In strategy it is necessary to treat training as part of normal life with your spirit unchanging.
“The Book of Five Rings”, Miyamoto Musashi
In this article I’m going to tell you how to make yourself go to a gym. Plus, I’ll give several recommendations on how to establish the habit of exercising.
I’ve been attending gym for 15 months (UPD 06/12/2012: 22 months). More than one year. The first 6 months I worked out 2 times a week: Tuesday and Friday. In the beginning of the year 2011, I switched to 3 times per week: Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Through all this time I had never missed a workout (except 3 – because of illness, and hardly more than 5 were missed because my gym instructor was absent at those days). My hope is you may gain something valuable and useful from my experience and apply it with your own adjustments.
In the first place this article is written for those, similar to me – self-reflection-tending individuals, for whom it is difficult to apply “Just do it” slogan to solve the problem of attending a gym. For those, whom it’s critical to form a solid theoretical base and find strong motivators, instead of just hitting the gym regularly.
It’s good, if you feel bad
The feeling of dissatisfaction is a perfect stimulus to action. The dissatisfaction with your life, yourself and your body isn’t the best feeling in the world, however if used right, it can be turned into a powerful trigger, which initiates a strong desire to change the situation and stimulates to take action.
That was my case. At the moment when I was signing up for attending a gym, I was experiencing dissatisfaction in various aspects of my life. The life seemed unsettled and chaotic to me and boring and repetitive at the same time. I was eager to change it (in a positive way, of course). As a result, the burning desire to go to a gym had arisen.
The right of rejection
Do not think of attending a gym as of something fatal. Don’t torture yourself with unhealthy beliefs, that once you signed in the gym, you must continue attending it until you die. Guarantee yourself the right to refuse to attend the gym at any time without explaining the reasons of your decision to anyone, including you.
If it hasn’t worked out this time, it will next time (or the next “next time”)
Let’s assume, you’ve attended three trainings. That’s great. But that happened half a year ago. Oops! Well, there is nothing unusual or catastrophic in this situation. It doesn’t mean that exercising at a gym is not for you. If it hasn’t worked out this time – try once again when it is suitable and comfortable for you. Didn’t happen again? Try once more a little bit later. The amount of trials is limited only by you and the time you’re going to spend at this planet.
The first time I’ve got into the gym at the age of 15. I had attended only one training. The second time – at 19. I had gone through 4 trainings. The third attempt occurred at 22 – I’ve bought a subscription for the whole month and paid to the gym instructor so he compiled a workout program for me. I remember how I was very sure, that that time I wouldn’t drop the workouts. But alas, I never showed up at that gym again, and the subscription just burnt out. And only at the age of 24 I managed to stick with the habit of attending a gym regularly. These four trials took ten years. But it worked out at last.
My strong recommendation is NOT to take a friend with you when going to a gym. Here’s why.
If it’s hard for you to get yourself together and make a decision to hit the gym, do not ask your friend to motivate you by joining you. It’s likely that your friend is very similar to you (otherwise you wouldn’t become friends) – so it’s hard for your friend to go to exercise to a gym either.
Of course, you have already discussed this idea with your friend and he has become very excited with it – that is so great to motivate each other to attend the gym! And you’re envisioning: you and your friend, the two steroid bulls, the two Hulks, meet each other tomorrow morning, and you’re not talking but roaring at each other:
– Arrgh!!! (one of you bites off a piece of meat from his hand, another one crashes nearby parked car)
This dialogue creates a very vivid and inspiring picture in the mind, isn’t it? OK. Now let me say how this situation will turn out to be in the real world circumstances:
– Hi… (with Ross’ of the Friends suicidal intonation) Listen, do you want to work out today?
– Well, I guess yes… And you? Don’t you?
– I don’t know exactly. I’ve been sitting at the work in front of my computer all the day long. I wanna go home.
– Yes, I feel tired too. Maybe we should grasp some beer?..
That sounds true.
Plus, you won’t have that high level of concentration on the training process with your friend – you are very likely going to talk and joke during all the training. So my advice – no friends.
Well, if you really need a partner, who will insure you and motivate you – it’s better to hire a personal instructor.
Hire a personal instructor
Here are some bonuses you get if you apply this recommendation. First off, an instructor will compile a special workout program, based on your physical abilities. Secondly, the instructor will constantly watch you: whether you’re doing the exercise in the right way, and if not – s/he will immediately notice it and correct you. Thirdly, the instructor will secure you when you’re lifting heavy weights. Also instructor will clear the way to the most popular gym training machines and, thus, the most occupied ones. As I said, those are only the bonuses. So what is the core benefit of hiring an instructor?
