We all know that rewards can work for kids, and we often use them for ourselves. I have a friend who has been known to pop a handful of M&M’s in her mouth as a reward for getting off the couch and heading to the gym. Whatever works, right?
I’ve tried a lot of reward systems for myself. Usually it is food or TV related. Something I see as a little indulgence. I even tried to pay myself a dollar for every workout. In the end I was too cheap to pay up, even to myself.
Yes, I can be a little thrifty. Especially when it comes to workout clothes. I have been wearing the same things for years. And some of those are even hand-me-downs themselves.
I’ve never seen the point in spending money on things I only wear to the gym.
Sure, I admire the people who shop at Lulu Lemon and Lucy. I just figured that we had different priorities when it came to shopping. I spend on the things I wear the most: work clothes.
They would tell me that it is nice, and even motivating, to workout in clothes you like. I’d just roll my eyes and save my money for a great pair of slacks.
But I’ve been going to the gym consistently now for four months. And I’m starting to see some results from all of my hard work. Now I finally understand what they were talking about.
I want to reward myself for working hard. I want to wear a cute sports bra at the gym, even though it’ll be hidden under my tank top and no one will know but me.
So this weekend I took myself to one of those fancy workout stores.
It was a whole different experience from shopping at Target. The store was filled with beautiful workout gear, organized by sport. Sales people were helpful and friendly, and they had experience wearing the clothes.
The dressing room was big, and so nice that there were throw pillows on the bench. I felt special just by being there.
And as I stood in front of the giant, gold framed mirror and tried on clothes, something happened.
I began to see myself differently.
Instead of staring at my reflection and noticing the flaws, I liked what I saw. New, toned muscles and a more fit body than I’ve had in a while.
I looked good in those workout clothes and that made me feel good. Or maybe the fact that I felt good made me look good. It’s hard to say. Our feelings and physical appearance are a lot like the chicken and the egg.
What I do know is that when I slip on that hot pink sports bra I feel like I deserve it, and that makes me want to workout even more.
Do you reward yourself for your hard work? What kinds of rewards do you like? Do you invest in workout gear or cheap out, like me? Are rewards motivating? Or just an unnecessary indulgence? I’d love to hear what you think.
We can all get a little too serious at times. Most of us are serious about our jobs, our families, working out, and all the endless things on our to-do lists.
I try to think of myself as a fun, light hearted person. But I am also very much in my head. I like to have a plan and I over-think everything. Really, sandals or ballet flats shouldn’t be that big of a decision. But, I’m serious about my shoes.
When it comes to working out, I try to find that nice balance of having fun and working hard. I am usually the least serious one at the gym. Yes, I realize it is strange be more serious about footwear than working out, but that is who I am.
So, I didn’t even think twice about the crazy workout I saw posted on Monday, April First.
It was: 100 burpees, an 800 meter run, then 100 more burpees.
Anyone who hasn’t heard of burpees should first consider themselves lucky. It’s basically getting down to the ground and then back up again, with a little jump in the air, as fast as you can.
I can do about 10 before my lungs feel like they are going to burst out through my chest. I wasn’t sure if I could actually do 200.
But I also knew I couldn’t back out or skip the workout. I knew it was my fault in the first place.
You see, one of my friends had been talking about how to get in some workouts while on vacation. The head coach/owner of the gym suggested she do 100 burpees for time. I, of course, made some sort of horrified sound and asked why anyone in their right mind would want to do 100 burpees.
Apparently, I said it twice.
My friend shook her head at me and said, “Great, now he’s going to make us do 100 burpees.”
So when I saw the workout, I was feeling so guilty I didn’t even think about the calendar.
It didn’t help that the coach pointed at me and told the class the workout was because of me. I was just thankful he didn’t post that online. I wouldn’t want a bunch of tough CrossFitters to be mad at me.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, but I knew I had no choice. Even if I collapsed into a pile of my own sweat at the end, I was going to finish.
Then 8 burpees in, he stopped us. He got a giant smile on his face and said, “April Fool’s!”
He laughed and then we all started laughing, too. He had gotten us good.
The real workout was tough, but nowhere near 200 burpees. And I was still giggling to myself after it was over.
I couldn’t believe I fell for it, on April Fool’s Day no less.
