We’ve all been there. You know, that dark place where it feels like nothing short of a personal invitation from Brad Pitt will get you off the couch and into the gym. But whether you’re battling workout boredom, weight loss plateaus, or injuries, you don’t have to let any obstacle sidetrack your fitness. All you need is the right preparation. These 17 tips will get you ready and rekindle your passion for working out.
1. Make a date
If your excuse is that you’re always too tired, then set up a standing appointment with a friend whose fitness level matches yours—your mutual motivation lulls will cancel each other out. Research shows that having a dedicated workout partner makes you more likely to stick with an exercise program and be ready every time.
2. Have a snack
When you run low on fuel, the extra energy demands of exercise lead your body to decide that you’ve overdone it and you need to conserve some fuel – by slowing down your metabolism. And that’s the last thing you want, so have a protein-and-complex-carbohydrate snack, like a hard-boiled egg and a slice of whole wheat toast 2 hours before you plan to work out.
3. Put On Your Shoes
Think baby steps: If you truly don’t feel like you can get out the door, just put on your workout clothes. If that feels good, throw on some sneakers. Even if you stay in the house, the clothes will give you an increased range of motion, so you’ll probably put more energy into your chores.
4. Eat More Iron (not the lifting weights kind)
As a mineral that helps convert food to energy, iron is essential to keeping energy levels high. But dieting, avoiding meat, and having heavy menstrual periods can put you at risk for low iron. Iron supplements can be risky, so make sure your diet includes 18 mg of iron every day—choose lean meats or legumes, leafy greens, and whole grains. Don’t forget citrus fruit and other juice with vitamin C, which improves iron absorption from plant foods.
5. Fuel Up Early
Eating the bulk of your calories in the early part of the day will give you the energy you need to make it through daytime workouts. Many women on weight loss plans find it easier to eat less during the day and more at night—exactly the opposite plan for optimal energy and weight loss.
6. Hydrate Yourself
Dehydration can seriously drag your energy down. Research shows that even when you drink eight glasses of water a day, 45 minutes of exercise can put you into a dehydrated state. Don’t rely on thirst as a measure of need—to prevent exercise fatigue, take a sip of water every 15 to 20 minutes while you work out.
7. Make it fun.
If you’re bored with your exercise routine you may want to try and link exercise with happy, social activities. Free yourself up to think of movement as your birthright every hour on the hour. Join an African dance class, or try inline skating. Instead of dreading sweat, think of it as calories pleasantly leaking from your body. You’ll get fit and allow yourself to escape at the same time.
8. Pile On The Rewards
Women tend to save rewards for distant, huge goals, like a 20-pound weight loss or three lost dress sizes. Rather than make goals destination-oriented, make them behavior-oriented. Set a goal to work out three times this week, and when you achieve it, give yourself a nonfood reward, like a glossy magazine or new nail polish—little indulgences you wouldn’t ordinarily give yourself.
9. Try interval training
Interval-style exercise—spinning classes, for example—raises your metabolism both during and after the exercise. Steady activity—say, 30 minutes on a treadmill—burns about 6 to 8 calories per minute. A brief, 30- to 60-second burst of intense interval activity burns about 10 calories per minute and stimulates your muscles to burn 20 to 30% more calories within the same workout.
10. Make a music mix
Listening to music eases exercise in three ways: It distracts you from fatigue, it encourages coordination, and it relaxes your muscles to encourage bloodflow. If music doesn’t work, try a book on tape. Anything pleasurable you can link to exercise will help motivate you.
11. Cover all your bases
Do you include each of the triumvirate—cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility—in your workouts each week? A combination of all three keeps your metabolism burning high, your energy level up, and your body injury-free. It’s best to have a variety of plans so you can do something 5 out of 7 days a week.
12. Create An Exercise Menu
Get to know your rhythms, and have an exercise plan for each mood. Feeling low? Go for a walk in the park. Keyed up from work? Take a high-energy class. Missing your kids? Bundle them into the car and head for the local soccer field.
13. Up Your Frequency
By increasing frequency, you’ll automatically spend more time burning calories and add another workout time to your schedule. Start with one extra 10-minute walk or weight session per week, and after it becomes a habit, increase the time or the intensity.
14. Check Your Expectations
Within three workouts, the heart already becomes more efficient. Congratulate yourself for running upstairs without losing your breath; celebrate when your thighs no longer rub together. Changes in weight, fat percentage, and muscle development may take a little bit longer, sometimes up to 2 months. But progress is still progress.
15. Consult a Trainer
A certified personal trainer can fine-tune your workout for extra results without wasted time and effort. Find a trainer you like, and then schedule follow-up visits four times a year—those dates will give you built-in goals to strive for. One hour of training costs $50 to $70—buddy up with a friend to share the cost. (Just don’t lie to your trainer!
16. Hit The Weights
Many women now dedicate 70% of their efforts to resistance training. Especially for many women over 40, they could benefit from starting with weight training even before they start cardio—a stronger woman is less likely to be injured in a step class or while walking. Weight training develops the strength of the all-important core muscles in the trunk, lower back, and hip area, making your body better equipped for cardiovascular challenges. To start, substitute strength training for at least one of your regular workouts.
17. Sleep More
Sleep not only gives you energy, but it also protects your body’s muscle-building and fat-burning efficiency. Trade Jimmy Fallon in for an extra hour of sleep and help your body adjust to an earlier bedtime with a soothing shower, a cup of warm milk, and low lights.