticker chart will do the trick!

  45. abby

    stop complaining or making excuses and state what you’re going to do about it.

    complaint: i’m a pretty committed runner, but even i had to admit i was schlepping around the same 3 miles and getting smushier.

    solution: so i hired a guy to provide a training program.

    complaint: i’m travel a lot and could easily slack.

    solution: the training guy makes me enter in all my workouts, including miles & time, on a website that i send to him every week. travel is no excuse.

    complaint: it’s too cold here to run outside.

    solution: cute new running clothes!

    complaint: i have no idea how far i’ve gone.

    solution: check out my new running watch.

    whatever your complaint about exercise is, commit to stating the solution as well.

  46. heather

    Just a quick “thank you” for doing this series about getting your health in order. It’s been at the top of my list as well for the last year or so, and I’m slowly (slowwlllyyy, I tell you) making progress. I loathe the gym, so I’m forever trying to figure out something that will allow me to get moving most days without making that dreaded trip. Loving this whole chart thing, and I’m going to give it a try. Thanks again! :)

  47. melissa

    Sleep was the first motivation for me. The more I exercise the better I sleep. I started burning off stress on the elliptical at the gym for 30 mins 3 times a week. No weights. No goal other than to actually fall asleep at night.

    Eventually I got bored and tried Zumba on a whim. New. Found. Love. Great work out, so much fun, and even just going once a week, I had people asking me how much weight I lost. Highly recommend a Zumba class.

  48. Michelle

    I do the three words thing. I think of three words to describe how I feel as I drive to the gym, usually: tired, stressed, cranky, etc. On the way home, I think of the three words and they have changed to: energized, happy, proud, clear-headed, etc. Always. Simple, but it keeps me going back for more.

  49. Jenny

    I do crossfit. It’s a really hard workout, but for the first time in my life I feel strong. I’m thin, and though I am pretty sporty, I always felt like I was weak. Not any more! The strength I’ve gained has kept me motivated to keep it up.

  50. jjzach

    A few years back a bunch of us started a walking for wellness program at work. It helped motivate all of us to walk at some point during the work day for however much time we could spare. This was especially great during the cold Boston winter when I have trouble motivating myself to be outside. My heart rate doesn’t get up high enough while I walk for it to be a true workout, but I find it is a great in addition to other forms of exercises in my life. A fresh air break during the work day actually helps my productivity.

    Also, several years ago I invested in an Elliptical machine at home. I also don’t like the gym and find it is easier to squeeze a workout in if you don’t have to factor in the time of getting to the gym. I have the Elliptical near my computer and watch 1 hour television shows on Hulu. I’ve come to look forward to my workouts!

  51. Julie Carpenter

    I have always identified as being athletic. I would also like to point out that I am now 283 pounds, so you can see that I am like someone below the poverty line who still votes Republican – I choose to identify with a bracket that I desire to be a part of, regardless of reality. In all fairness, I am skeletal at 180. I am 6+ feet tall with man shoulders, an ex-swimmer, an ex-rower, an ex-dancer.

    Over a year ago, I took advantage of my gym’s childcare and dropped off my infant every weekday so I could indulge in 45+ minutes of cardio and a bit of core work, which left me feeling good, but not significantly thinner. In May 2010, I discovered an intense weightlifting class that produced significant results! I was losing 3+ pounds/week and gaining a ton of muscle, looking great. Sadly, all of my overused joints were rebelling. I had to stop the class after 3 months and take it easy. I took it as a sign to quit, rather than just ease up. I gained back everything and hadn’t broken a serious sweat until last week.

    The best lesson I have learned is to just pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again – this time with a goal of long-term self care and humility. *sigh*

  52. Sarah

    Not that I recommend my motivator, but I had my heart replaced four years ago. I am now in my late 30s and thanks to a stint early on in cardiac rehab with an excellent rehab-person (who is now a dear friend) for the first time in my life, I actually like to exercise. But despite all that, I have been in at least a six month slump. I have a lot of pain (both surgery and non-related) that exercise makes better so why is exercise so hard? I make it to the gym maybe once a week. This year, I’ve challenged myself to do three 5Ks. I’ve done one…walking. I read blogs (like this one) that motivate me. I find a little self-competition goes a long way. Also, I concur that Zumba is the way to go. Best exercise class ever.