Yes, we can put some seriousness in our workouts and our work. But, we also need to leave room and time for fun. There is time to smile and time to laugh. And nothing feels quite as good as laughing at ourselves in a room full of people, all laughing at themselves, too.
Except maybe being the one who thought of the joke.
Have you ever fallen for a good joke? Any on April Fool’s Day? Can you easily laugh at yourself? Or do you take things seriously?
*Epilogue: We had to do the workout last night, for real. So the joke really was on us.
At a meeting last week an expert told a group of us that competition was one of the best ways to motivate people. If you look around our culture, I guess it must be true. Shows like Survivor and The Apprentice are about beating everyone else out for the one winning slot.
Even the Kardashians and all those Wives shows are about competition. Competition for who can get the most air time and who can be the biggest drama queen.
So I was happy when my BFF spoke up and said that competition never worked for her. The best motivator, she said, was working with a friend. Co-operation, team work, making whatever it is fun.
That got me thinking about working out. Since I joined a CrossFit gym in my new city, I’ve been working out regularly. I don’t ever have to drag myself to the gym and I’m not forcing myself to work out.
I actually look forward to working out. Because I want to see if I can push myself farther and harder than the day before. I want to find out if I can lift more weight, do more reps, or shave some time off my total.
I am only in competition with myself. And that drives me to work harder every time.
If I were competing with everyone else, I’d stop as soon as someone finished before me. I’d see that the race was over and I might as well pack up and go home. And it would be even harder to compete the next time.
But because I’m not competing against anyone else in the gym, we are all on the same team. When someone finishes a workout, they encourage everyone else to keep going. Sure, it is not my goal to always be the last one to finish a workout. But, when I am the last one, everyone else is literally standing there, cheering me on.
The same is true of writing, teaching, shopping, dancing, and I’ll bet even accounting. We don’t have to be better than everyone else who does a similar thing. We have to be the best that we can, and try to get better at it each day.
It really is true what they say. There is always going to be someone faster or taller, smarter or prettier. If we go around competing with everyone, we will end up the loser some of the time.
But if we stop seeing everyone as our competition and realize that we are only competing to be our best selves, we have a world full of allies and team mates.
I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of the world cheering me on.
Are you motivated by competition with others? Or do you compete with yourself? What motives you to work hard? How do you feel about competition?
I have always been kind of anti-New-Year’s-Resolution. I thought they were silly and more of a way to pick on ourselves. Just an excuse to beat ourselves up for eating real food and liking our bodies with some curve.
I guess it was all those resolutions to diet and lose “the last five pounds” blasted across all the magazine covers and the ads for morning talk shows.
I thought I was better than all that.
The past few years my resolutions have been things like: I will drink more alcohol, I will stay up later at night, I will shop more, and I will go out dancing more often.
They were not tough resolutions to keep. It was sort of my way of flipping the bird to the whole idea.
But this year there have been a lot of changes in my life. When I moved across the country and took a job that is 80% time, I had to make some changes. Not full time means not full pay, so something had to give.
I decided that thing was CrossFit. It is exercise, but maybe it was a luxury. So I found a big gym just up the street with a pool, classes, every machine you could think of, and even a cardio movie theater. And all for only $10 a month.
I thought I was a financial genius. After all, if I really wanted to exercise I would do it anywhere. Right?
Wrong. After all those months of CrossFit going back to a big gym was hard. I had trouble motivating myself to go after a long day of work. There were no coaches waiting for me, no friends in class to ask where I’d been, and worst of all it was boring.
I’ve hated cardio machines for as long as I can remember. I also hate running and most of the other cardio exercises you can do on your own.
But I kept trying to force myself to go to the gym I hated, and then feeling guilty when I drove straight home instead.
Normally my step-mom and I make goals for the year every September. The start of the school year seems like a good time. And we make goals, not resolutions. Things that we want to accomplish, classes we want to take. It is never about beating ourselves up.
This past September I was unemployed and living in my best friend’s playroom, so my only goal was to get a job. Needless to say, I didn’t have to mull that one over with my step-mom.
So this year we’ve decided to come up with resolutions, over the phone. The first thing that came up for me was exercise. I want to want to work out, and I definitely want to be strong and healthy. I really want to get back to the place where I was physically before I moved out here.
