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The Gym Motivation Puzzle

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I've seen the words a lot of times: Sometimes, the hardest part is jut getting out the door. While there are no doubt people who don't struggle with this, it's certainly true for me. In particular, the more prep time that is required, the less likely I am to do an exercise activity.

When motivation runs strong, this isn't much of a problem. The motivation powers me through the gear-up, and the exercise is lots of fun. When motivation is medium, sometimes I play mental games to get through to the fun part of exercise. And when motivation is low, I'd better have a form of exercise that requires next to no gear up.

So . . . I joined a gym last Sunday. It was a good financial decision, *IF* I use the gym. My last gym was a good financial decision when I was using it; I ended up dropping it after I hadn't used it in several months. That's the danger with me and gyms; will I let low motivation and inertia keep me away?

You would think the first week would be no problem. Um, not quite. Sunday I went to the gym, lifted weights, and did 15 minutes of intense elliptical machine. I learned that the elliptical doesn't bother my foot injuries, and that my pedometer counts steps on the elliptical better than it does on a bike.

Monday I packed my gym bag, but ended up working a bit late and letting the time talk me out of a trip to the gym after work. Tuesday was a work at home day, and I got in to the gym for a swim after work. Wednesday I packed my gym bag, but instead of going to the gym came home to play with the new linked fitness and nutrition trackers on an alternate account. (See last Wedneday's blog; I'm not switching.) Thursday I mowed the lawn instead of going to the gym. Friday I was tired, and came home with the good intention of getting to bed early.

I see a pattern here. Every little excuse is a reason not to go to the gym. It's stupid, because I know I'll enjoy myself when I get there; but there it is. Somehow, I need to learn to deal with that and differentiate the little excuses from the valid reasons to do something else.

Today is Saturday. Saturday mornings I do laundry, so the washer and dryer will be open for my daughter to use at noon when she shows up and I take her to lunch. I got up early, and got the mandatory part of my laundry cycled through pretty quickly. And I thought about going to the gym before daughter got here.

Motivation is not the highest, but not the lowest either. It's time for mental games. I told myself I'd just go and do a short weight lifting session, shower, and then pick up groceries on the way home. Get rolling by 9, and it should give me lots of time.

Little excuses to not roll kept popping up. Wait for the washer to finish so I can throw the last load in the dryer. Check the weather. Get my grocery list. I ended up not rolling till 9:30. I did get to the gym before 10, with plenty of time to do a short workout then get groceries.

And the magic happened. Once there, I looked at the crowd. Saturday morning is not as crowded as Tuesday after work. I can have my pick of free weights. Found the one really nice weight rack, and set up to deadlifts. Okay, I'm lifting light because I took time off; but deal with that.

The equipment at the gym is a lot nicer than what I have in my basement. It's also a lot nicer than what I had in my former gym. And there was *nobody else* wanting the good weight rack. So I did 3 sets of 8 deadlifts, threw on another 20 lbs. and did a set of 6. Still nobody waiting in line. What the heck, let's do RDLs too. I've never done Romanian deadlifts and traditional deadlifts in the same workout, but the traditional deadlifts were on the light side.

There's the flip side of inertia; once there, it was super easy to move from one lift to another. Changing the load on the bar was much easier than it is at home.

I moved from RDLs to 30° incline dumbbell chest presses, then the low row machine. Went to look for hip abduction, and actually found the only machine in use. But the hip adduction machine next to it was vacant, so I did that first. By the time I got done, the woman on the hip abduction machine had moved on so I did the abductions.

That was enough lifts for one day. Time to stretch. The mats were occupied, but no big deal. There was enough vacant floor space with indoor-outdoor carpeting for my stretching needs. Looked at the clock feeling virtuous. It was still before 11.

Now I'm thinking about my baby 10K step streak and a probably sedentary afternoon. Maybe do 15 minutes on the elliptical to crank out some steps and make the evening walk shorter? Back to the locker room to get my iPhone and earphones. The canned music in the gym isn't what I would choose, which is okay for weight lifting. Sucky music just makes the testosterone flow, and you lift better, right?

Cardio machines are a different story. They are uniformly boring, and piped in music that's not of my choice makes them torture. So I want to block it out with music that is of my choice. Can do, and it makes the elliptical go quicker. It also helped that I found one that had the attached TV turned off. I am not a fan of TV.