Almost nothing motivates stronger than the possibility of losing money, prepaid for a gym subscription. Usually, the price of a subscription, which includes trainings with a personal instructor only, is 3-5 times higher than the price of a regular subscription. Thus, if you buy it, the level of motivation will increase proportionally.
However, money-driven motivation is a rather weak motivation for me. It doesn’t last long and if I have nothing more to motivate me, I drop it really soon.
So here is the approach I use.
Before attending the next training, you and your instructor have to appoint the concrete date and time, when you’re going to show up at the gym. It’s unlikely that the instructor will be glad to see you, if you suddenly appear at the gym at the time, when s/he is training another client. You have to accurately fix the date and time you are going to exercise next time. As you realize, you make an agreement with a real person. This person is going to assign two hours in his timetable specially for you and is going to await you exactly at that time, on which you’ve agreed. From my point of view, if you’ve made an agreement, there’s no other way, but to show up at the gym.
Be ready for a long road, but break it in steps
A visible result of attending a gym does not appear immediately. It may take one-two years. That’s a lot. That is why when I started attending the gym, I had intentionally refused to expect any results at all. I focused on just an act of attending the gym regularly for a period of time with the minimum of days off. It didn’t matter whether I become stronger/gain muscle mass. Also I didn’t set a goal of attending the gym for the whole year. I had chosen the shorter interval of 2 months. “Whether there will be any results or not, I will attend the gym for 2 months. And if I do not want to continue – I’ll just quit”, – that was my intention. After I’ve gone through the first two months I increased interval up to 6 months. Then up to one year. Now my goal is two years in total. Now it doesn’t look like something impossible to implement in comparison to that day, more than one year ago, when I bought the gym’s subscription for the first time.
So my advice is to set a goal to attend the trainings, for example, for a week, without expecting any results. Then gradually increase the period. What about the results?.. Well, the results are surely going to appear eventually, if you attend the gym responsibly and systematically along with applying the appropriate food diet.
Approach the idea of attending a gym fanatically. Fix this idea in your mind. Build your life and plans around the trainings and not vice-versa. Deal with any obstacles, which prevent you from exercising, unhesitatingly and with no mercy: work can be set aside, blog reading can be canceled and the alcohol party with friends – missed. Work, hobby and even friends – nothing must have that high value for you as attending the gym.
It sounds cruel. But it shouldn’t be the lifelong commitment. Two-three months of the obsession with this idea and you will grasp the rhythm of regular trainings. After that you may relax. Everything will return to its place and the gym will become an essential part of your life.
Visit a gym on weekdays: in the morning or at the afternoon
I’ve discovered that the most optimal time to go to a gym is the morning or the afternoon of a weekday. The majority of people are at their jobs during this time, thus, there is more space in a gym, the air is fresher, you don’t need to wait in queue for the training machines, and dumbbells are at the places where they are supposed to be. All the above makes a training process go faster and more effective.
Of course, this recommendation doesn’t suit everybody. You may apply this advice quite easily if you’re a student or your work schedule isn’t fixed. But it’s going to be really hard to stick with this time, if you work from 9 am to 6 pm with an one hour lunch break.
If your case is the second one, you may still try to discuss the idea with your boss, that you take an extra hour in addition to your lunch break, so you could go to a gym, and then you compensate it by staying at work one hour later in the evening. When talking to a boss, pay his/her attention to the benefit of the healthy way of life. Tell him/her that regular workouts at a gym will increase you productivity overall, and thus, your boss will gain from it in the end.
Make for yourself an idol and take the best of it
There’s nothing wrong in adopting something good from the other people. Applying this idea to this article: to be as strong and dexterous as someone or to have as good body shape as someone has.
Take a moment to think whom you’d like to be like in terms of physical development. Maybe, it’s a famous actor or his/her movie character, or someone real, like your pal or colleague. It’s a good idea to remember your childhood’s idols. For instance, mine are Jean-Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan. I’m not saying that you should put their posters on all the walls of your house (though if it helps – go ahead!). To hold their images in your mind in order to support the desire of attending a gym is quite enough.
Let me finish my article with a thought I’ve grasped from the Steve Pavlina’s blog. The idea is that the time is not the resource we can spend. The time will pass anyway whether we want it or not. So you may NOT to attend a gym. And as an option you may attend it. In the first case, in a year you will have nothing behind you; in the second case you will have a year of assiduous trainings, which will surely increase your strength and your confidence at the same time. In the first case, you will look back at the previous year with no feelings; in the second case you will look back with the feelings of pride and satisfaction, that you’ve done it.
January 10th, 2012