I was on my way to doing a real pull-up and my push-ups on the bar where getting closer to the ground.
It made sense that my New Years Resolution would be to work out. But I didn’t want to do it in a self-punishing way. That never works out well.
Then my step-mom asked me an important question: How much is it worth to you?
Being healthy and enjoying exercise is worth a lot. Really, it is worth more than my cell phone or cable. And it’s certainly worth more than the drinks out and the shopping I do with the money in my budget for entertainment.
Maybe my New Year’s Resolution isn’t to work out, it’s to re-adjust my priorities. Remember what is important in life.
I found a nice CrossFit gym close to my new home, where I will be working out in 2013. And they even give a teacher discount. It seemed meant to be.
Who knows, maybe next year I won’t need a resolution at all. Or maybe it’ll always be to take another look at my life and my priorities. What’s most important should always come first.
And enjoyment should be up there at the top of the list, whether it’s about my job, writing, people in my life, or even exercise. There’s no reason we can’t be happy and healthy. Sometimes we just need a reminder, even if it’s something ”silly” like a New Year’s Resolution.
Do you have any resolutions for the new year? Is that something you do regularly? Or are you a skeptic like me? How do you want to spend the next twelve months of your life?
Like most people, my email inbox gets very full. And most of the emails are not notes from friends that I actually want to read. Most of it is advertising.
I know that I’m an easy target because I have a known addiction: I am a magazine whore.
I have three or four different magazine subscriptions going at a time. When they come up for their yearly renewal, I’ll switch it up and try different ones. I’ve even tried to stop subscribing a few times, but it never lasts.
So, it’s no surprise that I get ads and offers from magazines all the time.
But I got one the other day that made me really mad.
It was from Runner’s World or Runner’s Times, or some other running magazine. No, I don’t run anymore, but my name probably stayed on their list.
They were offering a subscription for people who hadn’t run in a while. Giant white letters across the top of the magazine and the email said: Run Your Butt Off.
My first thought was, “F*#! You, Runner’s World!” I may have actually flipped off my computer screen.
After I pushed the delete button, hard, I realized why I was so upset.
I am tired of the assumption that all women want to be thinner. As if we can’t be ok with ourselves as we are now. As if we can’t workout to be healthy and fit. It always has to be about getting skinny.
Well, skinny is not my goal.
It has taken me awhile, but now I not only accept my body as it is, but I actually appreciate my curves. And I am not going back.
When I first started running in college, it was about getting skinny. It became an addiction. I wanted to see how thin I could get and how small my clothes could become.
But my body is meant to have curves and no matter how much I ran, I couldn’t loose my booty.
I used to fantasize that while I ran my butt would fall off. I would go fast enough, and the cheeks would just plop right off and land on the sidewalk. In my mind I would see them there, jiggling on the cement. And I’d run off and leave them behind.
It never happened.
And now I’m glad.
I like my body the way it is.
I don’t want to be skinny and I don’t really care what size of pants I wear. And I’m not the only one.
Yes, I workout. I want to be strong and healthy. And fit. I do want to see more definition in my muscles and I want to be able to do real push-ups.
But I don’t want to lose my butt.
I’m getting tired of all forms of the media who are trying to make us hate ourselves so that we will want to change ourselves, using their products of course.
Wouldn’t they be able to make just as much money by saying, “Hey come and get fit and healthy with us”?
Maybe if we all focus on loving and accepting ourselves as we are, we won’t buy their fear tactics. And when none of us are buying, they’ll have to change what they sell.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about being healthy. But thick thighs and a muscular booty are a part of healthy. We don’t have to be skinny to be fit.
The funny thing is, I’m actually thinking about running again. But I won’t be buying those magazines. Because I don’t want to run my butt off.
I love my butt just where it is.
Do you feel pressure to lose weight? How do you feel about your body? Is exercise about health or getting thin?
In case your interested, my favorite fitness magazine is Oxygen. It is not about getting thin. The models are muscular, not skinny, and they have exercises for building up your butt. That’s my kind of magazine!
