Wisdom Wednesday: You Never Regret a Workout

by | Jan 21, 2015
Photo by Randy Son Of Robert

Photo by Randy Son Of Robert

It’s a common misconception that San Francisco is warm and sunny. It isn’t. At least not usually.

As locals know, Karl the Fog is a year-round resident of the City by the Bay.

Karl’s favorite seasons are summer and winter. During the summer he likes to roll into my hood around 4pm, which is why SF residents always bring a jacket when we leave the house. Always.

In the winter Karl doesn’t restrict his visits to evenings, but pretty much hangs around all day.

Born and raised in SoCal, this took some getting used to. It’s normally pretty easy for me to stick to my habits, but nothing saps my motivation like day after day of gray skies.

These are the only days I have to summon my willpower to put on my workout clothes and walk to the gym. I really, really don’t like being cold.

Fortunately for me, I’ve limited my use of willpower in other areas of my life enough that most of the time I have plenty left to maintain my winter workouts.

This discipline has taught me an interesting lesson about exercise: I never regret it.

By far the hardest part for me is deciding to get my gear and head to the gym. Once I’m there I am inevitably glad I went, and usually end up feel much, much better because of it. It’s a great way to warm up and shake off the winter blues.

But damn that’s hard to remember when you’re cold. To make it easier I’ve had to reframe my approach to motivating myself.

First, I try to notice when I’m thinking about how hard my workout will be, how long it will take, or how cold it will be when I change clothes or walk out the door. When I catch myself I gently remind myself that instead I should focus on how I will feel after the workout.

I think about how great I felt last time I finished, strong and exhilarated. I think about the warm shower I’ll take when I get home, and the feeling of being fresh and clean and confident. I think about how good dinner will taste when I work up an appetite.

Then I tell myself I don’t need to workout hard if I still don’t feel like it once I get there. I just need to go. Get started.

Because once I’m there, already in my gym clothes, I inevitably want to work harder. A rockin’ playlist on my iPhone or a high-five from my workout partner is all it takes.

The only hard part is getting there, and getting started. If you can get that far, you win.

How you motivate yourself to workout when you don’t feel like it? Share your strategies below.

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17 Responses to “Wisdom Wednesday: You Never Regret a Workout”

  1. DC Runner says:

    I completely agree — the hardest part for me about getting up early and running in the cold, dark mornings is lying in bed and thinking about it! Once I’m out there, it’s all fine. There is a lot to be said for the old Nike motto “Just Do It.”

  2. Marci Bowman says:

    Thank you,Darya,for another insightful article. Noticing one’s thoughts is the trick, isn’t it? It’s easy to just blindly follow them into a full-fledged emotional response…and have no real idea how you got there.

    I live in SF, too, but grew up in ever-sunny AZ. When the gloom’s getting me down, I remind myself that there’s a wide variety of beauty out there, and it doesn’t always need to be bright. Your photo captured this!

  3. Rachel says:

    Even though I live in sunny SoCal getting out of bed during winter for morning yoga is a challenge. So I’ve traded in my super cute pjs for sleeping in leggings and a tank. That way I have no excuses about it being “too hard” to change into yoga clothes. It doesn’t work everyday but it works much better.

    • Barbara says:

      I love your PJ trick, I will keep that one in my mind for my back workout. I do not have time for much in the morning. I get up at 5:30 allready. I try to get my workout done in the afternoon or evening. But I should do more for my back.

  4. Fi says:

    I’ve had the EXACT same feeling this morning about gym.. but I went anyway 🙂 There are few ways I trick myself into having going to the gym on the autopilot –
    1. I chose a gym that is far enough for me to justify taking a car but not too far so it takes ages to get there. I know I know- 10k steps a day- but to be honest, if I had to walk to the gym, I know I would NEVER go- or at least it would sap my whole willpower. Instead I save walking to taking my dog out.. And taking a car, I can be as lazy as I want, up to the point when I’m actually standing in the gym, and funny thing is – I never feel lazy once I’m there..
    2. I bought myself pretty clothes for the gym- I know this sounds superficial and dumb, but when I started working out, I had one pair of old sweatpants, old sneakers that were not comfy and whatever Tshirt I grabbed. I guess it did fine, but I kinda felt embarrassed because I would never go to a cafe or work or date dressed like a slob, so why should my precious me-time-gym-time be any different? ESPECIALLY when there is SO much cute stuff out there! Plus I feel like such a pro with my awesome gym bag and cool running shoes.. I look forward to being able to put those clothes on- works like a charm on getting me to the gym!
    3. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts
    4. I try and connect it with some other errands- I often work from home, and if I know I’d have to stop by the grocer’s anyway today, I just connect the two – I save time and energy 🙂