  53. Stephanie

    Love this series! I would highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend It does for free what many sites charge you for. You search for what you ate, and just click how many servings you had, same with exercise routines. It does the math, and calculate how many pounds per month you will lose if you keep it up.
    I’m motivated by statistics, pounds lost, calories burned, and body fat percentages. I just keep trying to do myself one better than last time.
    Also, the specter of the bikini looms over me year-round. So that’s a motivator.
    Way to go to everyone who is out there getting stronger!

  54. Franca Bollo

    I run (truthfully … plod) because it’s 1) easy, relatively speaking, and 2) cheap.

    1) I put on my plodding clothes and head out the front door and put one foot in front of the other as fast as I can for an hour. I’m fortunate that my route takes me down to the Marina and out to Crissy Field with a view of the bay and GG Bridge most of the way. There are usually plenty of goofy dogs along the way to take my mind off of the pain.

    2) No gym fees, no expensive equipment, no gas to and from anywhere … all I need are shoes, socks, shorts, tank and sports bra. The most expensive article of clothing are my shoes. They are ancient but every since I read that humans are built to run barefoot, I haven’t bought a new pair. All the literature about cushioning, motion control, et cetera, is apparently bunk. I may invest in a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers.

    I try to get out there every other day but am happy if it’s 3x a week. Getting started (the effort to get off my ass and put the gear on) is the worst part. Once I’m dressed, I’m commited. Oftentimes it doesn’t feel that great while I’m doing it … BUT, almost nothing compares to how I feel after I’ve finished. I do it for physical fitness and, more importantly, mental fitness. It allows me to feel a little bit better about myself, which is no small feat.

    Great series, by the way.

  55. CoraD

    I save cheesy TV shows to watch while walking on the treadmill. They seem less cheesy while I’m working out, probably because my focus is somewhat diverted. My faves are Glee, Bones, Castle & Leverage.

  56. Syd

    I went for a walk on Jan 1st. Then on Jan 2nd I decided to go again. On the 3rd I thought, well I may as well shoot for the whole year at this point.

    A lot of people are talking about how they aren’t resolution maker, but making resolutions this year anyway. I’m one of them. So far, I’ve walked everyday this year.

    My motivation is to be able to keep saying that. I want to win.

  57. Laura

    My best motivators:

    The phrase “you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.”

    Watching Biggest Loser. I have a deal with myself because it makes me feel pathetic to lounge on the couch while watching people get into the best shape of their lives, so I am only allowed to watch if I do one set of some exercise during every commercial set.

    Doing yoga.

    Reading blogs like Roni’s Weigh and Better Now. They’re not about losing pounds but about doing things to keep active and feel strong.

  58. TracyL

    Adding more deliberate exercise to my life is one of my few goals for this year. Gym and sports clubs are out because of the cost and the travel time.
    I am loving your idea of the chart and the 15 minute slots. That is going to serve as inspiration for me.
    For now my deliberate movement is going to be swimming (weather permitting, I live in the southern hemisphere and summer is our rainy season)or table tennis on my PS3 move. These are the things I have to work with so I will make the most of them.
    I am also on the lookout for a reasonably priced treadmill because walking is the one form of exercise I like but walking around my neighbourhood is not always a safe option.
    Your post has perfect timing for me. Thank you, much appreciated.

  59. CS

    Going to the gym at 6 in the morning.

    No, really. I hate it and it’s no fun, but I hate it more and have an even worse time when there are people around to see all that jiggling and sweating.

    I’ve been at it a few weeks now, and while rolling out of bed early sucks for the first few minutes, the energy I have for the rest of the day is amazing. I don’t feel like ordering take out and going to bed as soon as I get home any more, which helps balance out the initial gym cost. It also doesn’t hurt that I live less than 2 blocks from my alma mater’s gym.

  60. Sheri Bheri

    I use the 5 minutes rule. If I don’t f-e-e-e-l like it, I tell myself, “5 minutes, just do it for 5 minutes, c’mon, you can do 5 minutes” and that 5 minutes ALWAYS turns into more.

    Oh Maggie – you should try Zumba – it is totally fun. I had never thought of exercising as fun before. It’s also like tai chi, in that you spend the whole time just thinking about where you’re putting your body parts, it makes everything else go away. I’m usually a clock watcher (especially during -blech- exercise) but I can honestly say I didn’t have time during Zumba class.

    Another reason I liked Zumba class was because I treated it like an appointment. I have amazing Powers of Ignoring that expensive treadmill in the corner, but if I have a scheduled time, I won’t miss it.

