7 Ways to Banish Gym Excuses for Good

How many times have you paid a gym membership fee with the best intentions, only to find a month later that you've stepped through the door just once? You know you'll feel physically stronger and mentally refreshed after your workout is over, but somehow life just keeps getting in the way. You hit the snooze button too many times this morning, a lunchtime meeting pops up or your son needs a ride to soccer practice this evening. How do you establish a routine so that going to the gym isn't a chore at the bottom of your to-do list, but rather a regular part of your daily life?

Between the variety of equipment and classes from which to choose, access to trainers, and friends who make your hour of sweat a social experience, the gym has the potential to turn exercise into something you look forward to instead of something you dread. But you have to get there first. If packing your gym bag the night before isn't enough to get you there regularly, check out these tips from trainers and other motivational experts to make getting to the gym one of the easiest parts of your day.

Find the Right Gym

"It’s amazing what the right type of gym will do for motivation," says Pat Gilles, owner of Pat's Gym in Wisconsin. "Find a gym with people who will build you up instead of make you feel like you don’t belong."

Before you dive into the first gym you drive past, ask yourself a few key questions: Are you looking for a gym that targets beginners or somewhere with a wide variety of advanced equipment? Does the gym offer classes you're interested in trying at the time of day when you're available? Are you comfortable with mixed-gender gyms or would you prefer a women or male-only facility? Is the location convenient? Take a tour, see if they offer a free trial and ask current members for feedback before deciding that this is the right gym for you.

Plan for the Week Ahead

Alysa Boan, a certified personal trainer at FitnessTrainer.com, finds that detailed planning is the key to success. "One of the tricks I have found works best is to not only schedule their workouts, but schedule them early—our cutoff is Sunday afternoon. This includes workouts with the trainer, reserving spots for any group fitness classes and writing out what workout will be done each day," she explains. "It is clear exactly what they need to accomplish, leaves no guesswork and also helps them look forward to their days off." If committing to Mondays after work hasn't been enough to get you to the gym, try committing to a specific workout at a specific time and writing it in your calendar just like any other appointment.

Set Very Simple Goals You Can't Excuse

You've set SMART goals, but somehow they still aren't getting you to the gym. Weight-loss expert and author Michelle Hastie Thompson suggests it's time to take a step back and start with something even simpler. "If you've worked hard all day and then set the goal to go the gym and run, your mind will fire off excuses like, 'I am too tired,' 'My knee hurts' or 'I don’t want to mess up my hair.,'" Thompson explains. "But if you make your goal as simple as, 'Put my workout clothes on after work,' it's unlikely you will find an excuse to skip out. You have your workout clothes on and it feels silly to just drive home."

This way of thinking creates a domino effect. "Going to the gym now becomes you exceeding your expectations, which feels really good. Your next goal could be to drive to the gym and park. Nothing else. Then it could be to go into the gym and stretch. You want to choose a goal that has the least amount of objections," she says. Thompson points out that "Regardless of how easy the goal is, you will exceed your goals more often than not because you’ve surpassed the most challenging hurdle of getting to the gym—your mind."

Visualize Your Feelings of Accomplishment

The funny thing about many regular gym-goers is that they don't necessarily love to get up and go, but they love the feeling after a good workout and that alone keeps them coming back for more. Emily Mendez, a mental health writer and expert, suggests that recalling those feelings can make it easier to get to the gym next time. "Visualize the effects of following through with going. Think about these things when you're considering whether or not to skip the gym for the day: How will I feel after working out? How did I feel last time? Visualize going to the gym and doing the workout." Knowing that you'll feel good about yourself if you go and might be disappointed in yourself if you don't can be the push you need to get there.

Plan for a Special Post-Workout Snack

If there's a healthy snack you really enjoy, why not save it for after a good workout? You might not be jazzed about heading to the gym, but if you know there's a tasty snack waiting for you afterward, it could be the boost you need. Commit to yourself that the snack is only available if you follow through with your workout plan.  

Download an App

"I don't know what to do when I get to the gym" is no longer an excuse with the wide variety of apps and resources available. A simple search can yield exercise moves targeting specific muscles, expert-developed circuits and training plans that work for your schedule and your fitness level. The Aaptiv app, for example, allows you to enter your goals, select a workout and a trainer guides you through it for $10 per month. Skimble Workout Trainer provides step-by-step audio, photo and video instruction for a wide variety of workouts at different fitness levels.

Looking for some motivational incentive? Frank Benedetto, a physical therapist and co-founder of ProVere Health recommends the app Spar! to his clients. "Most people are exponentially more likely to keep a commitment to a friend when compared to making a commitment to oneself," he explains. "The app Spar! is essentially a dedicated group chat revolving around a specific goal. Each member of the group checks in with a 20-second video and the app automatically keeps track of the goal for the week. There are options to add financial penalties for missed check-ins to take the accountability up a notch."

Find Some Motivational Prompts

Christene Burgess, a counselor and mindfulness expert, recommends finding a variety of motivational tools that target the different senses. "Video record a segment of your workout as an active reminder that you are this person who's committed to keeping fit. Choose a music track that's motivational and energizing as your 'call to action' for your alarm on your phone, telling you it's time for a workout. Start or join an interesting group to meet up with for workouts," she suggests. "If you fail to keep a planned workout session, commit to a new appointment. Don't let the one-off occasion derail you indefinitely."

Even the most faithful exerciser has trouble getting out the door for a workout now and then. By learning what motivates you to be consistent, you'll be able to stay committed to the gym and, therefore, committed to a lifetime of activity and better health.