    • Darya Rose says:

      I LOVE it. And thanks so much for mentioning the cute clothes. People have a tendency to dismiss appearance as superficial, but the truth is it changes how you feel and how others see you. It helps paint the picture of who you are as a person––”someone who works out seriously”––to the single most important audience: YOU!

      I say if it works, use it.

  5. La says:

    1. Figure out the time I like best to work out (for me, that’s right after work, before dinner; or, at lunch (if I can swing it).
    2. Get into my workout clothes AS SOON as I get home from work – if I’m changed, I’m more likely to go.
    3. Follow the 10-minute rule: run for 10 minutes; if I still don’t feel like it, then I can run back home (but at least I’ve gotten a 20-min run in by then), though by the time I get out there, I’ll usually do the planned run.

  6. Thank you Darya for introducing me to Karl the Fog’s twitter!

    So so SO funny! I even ordered a poster of Karl to brighten my day every time I lay eyes on him. Ironic, yes?

    Kerith from (rainy) Vancouver, Canada

  7. Donna says:

    So true! One of the things I focus on is something shared by one of my yoga teachers. “I don’t have to do yoga, I get to do yoga.” It really makes a difference when I am waffling in my pjs with a furry pet in my lap. The cute outfits don’t hurt…

  8. Jerry Robertson says:

    I often have the same feeling about heading out in the cold for a workout. The difference is that here in Minnesota, I get that feeling when there’s snow and it’s -10!!

    However, I too keep my eye on the prize. Like you I have to remember how good I feel after the workout. That helps me make it thru the numbing car ride and the cool air in the gym to start. Once I make it thru warmups, there is NO turning back. And I like to tell people…

    Sometimes I don’t want to go to the gym. I NEVER(!) regret having gone…

  9. Emma says:

    This is such a great article, can definitely relate.
    It’s Summer here in Australia, so for the moment I am cruising along, but I know that as soon as the weather cools down it will be much more of a struggle. Walking is my favorite mode of transport and I walk to the gym to get my steps in. I will definitely be investing in a heavy duty umbrella and raincoat 🙂

  10. Jamie Miller says:

    I totally agree, but I think there’s got to be a better way to do it. I don’t love the gym. But, like you, I love the way I feel after the gym. I’m looking for a type of regular physical activity that I LOVE to do, rather than something that feels like a chore.


  11. ashley says:

    I totally agree, the things we do to avoid the going to the gym in the winter. What has really worked for me is heading straight to the gym after work. If I go home all bets are off, so when i leave the house in the morning i make sure i have all the stuff i need to work out. I have also started making sure to take a good afternoon snack so being hungry isn’t an excuse to put off going to the gym. It has become a habit so now i don’t really think about it now.

  12. PH says:

    I do quite a bit of yoga and something I’ve heard many teachers say something like “Congratulate yourself for getting on your mat today.” There *is* something to be said about just showing up, even if it’s not a day that you’re going to push yourself to be your best. When it’s all said and done, you’ve done something better than sitting on the couch eating bon bons 🙂

  13. Darya, any tips for people who really just hate the gym? I just joined a local gym and am not enjoying it. I find it boring and sorting out childcare for my 8 month old is a nightmare. I’m worried that I won’t be able to make this habit stick, as my “elephant” is not on board.

    • Darya Rose says:

      Home workout videos? Ultimate Frisbee? Morning bootcamp? Kettlebells? HIIT in your neighborhood? Fitstar? A trainer might help too.

      You def need to find something you like.

  14. Roberto says:

    My trick to get to the gym is to not pass by my house(my sanctuary)because once i pass my front door I fall apart and thats the end so my stuff MUST be in the car waiting for me.
    especially in cold winter months when you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark.Yes it doesn t always work .

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