I have been working out since I was in college. I joined the gym with a friend and haven’t looked back. Yes, I’ve had my ups and downs with exercise, and I’ve blogged about it here. But, I haven’t ever let go of the idea that working out is important. I know it’s good for my body, my mental clarity, and my mood. After I exercise I always feel good about it.
But I have never stopped hating those cardio machines.
I dread getting on the elliptical or the stair master and pretending I’m moving forward when I’m really staying in place. And I’m so done with running it’s out of the question.
I mentioned here that I love lifting weights and Ginger Calem, who does the WritersButt posts on her blog, commented about CrossFit. It sounded perfect for me. Lifting weights, body movements, and no actual cardio work.
But CrossFit is expensive.
And I’ve gone through this bored with the gym thing before. I’ve looked into that Bar3 class that is based on ballet. I’ve researched kick-boxing and self defense. I even tried yoga, which I didn’t like. But I always came back to the same problem.
All of the fun workout classes were too expensive.
So I tried to take classes at my gym. They either don’t fit my schedule, are too full to enjoy, or they leave me just as bored as cardio machines. And what about when I can’t do something in the class because of my shoulder? The college kid teaching the class can’t spot me in a packed room.
The more I looked into CrossFit the more excited I became. It sounded like so much fun. I wanted to be back in a place where working out was fun. So, I copied down some workouts and went to my gym. Sometimes I was able to stake out a small corner where I could do burpees and lunges without tripping over anyone. But there were also days I was stuck in the middle of the gym, embarrassed to try out a new move with all those people around me.
I complained to a friend about how much it stunk that all the fun workouts were too expensive. That’s when it dawned on me. My priorities were all wrong.
I was paying more every month for my cell phone than I spent on the gym. My cable service was more, my car payment more, and yes, I spent more on my hair. It was embarrassing when I realized how far down on the list I had put my body. My health, myself.
I was only willing to spend the cost of a pedicure on my gym membership. I probably spent more on lattes in month, if I kept track.
We only have one body. It supports us every day in amazing ways and I was grouping it with nail care. Luckily, I realized my mistake in time to do something about it.
I realized that my body deserves a workout I enjoy. Exercise shouldn’t be something I hate and think about like flossing: something that has to be done. I want to love working out. And if that costs as much as my cell phone, what’s the big deal?
It’s for my body.
So, I signed up for a month of CrossFit and I didn’t even blink when I saw the price. The way I feel during and after a class is priceless. And my body deserves nothing less.
Do you have a limit on how much you’ll spend on exercise? Have you wanted to try any classes, but decided they were too expensive? How do you feel about working out?
I have been struggling with a love/hate relationship with exercise for a while now. Probably, since I started taking my writing seriously. It seems I only have room in my life for one major obsession. When I found writing, my love of exercise dropped away.
Or so I thought.
I used to workout first thing in the morning. Now, that’s when I write. After a long day at work the last thing I wanted to do was go to the gym and work out. It’s the same excuse most people have. And it is valid. We are tired after work.
Most of the magazines and experts’ advice is to do your workout first thing so you can’t put if off. Yeah, it used to work. But now writing comes first.
So I tried to get myself re-inspired with working out. Ginger Calem commented on a post I wrote about walking and told me about CrossFit. I did some research online, followed her WritersButt blog posts, and decided to try it out.
CrossFit is basically a combination of strength training and cardio, using a lot of body-weight exercises like pushups and squats. I love lifting weights because it makes me feel strong and powerful. It’s the cardio that I find mind-numbingly boring. So I followed a couple of the workout routines (what they call WODs) that she suggested.
It was really hard, but really fun at the same time. I was sweating like crazy, and sore and worn out after twenty minutes. The perfect workout for me.
But no matter how much I liked the workout or how good I felt afterward, I still had trouble getting to the gym. It was like once my butt hit that seat in the car all I could think about was going home. And how good the couch would feel. Really, it was my butt’s fault. She is much stronger than I am.
And then I got an idea. I don’t remember how it came to me. I just knew.
I was good at all the prep work to get myself to the gym. I packed my bag the night before and kept it in the car all day. I downloaded the new music I was loving and made a new workout mix. Only to be listened to at the gym. My motivation was strong. I’d make it to the gym twice a week, and then my Butt would call it quits.
In the car. That was where the breakdown always happened.
