5 ‘Rules’ to Stop Hating the Gym

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By Gillian Rowinski

“For you, I’d recommend program A. It includes the meal planning and the private coaching. You’re already spending $50 a month for your gym membership, so why not spend the extra $200 and get the full benefit. I really think the only way you’re going to meet your fitness goals will be through this program.”

I smile and imagine reaching over and condescendingly patting her adorable, little gym trainer head.

“Oh sweetheart, clearly you weren’t listening to me. You assume that just because I’m a 35-year-old, plus size, suburban working mom I must be at the gym to lose weight. Silly thing. You have me confused with someone else.

I am here to make friends with the gym. In my 20s I went to the gym because I hated my body and needed to fix it. By the time I hit my 30s, going to the gym was hard-wired in my brain as punishment, so I quit going altogether.

I’m so much clearer now and I want to start fresh. I’ve done the work — I’ve cleaned up all of the old beliefs and behaviors that are no longer serving me. I like my body the way it is, and I want to exercise because I know how good it is for me, and I like how it makes me feel. I have no intention of following your prescribed program layered with shame and patriarchal expectations of beauty, because it has absolutely nothing to do with my goal “

Instead (because I’m still working on the whole “speak up in the moment” thing), I tell her “thanks, but no thanks to program A,” and I make my own program.

5 “Rules” to Making Friends With the Gym

(Rules in quotes = make up your own rules. Take what you need, leave the rest.)

1. Go

I used to confuse not going to the gym with self-care. After a long day of work I’d tell myself what I really needed was to lie on the couch and watch TV.

And while sometimes that may have been true, more often than not I was just avoiding doing something I didn’t want to do.

Now I know better. I want to exercise because I like having energy. I like sleeping through the night. I like how clear my brain feels, and I like being able to carry my kids up flights of stairs without getting an aneurysm.

“Go” means unless I’m deathly ill or something serious has happened, on my three “gym days” a week I put on my running shoes, get my butt off the couch and do the work.

2. Do What You Can

As I walk in the gym doors I check in with myself. How does my body feel right now? What do I need today? What do I feel like doing? Sometimes this will mean a 90 minute, super intense work-out and sometimes I walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes and call it a day.

This is where I get to adjust for self-care — honoring and respecting whatever I feel like in that moment, and trusting myself to know what’s best.

(Note — this is the opposite of a scheduled, prescribed work-out plan or a boot camp trainer screaming at you to work harder).

3. Workout Mindfully

If my goal is to make friends with the gym, it helps if I’m actually present to being there. So I like to take my time… and feel what my body is doing.. notice each step… each muscle movement… each stretch. The lovely side benefit of this is that it keeps me focused so my ego is less likely to go wandering around the gym, comparison shopping for a new body.

4. Make it Fun!

I know for myself if I’m just lifting weights and doing super-sets, I’m bored to tears. This was my old way of going to the gym, so when I do it that way I quickly revert back into old habits of judging myself.

The new way means making it fun! Watching “Inside Amy Schumer” clips while I’m on the elliptical. Doing the super cheesy, 80s-inspired dance aerobics class. Going with a friend and then getting ice cream after (you know… balance).

5. Know Your Big Why

There will be days I don’t want to go. It will also be very easy to slip into old patterns, comparing myself to other people, criticizing my body, staring in the mirror at the parts I need to fix. The gym is perfect for this kind of self-deprecating crap. When that happens, I’ll need to remind myself why I’m there.

I’m talking the Big Why — far beyond all of the superficial reasons (“I just want to feel good in a tank top”), and past the new age of body shaming (“Strong is the new skinny”).

Mine is this: I care deeply about elevating the collective consciousness of moms everywhere, so that we can raise the next generation to be kinder, more compassionate and more loving. Being healthy allows me to do this.

Why are you going? Why do you want to keep your body healthy and strong? When you’re at your best, what do you bring to the world?

Find that thing. Write it down somewhere you can see it. Embed it in your soul.

I want you to think about, right now, why you started. Whenever you wanna quit you think about why you started. What is this really about? Why this matters so much. Why YOU matter so much. Why you matter, so much. And I’m here to tell you right now, you matter. — Jillian Michaels

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