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My gym membership costs $90 a month.
Really — I know.
Yes, I have tried to negotiate, and yes, I’ve looked into other gyms, but after joining my Manhattan chain on a corporate discount that was about $20 less than I currently pay, I couldn’t bear to leave the gym when I went back to civilian status after changing jobs. I love the teachers! I know the schedule! The locations are so convenient!
That’s how they get you.
Anyway, the price of my gym is what it is, and I paid for a year in advance just to get that rate. So I better make it worth my money. Every night that I “don’t feel like going” means I’m wasting cash, and as someone who would be naturally well suited to those hover chairs from Wall-E, there are lots of nights I need to turn “don’t feel like” into “can’t wait.”
How do I force myself to go? Below, I’m confessing the motivation tricks that get me off the couch and onto the spin bike. I can’t guarantee they’ll work for you — I can’t even guarantee they’ll continue to work for me — but this is what works right now.
I leave my gym bag at the office.
This is decidedly trickier if you’re the type to work out before and after work, but I haven’t yet reached that level of lunacy. As someone who exclusively exercises at night, I bring my gym bag home, empty it, refill it, and bring it to work the next day, whether I’m planning to go to the gym or not.
On the weekend, I just bring it home and then back on Monday morning. This way, I’m never caught without sneakers … and I get an arm workout during my commute.
I think of the money.
The brilliant thing about belonging to a gym, as opposed to those $35 boutique spin classes so many of my friends adore, is that since you’ve already paid, it gets cheaper every time you go.
That’s amazing! If I go to one class in a month, it’s a $90 class. Two, they’re each $45. Nine classes? At nine, which works out to fewer than three times a week, I’m paying only $10 per class.
I ask my office gym buddies if they’re going … every day.
Because you can’t ask and then go, “Oh, just wondering. I will not be joining you. I have some important Netflix to watch.”
I tell myself I can decide whether I want to go … later.
This tactic has worked brilliantly.
Instead of spending the day fighting myself over whether I “feel like” or “want to” go to the gym, I postpone the internal debate until after my workout.
That way, I can have a nice, indulgent mental back-and-forth and bask in indignation and reluctance for as long as I want — on the train home, having already done my workout.
I’ve never been sorry.
I listen for the ‘but …’
The other day one of my office gym buddies and I found ourselves in the kitchen.
“You going to the gym tonight?”
“Well, I brought my stuff, but …”
And that’s when we knew we had to go. As far as excuses go, ones that begin with “but” aren’t even worth entertaining. How was that sentence going to end? “I brought my stuff, but … I’m feeling lazy. It’s dark out. I don’t really feel like it.”
I go to classes.
If someone isn’t standing in front of me, barking out reps and making sure I do them, it’s not going to get done. That’s something I know about myself. As much as I admire those sneakered, self-motivated New Yorkers bounding through Manhattan at a brisk jog all hours of the day and night, I’m just never going to be one.
And I stand in the front.
You try slacking off when you’re directly in the instructor’s line of sight.
I tell myself I can leave mid-class.
I say it, but I never do it. Once I’m there, in my gym clothes, sneakers strapped on, in a prime front-row spot, you can bet I’m not leaving. It’s not like I’m doing a four-hour CrossFit workout or running a marathon — it’s a 45-minute class, and I can do pretty much anything for 45 minutes. By the time I think of leaving, it’s over.
I make myself recognizable to the instructors.
When an instructor enters the classroom, I make eye contact, smile, and say “Hi.” When I’m limping out the door, I make sure to thank them. This accomplishes two things: First, it makes me not a huge jerk, and second, it means they notice when I’m not there.
When an instructor waltzes into class and says, “Hi! Haven’t seen you in a while!” it’s … extremely motivating.
I sign up in advance.
Earlier this year, my gym finally introduced an online portal that allows you to sign up ahead of time for classes with explicitly limited space, like spinning, which has to be capped at the number of available bikes.
After three incidences of signing up and not showing up, you’re barred from online registration for the next 30 days.
I am not going to flake on a reservation.
I talk about going to the gym incessantly.
If everyone in my office knows I plan to go, I have to keep my word. True story: I wrote a version of this story last year. A few months ago, I was whining in the elevator with some colleagues about how I didn’t feel like going to the gym.
“Better go back and reread your article!” one joked.
I went to the gym.
I recognize that there’s always a reason to bail.
I once wrote about how “there’s always something,” in reference to planning out your spending and your budget. It’s the same for the gym. I’m not sure there has ever been a night where I couldn’t think of multiple reasons not to go.
For instance, here’s a list of reasons I considered not going to the gym in the last week:
• I’m tired.
• My calves are sore from a new class I tried.
• I don’t have the shorts I prefer to wear for spin class.
• I got stuck at work and won’t be able to make my preferred Tuesday night class.
• It’s dark.
• It’s raining.
• I forgot my headphones.
• I’m going to miss the express train home.
• I’m coming down with the cold that’s been going around the office.
• I need to pack for a weekend trip.
• My gym buddies all bailed on me.
Just because you have a reason doesn’t make it a good one. Go anyway.
I wrangle an escort.
Between my office and the gym are two different subway stops. Also cabs. And sidewalks that lead straight home. To make sure I’m shamed into actually arriving at the gym instead of being segued by an exit strategy, I do my best to press coworkers into escort service. “We don’t even have to work out together! Let’s just walk over together!” (Oh man, I’m the worst.)
I don’t expect to enjoy every minute.
I had a revelation while shuffling down the street to the gym on a dark, rainy night after nine hours at the office: “You don’t have to like it,” I muttered to myself as I dodged umbrellas. “You just have to do it.”
That mantra has stuck with me through all the rainy nights, the cold nights, the nights where I just don’t want to sweat through my shirt. There seems to be this idea in popular culture that you have to love your chosen form of exercise. You have to enjoy it. It’s your hobby! It’s the best! You’re addicted!
But really, it’s OK if sometimes it’s the worst, and you hate it, and you consider battering your way out the window with five-pound hand weights. As long as you get it done.
I mix up my workouts.
I know I just said it’s OK not to like your workout, but you have to like it sometimes. Or at least tolerate it.
If I had to spin four nights a week, I’d probably expire of boredom. Same goes for kickboxing. Or Pilates. Or sculpting.
But if I do a different one each night, I can trick myself into thinking some are easier, just because they’re different. “Oh, no big deal going to the gym today,” I’ll tell myself. “It’s an easy night.”
Tell that to my abs the day after.
I enter any available gym challenge.
In the winter, my gym holds a challenge called “50 in 90,” where you aim to go 50 times in 90 days. The reward is a branded tote bag or water bottle or something, which you can just go ahead and buy any time of the year should you want to. But that’s not the point.
You better believe I registered, even though the challenge period spanned the holidays and my chances of actually making 50 in 90 were slim.
I don’t want to tell you how many I made. (38, OK?!)
I tell myself going to the gym is my reward.
There’s no better choice I could be making at that moment for my health and well-being. It’s a breath of fresh superiority.