At first it was just a silly thought: Maybe if I had a recording of someone saying “Go to the gym!” that I could play in the car I would make it there. But that was just silly. And I was too lazy or embarrassed to see if there was an app for that on my phone. So I went old school.
I grabbed a 3 x 5 notecard and fat Sharpie. I wrote: Get Your Ass to the Gym! in block letters. Then I worried about some kid looking through my car windows and asking their mommy why that lady has ass in her car. Even butt seemed a little crude, so I wrote it how I would really say it. Then I taped it to the center of my steering wheel.
Now every time I get in the car the white sign jumps out at me. It tells me to take my booty to the gym. And my booty listens. I guess she likes to be taken care of just as much as the rest of me.
Since I put that sign on my steering wheel I have been going to the gym five days a week, easily. I even went a sixth day this week because I wanted to. On a Saturday! I almost couldn’t believe it myself.
But my booty really does love working out. She just needed a sign.
How do you feel about exercise? Do you love going to the gym? What motivates you to work out?
It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with exercise lately. After months of not going to the gym at all or going on and off, over exercising, and then not exercising at all, I finally found some balance. And I wrote about it here.
That balance has now brought me back around to my full, true self. At least when it comes to exercise.
I started out going three days a week and doing whatever I felt like at the gym. Some days were just cardio and some days I threw in weights and abs, too. It was difficult at first. I told myself I was tired after work and just needed to relax. I thought my body was telling me to go home and sit on the couch. I could read and exercise my brain instead.
But the more I stuck with those three days, the more my body’s messages became clear. My lower back let go of the tight spot and the Charlie horse in my calf went away. I wasn’t as tired after the gym as I had been on the way there. After a few weeks I slept better, woke up easier, and my whole body clicked into gear. How to say this politely? My digestive system worked like a dream and no more monthly cramps. My body really liked this regular exercise thing.
The more I went, the more I wanted to go. But not in that compulsive way I’ve had before.
I started lifting weights a little more regularly and planning out what I wanted to do. I remembered my way around the weight room and didn’t feel self conscious among all the burly men. I jumped on whatever cardio machines were open, tuned up my music, and moved.
I felt stronger, stretchier and more relaxed than when I was at home on the couch. My brain finally caught up to my body and remembered how much I loved going to the gym.
I used to call myself a gym rat. Not because I have big teeth or an unusual love of cheese. But because what I loved about the gym was the weight room and the cardio machines. I’m not too much of a class girl. They always sound good, but the schedule is never quite right for me. Plus, there was something about being trapped in a room with someone telling me what to do. Out in the open part of the gym I can move around when I want, how I want. And I can watch other people and learn.
I can read magazines and try new, fun workouts. I can watch the trainers and copy the latest exercise. I can listen to my music and dance a little in between sets. My body can move how it wants to. And my body loves to sweat.
I don’t have to run or pretend I like yoga. I can do what I want to do.
Now I’m excited about working out. And when I get home from the gym I have energy to make more than a quesadilla for dinner. I want to relax in a bath and read, instead of vegging out in front of the TV. It’s amazing how one healthy habit builds on to the next, without me even trying.
Yesterday, I had a great text-a-thon with one of my Bestie’s who moved away. She used to be a trainer and my workout buddy. We decided to text each other for motivation and inspiration. And to talk about new workout moves.
It feels so good to be back to myself. I feel whole and happy and proud. The rat is back. And yes, I do love cheese.
I am not going to lie. I have always been an extremist. If you’re going to do something, do it all the way. Go hard or go home.
Some people like to claim that is perfectionism. I think it actually comes from my natural state of laziness. If I’m not willing to put in 100% effort, I’ll just skip it. It gets me out of a lot of things.
But, lately it’s also kept me from being my best self.
I would go to the gym for two, maybe three days, and work out hard. I have always believed that if I wasn’t dripping with sweat and ready to lie down, right there on the ground and die, that I hadn’t really worked out. And, yes, I judged everyone else that way, too. In my mind there were a lot of people wasting their time at the gym. Reading while doing cardio?
But then, I’d get sick. A cold or the flu would knock me out and leave me on the couch under a quilt watching HGTV. Even if I was strong enough to go to work, I didn’t make it to the gym. I didn’t have enough energy for a “real” workout, so why bother. The cycle of three days on, ten days off became a pattern.
