One Inside reader asks the question:
I am lazy. The only time I’ve been in shape was when my friend introduced me to weight lifting and we became gym buddies. But our schedules changed and I had no success on my own. I now work a lot, so finding another gym buddy is impossible, and I’m exhausted all the time. I feel like I have no time, and if I ever have kids one day, I’m going to look back and beat myself up over why I didn’t workout when I had “more” time on my hands. And I live across the street from a gym. The last time I worked out, I wanted to look great in a dress for a family gathering. I started working out in the morning but lasted a week and a half then stopped because I used my soreness or tiredness as an excuse. What do I have to do to actually get myself to workout? I am naturally slim, but recently my figure has turned skinny fat with jiggly arms and thighs, and a soft tummy that I hide. I feel like I’ve lost my youth and I don’t know how to get it back.
— Miss Lazy
Dear Miss Lazy,
It sounds like you’re being very hard on yourself, but the ability to change your ways and develop lasting, healthy habits is entirely in your power.
Personal trainer Sohee Lee told me she sees various “potential roadblocks” in place, all of which are surmountable for you.
Rely on discipline, not motivation
It’s a mistake to wait for motivation.
“The idea that lasting change is about motivation is a huge myth,” Lee said.
If we rely on motivation, we rarely get anywhere. Instead, you need to employ some discipline. Taking action and pushing yourself is hard, but once you do and you start seeing results, you’ll be motivated to continue.
Instead of being driven by wanting to look good in a dress (extrinsic motivation), find something that keeps you going from within (intrinsic motivation). Try setting a performance-based goal like running 5K in half an hour or achieving a full push-up.
Find a way to keep yourself accountable
Many people respond well to being held accountable.
“It seems like you relied heavily on the accountability of having another person waiting for you at the gym to work out,” Lee said.
She recommends hiring a personal trainer if you can afford one, because you’d be less likely to cancel.
If not, do you have a friend you could check in with every time you work out? Ideally someone who will give you a bit of tough love and not let you get away with skipping workouts without a valid reason? That may help.
Ease yourself in
Many people give up on their fitness regimens because they try to go from being completely sedentary to working out five times a week, and that’s often unsustainable.
Lee encourages starting with two workouts a week, even if at the start you feel like you want to do more.
“Don’t start out too aggressive with your program,” she said. “Go light and easy in your first couple of weeks to mitigate muscle soreness so you’re less likely to feel deterred from returning for your next workouts.”
If early morning workouts are a struggle, try lunchtime or evenings.
Choose something you enjoy
It’s a lot easier to stick to a fitness regimen if it doesn’t feel like a chore or punishment.
“It’s important that you’re enjoying the exercise you do,” Lee said. “I get the impression that what you’re doing in the gym isn’t exactly fun, which makes it that much harder for you to be consistent.”
Lee said to forget what type of exercise might be “optimal” for your physique goals, and instead focus on what you enjoy, whether that’s a YouTube dance class you can do in the living room or a walk round the park.
If you find a way of moving that you like, you’re more likely to succeed than if you try to follow the “perfect” plan, Lee said.
Don’t neglect nutrition
When it comes to body composition, nutrition plays a huge role.
“You can do a lot with your eating habits to alter the way your body looks, even with minimal exercise,” Lee said.
She said to focus on adopting overall healthy eating behaviors, rather than cutting calories too drastically.
Start with eating 20 to 30 grams of protein in each meal, have fruit and vegetables with most meals, eat slowly without distraction, and develop a regular eating pattern.
“Change is the product of many many habits accumulated over time,” Lee said. “Remember that your daily actions repeated over and over matter far more for progress, and external motivation is overrated.”