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How I Stay Motivated to Work Out

5 tips for staying active.
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I’ve never considered myself a jock, but like Emily, I competed in several sports in high school—cross country, skiing, and wrestling—and the habit of going to practice every day has stuck with me since. A day doesn’t go by where I’m not doing something, whether it’s an early morning spin class with friends, rock climbing, or going for a run. Recently, working out has become less about physical progress (which was once a priority for me), and instead has evolved into a fundamental part of my routine. As a result, exercising daily is something I prioritize and rarely miss—and I've never felt healthier or more fit. Sure, I have days when I’m dragging my feet up until the point I hit the trail or the treadmill, but through the years I’ve developed some tactics to prevent those days as much as possible and kick myself into gear when they do:

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For years after high school cross country ended, I ran every day, but never made any progress—I felt like my fitness level had plateaued despite wanting a picture-perfect bikini body in college (Note to 18-year-old Leslie: Girl. Save yourself a lot of trouble and don't worry about it! Also your boyfriend who slyly "encourages" you to "get fit"? He's a jerk. Also he's going to dump you senior year, but you know your best guy friend who's been there for you all along? He's pretty cute, right? Get after that. Love, 25-year-old Leslie). It wasn’t until I signed up for my first recreational race that I started to improve and learned the importance of not just choosing a goal—but choosing the right goal. Once I started signing up for half marathons (and then one marathon, woot!), I had a good reason to run harder and faster. With a concrete goal, I never missed a practice (even though, in this case, I was my own coach) and once I saw myself progressing and getting stronger, I became motivated to run even more. By pivoting from body-oriented goals like "Get a flat belly," to goals oriented towards races and just showing up, I've found that I'm much more fit since I'm not obsessing over how I look, but how I feel which is a much stronger motivator!

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I’m not saying you shouldn’t take days off from working out—over-training is one of the most dangerous things you can do as an athlete—but it’s the terminology I take issue with here. Labeling days as “on” and “off,” turns working-out into a binary, restrictive activity, where “days off” are a relief that have positive associations and “days on” are about as exciting as Mondays. Instead of labeling the days I workout, I try to do something active everyday—some days it’s running five miles, but others it’s going on a walk around the neighborhood. Without the structure of on and off days, I find that I end up being even more active—and never have to beat myself up when I do miss a day. Plus, when you work out every day, I've found that something switches mentally where you get addicted to the feeling of working out, and that rush of endorphins that comes with regularly doing it! And if that isn't enough, here's another terminology trick: Instead of saying "I can't miss today's workout," say "I don't miss workouts." Simply changing the way you talk about working out can encourage you do it more often! 

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I’ve tried working out at every time of day—a quick yoga class during lunch or spinning after work, but the only time that really works consistently is the morning. When I set my alarm for 6 a.m. and get up at the first ring (no snoozing!), I find that my mind doesn’t have time to rationalize all the reasons I shouldn’t work out, as tends to happen the further my day progresses, and I end up doing it, no excuses. If you aren't a morning person, I suggest using an app that allows you to schedule workouts in advance, like ClassPass or a group class schedule at your gym to help keep you accountable.

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While running is my mainstay, doing it every day can take the joy out of it. To keep things interesting, I switch between a number of different things. I joined my gym because it offers a ton of classes, so I try to go to something different every day, whether a TRX class, guided treadmill run (I love the new guided runs on the Nike Run Club app!) or yoga. On the weekends, I'll go outdoor rock climbing, attend a flag football meetup (there’s a great one in Santa Monica), or bring a workout app onto my patio. The variety keeps things fresh and fun so that working out never becomes just something to cross off, but instead becomes a reward: I get to go work out.

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Each time I invite a friend to come to a class or on a run with me, I end up having twice as much fun, even if we end up walking through our run or laughing more than we do situps (hey, that's an ab workout in itself). More than once, inviting a friend to a class has turned into a weekly tradition. And while I usually ask my friends to go with me, when they’re not available, I’ll join a running group (Nike Run Club and Mikkeller Run Club are two of my favorites!) which feels just as motivating and social.

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