What You Need to Accept to Get Your Ass to the Gym Consistently

fitness center
image courtesy of Rose NYC Apartments

Those who know me in real life know the gym is my happy place. I swear working out must be like what taking drugs is like: glorious. The combination of music and endorphins simultaneously puts me in a blissed-out and take-over-the-world frame of mind, which it seems like only a highly illegal substance would be able to do.

If I’m in a really shitty mood, exercising nearly erases it. If I’m already in relatively good spirits, working out makes me feel like high-fiving everyone I see for the rest of the day. I am always so happy I went to the gym.

But here’s the thing: Nine times out of ten, I don’t want to go at all.

Everyone Thinks I Heart the Gym, But I Heart My Computer More

People assume I would work out all day if I could. “Wow you guys live next door to LifeTime Fitness? I bet Cassie is in heaven!” “Oh hey! A boot camp! Cassie, I bet you’d love that, right?!”  “Oh, here’s the gym. This is Cassie’s favorite place, eh?”

(all real examples)

These comments aren’t off the mark; I’m a total gym rat. And I do love it. But that’s only true after 18 minutes into my workout (my personal threshold for going from “just do this, Cassie” to “EFF YEAH YOU GUYS THIS FEELS GREAT WOOOOOOOO!”) .

The truth is, what I’d actually like to do all day is read. My laptop is my bestie (I’ve fallen asleep on the couch snuggling it more than a few times), and I could lose days consuming content. I prefer to exercise my brain.

But I work out at least 4 days a week, every week. I am consistent. This is for one reason.

Don’t Wait to Want to Work Out; Accept That You Don’t Feel Like It and Go Anyway

I don’t decide whether to go to the gym based on if I want to go. Actually, I usually don’t decide at all. I just go. I change into my workout clothes not really feelin’ it, I grab my phone and keys grumpily, and I head toward the gym thinking about how this sounds like the most anti-fun thing I could do right now.

And if you’ve worked out even just a single time in your life, you know how the rest of this story goes: I warm up and get some music going, and I start feeling good, and I keep going and all the sudden I’m on top of the world and exercise is the best thing ever and I never want to stop and I can’t believe I was dreading this and I make a mental note to remember this feeling tomorrow.

Sometimes I remember it, sometimes I don’t. But it never really helps either way. When it comes time to hit the gym, I’m already sitting, I’m already on my computer, and, god, I just want to stay there just like that.

But instead, I accept that feeling, get my stuff, and go. Because I know on some level I’m going to love it, and I know I’m going to love having done it. I just can’t get myself to feel that way when I’m at my desk.

Schedule Your Workout at a Low-Resistance Time

I’ve been a morning, lunchtime, and after-work exerciser at different times in the past. Certain times have worked better for me than others with varying work schedules and priorities, but I can tell you my after-work phase is when I exercised the least. I had all day to make excuses and rationalize not hitting the gym, plus that’s the point in the day I’m the most tired. I bailed all the time.

Mornings are my most energetic, productive, creative, and focused time of day. That’s a big reason I tried the after-work thing; I wanted to give my best self completely to work. But I soon realized if I didn’t go in the morning, I wouldn’t go at all. I’m already an early riser, so it was a matter of making peace with the fact that part of my most effective time of day would be spent in the gym. Not working out at all isn’t an option.

I now work remotely, so lunchtime workouts fit beautifully into my day. (I’m not what you would call “fast” at getting ready, so a mid-day workout + shower + makeup + hair + travel time situation was never realistic for me. Now, my gym is a one-minute walk away, and all I need to do post-exercise is get clean.) I get to crank out great work all morning, then hit the gym when I still have plenty of physical energy, but the mental stamina is starting to fade.

The point is, plan to exercise when you’re least likely to skip. Experts often recommend mornings, and I mostly agree with them (for once), but consider your own natural preferences to choose your time. For example, my boyfriend John would rather shoot himself in the face than get up early to exercise. But after work, he’s a ball of freaking energy (and I’m like, “John, I am SO TIRED NO I DON’T WANT TO DO THAT FUN THING YOU’RE SUGGESTING.”). So exercising after work makes sense for him.