Not a good thing.
It was the same thing with my hair and make-up. I am kind of obsessed with eye make-up. Since my first trip to the MAC counter in high school, I have been a junkie. It takes at least four colors and five brushes for a look I think is fun. I’ve been known, and teased for, wearing orange eye shadow to make my eyes look bluer or considering purple a neutral color. I don’t care what people say, I love it.
But straightening my hair and wearing make-up every day for work began to drag me down. I tried the whole, low maintenance make-up thing. BORING. I don’t want to spend ten minutes to look like I’m not wearing make-up. I can do that instantly. The drag became so bad that I stopped looking forward to getting dressed up on the weekends. I put my flat iron at the back of the cupboard and ditched the make-up for velour track suits.
I couldn’t go on like this forever.
I’d heard people talk about balance and inner peace before. I even tried yoga a couple of times. But spending thirty-five dollars to stretch and take a nap didn’t bring me peace. It just made me think about how many lattes that thirty five dollars would’ve bought.
Then I complained to my chiropractor about being too tired for exercise. She told me that moderation is important and over-training is bad. Then she said something I didn’t totally understand about heating up your inner temperature being the important part of exercise.
As I lay with my face poking through the hole in the table, trying not to drool on the carpet, something clicked. It was that word.
Maybe I could try moderation in a few areas of my life.
The next day I went to the gym. I did some upper body weights and got on an elliptical machine. I didn’t do intervals, and I didn’t crank it all the way up. My body warmed up and I did sweat, just not as much as usual. And I noticed something different when I got home.
I actually had energy. More energy than before the gym. So, this was what people were talking about. Maybe exercise can give you energy.
The next morning I got in the shower a little later than normal. More time for me. I left the blow dryer and the flat iron in the cupboard. I used some mousse, scrunched, and let it air-dry. Maybe wavy hair wasn’t the most horrible thing in the world. And to make it even better, I found my own version of moderate make-up: mascara and lip gloss. It took less than a minute.
And you know what I discovered that day? No one freaked out, asked why I wasn’t wearing make-up, or what happened to my hair. The only people who noticed had good things to say. And the best part was I discovered that I like myself exactly as I am, wavy hair and all.
That weekend I did my hair and make-up because I wanted to. And it was fun.
How do you find moderation in your life? Are you an extremist or naturally balanced?
I know I need to go to the gym. I feel better, sleep better, look better, even write better when I’m working out regularly. I have
more energy, I feel strong, and I can kick off a cold or flu with just a few days of Airborne.
I know all the health benefits to my heart and
lungs, and blah, blah, blah.
So, why is it so hard for me to get there?
Once I’m there, it’s no problem. Something about walking by the front desk seeing other people lifting weights and pounding on
the treadmills gets me energized. I go from, “I’ll just do twenty minutes on the bike” to a whole weight routine, plus thirty minutes of interval-style cardio on something upright.
While I’m working out I think about how great I feel, how I’ll look in my clothes, and I plan my workouts for the rest of the week. I even go home and eat a little bit healthier, maybe think about a subscription to Women’s Health or Oxygen magazines. I go to sleep feeling relaxed, healthy, and strong. And loving how I feel.
But the next day it’s all gone. The last thing I want to do is go to the gym and the excuses begin: You went yesterday, A day off is a good thing, You can rest today and workout tomorrow.
I’ve read plenty of magazines and tried all their tricks. Lists of reasons to work out are posted all over my house and pictures of ideal bodies hang on my fridge, bathroom mirror, and the “vision board” in my office. The only action they’ve stirred is my brother to tell me I should take them down before he comes over. They kind of creep him out.
Dr. Oz, or some other famous doctor quoted in Oprah, said that working out is like flossing our teeth. We may not want to do it, but we have to just get it over with like any chore. Doesn’t really inspire me to put on a sports bra.
And it’s not the working out that’s the problem. It is literally getting my butt out of my front door.
Why is that so hard?
Does anyone else have a problem getting to the gym? Any tricks that actually work? (Other than Gillian from Biggest Loser moving in with me. I don’t respond to yelling.)