  61. kelsey

    Seriously I love what you suggested. I currently am going for my masters, working full time, and teaching 2 classes. There never feels like even enough time to sleep or eat. However 15 mins seems dooable.I love your part about “Not doing it was the same as admitting I wasn’t willing to do anything at all.” I need to get moving but can find endless reasons why I should be writing a paper or sleeping instead. The idea of banking days or checking off past days I didn’t do anything is just so perfect for me. Maggie if you ever make a workout dvd I am sold. I think your methods would work for me. :) Thanks again for sharing your story.

  62. Alison

    I don’t like to excercise, but it makes me feel better. If I think, “I should excercise; I need to lose weight”, I won’t do it. If I think, “I should excercise; it makes my heart feel good”, I’m out the door. Or, “I want to sleep well tonight”. If I skip a few days because I feel tired, my husband will remind me that I won’t really sleep well again until I exercise.

  63. Maggie Mason

    Hey Becky,

    Don’t know if you’re reading this far down in comments, but I hope you check back in. What you said about needing to be “the best exerciser that ever exercised” makes of Brene Brown’s TED talks on perfectionism and vulnerability:

    I’ve watched them several times recently, and I think you might like them too.

    Whether you decide to move your bum or not, your comment touched me. I’m rooting for you.


  64. Xtel

    I buy myself nice clothes to exercise in, so I feel good about myself while I’m doing it. And I try to focuse more on how it feels getting home afterwards, how happy I am about having done it – and I always try to avoid thinking “I can always skip it and do it tomorrow”. If I think about going to the gym as something as important as getting to work, I just do it, because I have to. And I always always always feel very proud about exercising, and choose to think all these thoughts like “now I really took care of my body”, “everyone else would surely stay at home when feeling this tired, but I’m better, I will exercise anyway” and “if I go now, I don’t have to stay long, just do the regular exercises”. Usually I stay longer, since it’s fun when I’m finally there.

  65. Elizabeth

    Maggie — I so relate to your attitude about excercise. In the last 18 months I seem to have finally come to a place where I actually don’t HATE it any more. Here’s my deal. I go to a gym and do the elliptical trainer. I try to get my heart rate to range between high 120s and low 150s — any higher I’ve read is useless in terms of burning calories etc. My psychological “game” with myself is this. I’m not ALLOWED to go two days in a row. If I do, my mind might see this as a new “minimum required” and so anything less and I’ll just say”what’s the point?” I too set a minimum — I only have to do 20 minutes and burn 200 calories (according to the machine) and anything else is GRAVY! And finally, I try VERY hard to make it every other day, because if I let too much time go between workouts, my twisted head immediately forgets that excercising really isn’t that bad and imagines that it’s HORRIBLE and that I dread and loathe it and never want to go back. My mind is really messed up ….. Elizabeth

  66. Lauren

    Every year I have the same resolutions about weight loss and exercise, and every year I fail. I have been packing on pounds since college and have nothing to blame it on except laziness and over eating. I figure I have at least an average sized person worth of weight to lose.

    I have always said I hate exercise, and who wouldn’t in my current condition. But I have had brief periods of weight loss and regular exercise over the last 10 years that, if I am honest with myself, I loved every minute of. My problem is getting up and going and pushing through the first 5 minutes.

    On an episode of Thintervention with Jackie Warner, she said something about rewiring your brain to associate the pain (or discomfort) you feel when exercising as pleasure. It is pleasure because you are using your body the way it was meant to be used. Ever so slowly over the next few weeks a light bulb started to burn brighter and brighter as I thought about how I used my body everyday and how it was meant to be used. I started drinking more water and less pop, thinking about what I was eating as fuel for my body and looking for ways to find better choices in all my meals(I was more picky about the gas I put in my car then the fuel I used in my own body).

    I remember complaining to a friend one day about how hard it was to get of my a** and go workout, like I was the exception or something. She just looked at me and said that it is hard for everyone. It is so encouraging to hear that even my friend with rock hard abs and a killer caboose has the same thoughts as me, she just made different choices. So now I make different choices and it always feels better afterwards.