Plan to go at your ideal time, but expect to feel like not going at all.

And then go anyway.



Do you have trouble exercising regularly? When’s your best workout time? What helps you make it to the gym?

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Your thoughts?
  1. Chris says:

    I am someone who has tried to start workout plans SO many times it kinda hurts. I didn’t realize that people who seemed totally into the whole workout thing had some of the same feelings I did. I actually put in the effort and got my butt in gear for a 5k last year and it was FANTASTIC. I never imagined that I would be able to run that far without being literally dead at the end. I’ve slumped the last few months, but I think I’ll get back on the wagon and try again this year.

    • Cassie says:

      You are my hero, Chris, because you can run longer than 10 minutes. I can not. Not without wanting to cry because I feel so fuggin sorry for myself. (Cardio and me aren’t besties, in other words.) And high five for getting back on the wagon!

      • Chris says:

        I never did well with cardio until this last summer. I read a few books and got excited about running and then just started out walking. From what I read, we Americans tend to go out and push it too hard, like we eyeing something to prove. I started doing interval training slowly increasing the time I ran and it felt great. I usually have lung/knee problems, but I just took it easy and eventually was running about 36min for my 5k.

        • Cassie says:

          Lung/knee problems — yes, me too. I actually originally injured my knee from…running. The gradual increase strategy makes perfect sense, and I’m sure NOT using it and being very American about my running efforts is what caused my injury in the first place. Also, I love that you started with walking — I hate running, but love walking. Anyway, your comment made me get a teensy bit excited about focusing on running a little more in 2013. Now I just have to tear myself away from the weights long enough to do anything else. Same deal with the yoga I keep saying I “really want to do”…

  2. Janet says:

    Hahaaaaa, I’m not the only one! I’ve always loved exercising, but I rarely really feel like doing it. Until I start and suffer through those first minutes or first kilometer. When I worked a 9-to-5 graphic design job I jogged after work, and it was a great way to de-stress after a day’s hard work. I never felt like I had the energy, but donned my tekkies and jogging shorts anyway, and lo-behold I suddenly had energy for my jog AND to work on a painting after dinner! I now start my mornings with yoga, no matter how I feel, I just adjust the amount of time/poses depending on time of the month and any circumstances that limit my time and energy. Now I am also trying to get into the habit of hiking or jogging at least twice a week, but it’s sooooo easy to make excuses! Your blog post has just given me the extra motivation and encouragement that I need. Thanks Cassie and keep it up! You’re inspiring the world, one slacker at a time!! 😉

    • Cassie says:

      Thank you, Janet! You actually inspired ME with your comment, specifically the bit about having energy after dinner if you exercise after work. I always have it in my head that after-work workouts aren’t for me, but I really love the idea of squeezing more out of my evenings… need to remember this next time an earlier workout doesn’t happen, and I’m convinced I need to wait until tomorrow. 🙂

      • Janet says:

        I’m so glad I could give you a bit of motivation!! There’s never as good time as the NOW! 🙂 I forgot to mention that I really appreciate what you mentioned about your routine changing over time as your circumstances change – I find it so important to change my rituals and schedule often, as I get really stuck when I try holding on to old habits for too long.

        • Cassie says:

          Oh yeah, I’ve gone from weights + lots of elliptical time to tons of strength training + very little cardio to my current gentle-but-challenging routine of walking + yoga. Gotta go with what feels good at the time!

  3. Mark says:

    I just gave up on the gym.

    I’ve tried everything it to “be consistent.” Would always get a gym membership and stop going after a month. Even bought a $3,000 elliptical…which I never used.

    But I found a solution. I bought a $99 bike that I ride everyday around my neighborhood. The solution was so simple. I do try to throw in some resistance exercise (push ups, body weight squats, etc.). And I walk my dog when I get the chance. Now I want to workout everyday cause it is fun…and cheap. Might get some cheap weights one day.

    • Cassie Nolan says:

      Yep, I can relate to this. I’m in an outdoor-walks-plus-yoga-in-my-living-room phase right now (no gym), and I’m really loving it! But even still, I almost always have to push myself to get started, just like in my gym days. I wish I were the person who’d rather work out than lounge and read, but I’m not. 🙂

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