An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. -Newton’s first law of motion
My girlfriends and I were discussing workout habits while on a group run the other morning, and I joked about being one of the “laziest active people” around. Yes, I work out — probably more than the average person — but I’ve also learned how to make it easy on myself.
Easy? Well, there’s a bit of effort required, but the concept is simple: Make the path of least resistance the one that leads to fitness.
Huh? Ok, allow me to explain.
You see, years ago my workout routine consisted of dragging myself to the gym after work and halfheartedly hitting the elliptical machine for a half hour (while reading a magazine) before calling it a day. I was too tired to cook well, bedtime would get pushed back, I’d sleep in to try to catch up, etc.
Repeat again and again with the exception of a few races. I’d schedule and train for them, but fall off the wagon in between.
It wasn’t until my fall marathon in 2013 that I finally decided to stop the vicious cycle once and for all. I was sick of training hard into injury, then spending months healing and recovering…only to find myself back at square one.
You can only play Jenga with yourself so many times before the excitement of seeing how high you can stack the pile before everything comes crashing down loses its appeal.
Instead, I vowed to take a new approach, one that would allow me to once and for all create a solid foundation. Step one was deciding to make fitness a lifestyle — something that I live and breathe every day — instead of an option. Step two was to figuring out a game plan. And step three was putting it in action and conservatively building on successes.
So here’s how I started offsetting my sedentary habits for good:
1. Stop thinking, start doing.
Get up! Quite simply, sit less and move more – and once you start, don’t stop. It began with a nightly walk around the block with my dogs, then I started building up my mileage and adding strength training between races to push my fitness threshold.
Weekend runs were no longer just a means to an end (i.e. the same five-mile loop to our farmer’s market for fresh kettle corn); they became part of a bigger plan of slowly building a larger base so I wouldn’t have to start from zero each training cycle.
2. Watch your mouth.
As in, what you put in it. You are what you eat, and it’ll translate into your training, so make it count. Avoid processed foods, practice portion control and aim to incorporate more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Once I started seeing food as fuel and feeling the impact of my choices — both good and bad — I wanted to give my body what it needed to get stronger and stay healthy. Rather than viewing it as extra work, I got excited when I saw how it was so closely connected to performance.
3. Ask for help.
It can be intimidating starting a new routine, so seek out people on whom you can rely for advice, motivation and inspiration. Join a local running club or swim team for coaching, or enlist the help of friends who are seasoned athletes and can explain the finer points of various training concepts.
You’ve got to know yourself and what works for you; I get bored easily, so I knew I’d need to mix things up. I started adding cross-training in the form of different classes, which not only challenged my mind, but also made me a stronger runner. My November Project tribe was also immensely helpful when it came to staying motivated; there was always someone doing something — or someone who was game for anything.
4. DIY at home.
You can thank Jane Fonda for this one. After inspiring a home video fitness craze among millions of baby boomers, she paved the way for P90X, Insanity and a host of other DVD-based workout programs in our generation.
Let’s face it, we all get our days when we’d rather hit the couch than the treadmill. So I made a deal with myself that if I didn’t get to the gym for a workout, I’d at least move around at home with one of my workout DVDs (I happen to love Beachbody’s, and they don’t pay me to say that).
5. Sign up for a race.
A mere two months of three 20-30 minute sessions per week stand between you and the finish line, so it’s totally doable. Check out my couch-to-five-miler plan, which takes you step-by-step through the process if you’ve got your eye on an event this season but don’t know where to start.
When all else fails, having a deadline can be very motivating. And once you have that race date in the calendar, the key is to back out from that day and create a training plan (the actual length will depend on your current level of fitness and the race duration).
I put my marathon plans front and center on the fridge and even make check boxes so I can cross off runs as I complete them. Take it one step at a time, one workout at a time and before you know it, you’ll be living — and actually looking forward to — a more active lifestyle.