  67. Molly

    I hate exercising. I was never sporty. I don’t run unless chased. I used to enjoy going to yoga classes, but since I’ve moved, I haven’t found one I particularly like. I especially hate going the gym. It feels…unnatural. When my gym closed a few months ago, I cried with relief. I went with my husband, who actually enjoys exercising, and I found that comparing myself to him led to further misery. Thoughts like, “Well, if he’s doing this much, I should at least do the same,” etc. etc. However, he’s the sort to be energized by a good workout, whereas I would be spent for the entire evening following my weedy efforts. I recognize, however, that I need to get moving. I, too, Maggie, have gone the route of coming up with my bare minimum. My plan came in the form of a ridiculous Israeli who exercises on a beach, frequently with a parrot.

    Yes, Gilad.

    Our cable system carries FitTV, and Bodies in Motion is on every day. I TiVo it, and do it at least four times a week in our living room while my dog looks at me like I’m embarrassing her in front of her friends. I doubt it will lead to any significant weight loss, but that’s not my main concern just yet. I need to feel like I’m being active for just a tiny portion of my day.

    This particular show is a good length for me, and it doesn’t require any equipment. I’ve tried a couple of other FitTV shows to mix it up (a couple of the All-Star Workouts come to mind), but Gilad is the backbone of my movin’ around plan. When I’m finished, I feel like I’ve done something, but I’m not so worn out that I can’t make dinner, hang out with the hubs, or repair my relationship with the dog.

  68. Alissa

    This idea is fabulous! I’m in the midst of a 90 day challenge, and my goal for these 90 days is to move more, because I hate exercise too. But I got side railed right before Christmas from a lower back injury. Now I know how to make up for those missed days, or days when I just don’t feel like doing anything. If I do more than what I’ve challenged myself, I think I need to give myself multiday credits too. I’ve been doing an excel spreadsheet this way I can see if/when I improve. And I think I’ve also got my new reward. If I complete this, I get a new pair of exercise sneakers (and I get to use my HMO’s new $25 credit for exercise sneakers!). I call this a self rewarding goal for what I’m already working on!

  69. Elizabeth

    I think you’ve really hit upon something here, Maggie, and that is the importance of finding exercise that works for you, not against you. Not only will everyone in the world not like the same sort of exercise, but not everyone in the world has a body that will respond in the same way. I’m a super busty, super petite lady, and I always thought that meant I would never be able to handle any sort of cardio (believe me when I say I’ve tried out every sort of sports bra imaginable, and NONE of them come even close to reigning in my disproportionately large chest), but then I discovered the gentle track of the elliptical machine. No running, no jumping around in a class, and no cardio dance moves for me. Just free weights, elliptical, and yoga. Good exercise with no terrible lingering back and chest pain from all the, um, bouncing.

    I love reading this series of yours. It’s really wonderful.

  70. SAWK

    I have been trying and trying to get my health shit together for months. It finally took a pregnancy scare and realizing what that number on the scale meant for me to actually do it. I want to be healthy before I have a kid. Start it off right!
    Next time I weigh this much, I want to be pregnant with twins.
    So I started small by tracking my food on Livestrong’s Daily Plate, which is awesome by the way.
    Something that is keeping me motivated is the plan to wear a bikini this summer. At different weights on the way to my goal, I have prizes for myself like a new clothes spree or those Frye boots I’ve been wanting.
    I realized it has to be a fun thing, too, otherwise you will dread it. So I’m going to buy some cute yoga clothes and I got a fancy mat.
    Here’s to us!

  71. Erin

    I tried those Tracy Anderson DVDs (based on your recommendation and Gwyneth Paltrow’s ass), but couldn’t stick with them because of Tracy’s awfully gender-sterotyped notions of what women should look like. She’s so dogmatic about women needing to be “tiny” and not look too big or too strong. I’m sure they could help me be in better shape if I could tolerate this, but those statements were so negative to me that it wasn’t enjoyable to watch the DVDs.

  72. Erin

    P.S. Perhaps the two of you could team up to redub her DVDs with you doing a positive, fun, wacky voiceover?

  73. Chickeys

    I do CrossFit too, and my motivation is the $140 monthly membership fee. :P Also, the appeal of having washboard abs and some killer guns. :)

    In all honesty, nothing makes me feel better than working up a good sweat and making my muscles sore. I also like to think that people who exercise will (theoretically) live longer lives, and it’s going to take a while to get thru my Life List. :)

  74. amelia

    I asked for a package of sessions with a trainer for Christmas a couple of years ago, someone showing up at your doorstep at 7am is a huge motivator. When it was too cost prohibitive to continue I bought the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred and do that as often as I can. 20 minute workouts, I can do that…sometimes I can’t…but saying you’re too busy for a 20 minute workout is pure avoidance.