Recalling how much work the elliptical was last Sunday, I started out slow. But I got faster as I warmed to the task. Got to enjoying my tunes, and really enjoyed watching the people on the lower level work with free weights. Some were novices, but there was a woman who had some really impressive exercises in her routine. That's much better than the canned TV.

Before I knew it, I talked myself into 30 minutes on the elliptical. I'll still have time to pick up few groceries, right? Turned out I didn't. Got done, got showered, and had just about the right amount of time to get home comfortably in time to meed my daughter for lunch. Between gear up, working out, cool down, and shower I spent more than an hour and a half at the gym.

This has happened before, too. Get there, and it's fun. End up spending a long time. Remember that, and the long time spent is one of those excuses that keeps me from going on later days.

It's a puzzle. It worked out well today, with lots of free time. But I think I need to learn to plan a short gym visit for week days. I don't yet know what the typical short visit will look like, but it's something to work on. Because doing *something* is better than doing nothing, and doing something regularly is better than doing a lot infrequently.

Just got to keep working on my mindset, I guess. I need to figure out what gets me in, figure out how to plan the time so it's not excessive, and figure out how to make it to the gym regularly. I want to have this figured out by October, so when Christmas traffic arrives in November I know what I'm doing and don't let the traffic be an excuse not to go to the gym.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Oh, I wish my gym had a pool! There's a public one about 12 miles away and it is on my list to get to this week - tomorrow would be good. Now I just need to find the motivation to get myself there!

    I'm sure you'll get back into the workout groove and learn to quell the voices in your head that try to talk you out of it :-)

    Have a great week!
    1652 days ago
    I would suggest, Kevin, that you plan for the "after work" gym visits to be strength training. That can be done in a short amount of time. Now, I don't know what your "strength training" routine is, but you should be able to complete a strengthening routine in about 30 minutes. I would suggest doing the lifts and machines that you don't have access to at home, take advantage of the fact that you are PAYING for the nicer weights. You probably know this, but just be careful not to "back to back" the same exercises. You want a day of rest in between strength training sessions.

    Swimming is a bit more time consuming, but it is one of the nice amenities at the gym. It is also relaxing after a day at work. Finally, it is easy on your foot. Having the swim gear in your bag and the bag in the car makes it easier to stop by after work and get in a swim.

    Just my two cents worth, which probably isn't worth the two cents.

    1653 days ago
    It's much easier for me to get to the gym if I go with someone - usually my husband. It also helped when I was taking swim lessons. I had to be there at least once each week for lessons. Because I wanted to show improvement, I could usually get myself there at least two more times.

    Yeah... it's easy to talk yourself out of the gym. Fortunately I get to the Y before I get to my apartment on the way home from work, so I can usually force myself to go there.

    Good luck. Just take it one day at a time.
    1653 days ago
  • NWFL59
    Good blog, as always, today. I'm glad you were able to overcome your mental debate and enjoy your gym extended routine. Sounds like you've learned well how to deal with your internal motivation challenges and developed good alternative strategies to them. Thanks for the motivation! Mine has been waning lately so it is good for me to see how other deal with similar challenges. I still need to get a solid ST routine but at least I'm still trying different things to find a good fit. Hope you are progressing on the healing front. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1653 days ago
    I enjoyed reading your blog. Maybe when I get done reading I'll go for a little walk.
    1653 days ago
    I can totally relate to it, not really about exercise but like "put down that book you have read enough" or stop surfing around the net and get your work done"...
    Great job you won over inertia and got it a good workout!
    I'm lad you are enjoying the gym.
    1653 days ago
    Getting there is half the battle and you found you enjoyed it. Keep working on that puzzle.
    1654 days ago
    It was good for me to read this... I've been shorting myself on the strength training this year. Need to get back to it... I can see the difference in the mirror.

    But my pattern is very similar to yours vis a vis "getting to the gym". Any little excuse. And the amount of time I spend there detering getting there the next time. Hmmm... keep writing. Maybe I'll get it figured out for me, too.

    But I will say this: for me, the pool is worth the fee, all by itself.
    1654 days ago
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