  75. Amy C

    I never considered myself athletic. Hated team sports. Awkward and gangly growing up. I ran a mile for the first time ever when I was 26 and have since fallen in love… people who know me now see an athlete. (It’s still so weird to me.) But my life changed drastically when I started feeling fit (confidence, relationships, career, finances).

    I totally relate to that surprising sense of accomplishment when I feel myself getting stronger. It’s been just over 10 years and I’ve decided focus my new business on helping others feel the same—especially outside. There’s just something about nature that makes working out feel more like playing. And playing outside is always a good thing. :-)

  76. annie

    I have to exercise in the morning before I shower, or I just won’t. So, sometimes I wind up at the gym and *then* I wake up and I’m like “how did I get here?” But whatevs, it gets me to the gym

  77. beatrice

    I’m 21 and in the past year have severely decreased my workout regimen. Within that year I’ve noticed that I have chronic hip pain. You getting your health together let’s me see that I need to be aware of my body now and forever, really. Here’s to exercising and stretching out those joints. Thanks for being an inspiration!

  78. Jan

    I HATE exercising. I don’t get the endorphin high others do; it’s just a miserable experience for me. I don’t like being sweaty, I don’t like to hurt, I don’t like to have to take a shower and get re-dressed in the middle of the day, I don’t like… exercising. Gyms are out for me. I’ve joined a couple before and don’t ever go after a week or so of blazing ambition.

    If I could afford a personal trainer, I might try that but that’s way out of reach ($). The ones I see on TV wouldn’t work for me anyway, since I’ve never responded positively to being yelled at and belittled and goaded, nor to false sunny cheerleader yay-you stuff.

    When I was a kid, my mom used to try to get me to be more active, but whenever she’d make me “go outside and play”, I’d go outside with a book and sit under a tree and read.

    Ironically I was on a basketball team in high school and no one was more surprised than I was (well, maybe Mom) when I was good at it and became starting center. That was also, however, how we learned my knees were bad. I’ve had all the surgeries now they can do except replacement which I’m hoping to put off.

    Because of those bad knees, any kind of impact exercise, even walking, is very painful. So I found myself a recumbent bike on Craigslist and even used it for 30-minute rides while watching TV. That lasted till I started having shooting pains down my lower back after each ride.

    Best laid plans, and all that. There’s got to be something out there that will work for me because I sure could use it.

  79. Abbe

    I am motivated by my cheapness.

    I don’t love exercise. I’m not particularly coordinated or good at anything – solo or team sports. I see results much, MUCH more slowly than other people. I guess that means I need it more.

    So I found a bootcamp that I like because personal training is too expensive, and I pay for 3 months at a time. It isn’t cheap. But compared to going to the gym on my own, it is tremendously helpful. So I go, because I’ve paid. And my cheapness wins over laziness almost every time.

  80. Christian

    I remember hearing about Tracy Anderson for the first time on your blog. You and Gwyneth convinced me to try her DVDs and I love them (now). What motivates me about her work is that it changes in my body so quickly. I am trying her cardio dvd, though, and she is seriously like a cheerleader on speed in that one. I am trying to keep up but mostly end up doing my own version of club dancing around the living room.

  81. Jen

    Thank you, Maggie! I like the coloring-grid plan, for a simple visible way to find a little motivation and see progress. I appreciate hearing suggestions in comments (naturally, I’ve made a list of some to try, especially the yoga through Netflix Instant).

    I also wanted to share a simple new method that’s been helpful for me the past couple of weeks. Maybe it’s old news, but I had never seen a kettleball weight until I received it as a gift. It came with a dvd that has three, 15-min workouts, and I like just putting it in without having to make any choices – Even how many reps or which order to do exercises slows me down enough for some of the self-criticisms to kick in and derail me.

    I’ve found that once I start a 10-15 programmed workout with Ms. Gin Miller with a mix of music playing on the side, I can keep going. Since then I’ve played around with doing more or less, but I am glad to have something silly to start with.

    Huzzah for moving on gloomy days!

  82. Caroline

    Good for you. It sounds like we have very similar philosophies about exercise. :)

    What worked for me was keeping it low-key. I started walking for 20 minutes every day, and promised myself I’d do it for 21 days in a row–I figured if I could do it for that long, it would become habit. It didn’t have to be power walking–I just had to move for 20 minutes a day somehow, even if that meant cleaning the house or walking around the mall. Doing a little every day (as opposed to doing a lot 3-5 days a week) has kept me going for several months.

    Now that I’m in the routine, I allow for variation or leniency… I’ve had morning sickness for the last few days, so if I feel sick I might only do 10 minutes of light activity, and that’s OK. But in general I need to do something every day to stay in the habit. What I notice is that I don’t dread the daily exercise like I used to when I had a similar routine back in college. I usually enjoy my “exercise break” and look forward to it!

    Also, as silly as it seems, video games. We bought a Wii and I play either Wii Fit or Dance Dance Revolution every night. This became particularly important once it got too cold to walk outside for long stretches. The games give me short-term goals to strive for (I’m impatient) and I like seeing my progress over time.

    I look a bit foolish jumping around in front of my TV, but hey, I don’t care! I’ve lost weight and I feel healthier, with a relatively minor change to my lifestyle.

  83. Cindy

    When we started graduate school, I gained 25 lbs. I lost about 20 of that by killing myself at the gym. But after the initial 20 went away, all the loss stopped. OK, maybe I’m meant to be this weight. Then I learned the most simple of simples. Do less. I went to the gym every day, took an hour step class or ran on an eliptical. Go! Go! Go! I would stress out about the possibility of missing my time at the gym or being late to a class.

    When I did my yoga teacher training, all of that stopped. I learned that I needed to do less and to keep my heart rate in my target weight loss zone for just 30 min every day. Turns out, this was much easier to do. I just walk for thirty minutes every day. I lost the remaining 15 lbs. And I don’t stress the small stuff.

  84. jaclyn

    Alright everyone, I just worked out for 40 min straight for the first time, possibly ever, and loved it. Know why? Because of everyone here that said, ‘nope I don’t like it, but I do it’, etc, etc. Thinking that I didn’t like exercise was a great excuse for me. I’d whine and cajole, whatever. I thought I was special because I didn’t like to do it, like because I favored other things (reading, cooking) that I had carte blanche not to exercise. Seeing that I’m not special in my dislike for sweat, exercise, reshowering, gyms, etc, was really huge. Realizing that I could do it even though I hated it (um, I hate paying taxes and I sure do that!) was so eye opening to me. Thanks for all of these comments, I’ll be bookmarking them and reading them for the next time that I think I’m special and therefore don’t need to work out!

  85. Rachel

    I hate exercise because it makes my depression worse.

    I’m not sure why; I think it is an adverse endorphin thing – I’ve never been so angry or upset with myself, the aerobics instructor (spawn of Satan, in that moment) or the other people on the track with me (if you pass me, why shouldn’t I trip you?) Needless to say, I’m appalled at these thoughts and impulses – and have bashed my hand into a brick wall, or other things while exercising to keep them at bay. So, I’ve tried karate (great for the emotional stuff, horrible on my ankles) and the only thing that seems to work is massive distraction. So I watch Netflix streaming videos on the treadmill. Sometimes. And avoid aerobics classes.

  86. Heather

    I check out different exercise and ayuverda DVDs from the library! Then I can’t get bored! I also check out cookbooks and books about nutrition and stretching. Skimming through these books give me good ideas without having to make a commitment.

  87. Heather Q

    I had to come back to this post and say thank you! The day you posted this I made the chart and even though it hasn’t even been a week, I love it and know I will stick to it. It’s great because it not only reminds you every day, but then gives you a little reward not to mention gives you a change to invest later for days when you fell short. I’m a college student in pretty poor health and I have free access to an amazing state-of-the-art recreation center that I have not taken enough advantage of. I’ve been on and off of fitness routines, it just takes one great idea to make it stick! So thank you! :)

  88. Rebecca

    Chiming in really late here…

    My trick is that I sign up for races. I’m so cheap that I refuse to sign up for a race and not do it. I haven’t gone longer than 4 days without running since September 2009 and I haven’t looked back! I’ve lost 15 pounds and am in far better shape than I was in high school. Now I’m running 3 times a week and spinning 2 mornings a week. It’s not a chore, anymore, which is surprising. As a kid/teen I HATED exercise. Give me a pint of ice cream and a smutty novel and leave me be! That was pretty much my mantra.

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