On fitness motivation…
We are officially done with January 2020. Our New Year’s Resolutions are surely being tested at this point. Did you make any?
Chances are you made a resolution to take better care of your body, whether that was to lose weight, exercise more, or just to eat healthier. How are things going?
I can tell you that my local YMCA is already less crowded. Gone is the super packed cardio floor from the beginning of the year. Yes, it was frustrating as a regular patron. But it was also exciting. I love to see people beginning a fitness journey!
Yet here we are. It’s February. This is when the motivation begins to fade. So what can you do?
Mix it up!
Bored of your standard gym routine? Frustrated about how to progress? Try something new!
If you a member of a gym, you probably have a lot of options. Try a group exercise class. My YMCA has everything from HIIT, spin, barre, pilates, elite club, and water aerobics. (It’s also a great way to try new things without investing too heavily in a boutique style gym membership.) Try a yoga class in a real studio (Totally different feel and greater variety than at the YMCA.) Get in the pool and swim (most indoor pools also have kick boards and flotation belts which help if you’re not fully comfortable in the water.) Try CrossFit for a real challenge. (In the Richmond area/West End, I recommend DBG CrossFit. They have a great community and great coaching!)
Changing your exercise stimulus is good for you. It forces your brain to concentrate more on what you are doing. It’s also great for your muscles to change activities periodically. You may find that you are sore in different muscles or more than usual after a workout that your body is not accustomed to! Changing your stimulus is also important for reducing your risk for injury from overuse. Plus, you may find another activity you love to do!
My primary exercise is running. I will always consider myself a runner first. But even I get bored of running the same routes. Don’t get me wrong… I love the streets and trails of Ashland. But I do enjoy new scenery every now and then. So if you find yourself in a rut with running, try a new location. I ran in a park today because I was running errands in a different part of town. I took that as an opportunity to seek out a new venue!
Change your goals.
Most people begin their fitness journey with a goal to lose weight. Sometimes in this quest, we become lost. Weight loss can certainly be a great motivator, but if you’ve met the weight loss goal, or the number on the scale isn’t moving, maybe you need to shift your goals to something more fitness based. For example, completing a 5k race, or holding a plank for a minute, or increasing the amount of weight you can lift. Shifting your goal will change your focus and may improve your motivation for your workouts. Besides, the number on the scale does not reflect changes in body composition or overall fitness.
Keep a fitness journal!
It is immensely satisfying to look back on my little notebooks and see what I’ve been up to and how I’ve progressed. It makes me feel productive and accomplished. For marathon training season, Sports Backers MTT participants are lucky to get a training guide with space for notes about how your runs went and what cross-training you’ve done. I keep my own journal in the off season, documenting my weightlifting and how far/fast/where my runs went. I can look back and see where I am in my rotation of primary lifts and what accessory work I want to complete that day. It keeps me focused on gym days so I don’t meander.
Find a partner in crime!
Nothing is more motivating than accountability. You are more likely to show up for a workout if someone is counting on you to be there. It’s also fun to compare notes on exercises, etc., or to try a new class together. And there’s definitely tremendous value in a good running partner. There are many runs I wouldn’t have done if it weren’t for a promise to one of my running sisters that I would show up!
One easy way to stay accountable, especially for running, is to join a training team. I’m partial to Sports Backers programs in the Richmond area. They are responsible for helping me fall in love with running, discover the Richmond running community, and to find my sole sisters! I’ve run with the 8k, 10k, and Marathon training teams. Training teams develop what I call the herd mentality: we’re in it together, in a positive way, with guidance and coaches who care. When training for longer races, the teams are by far the best way to get through those long, double digit mile runs, with planned routes and water stops. There are also many local running groups in the RVA which are great when these teams are not in session. Don’t know where to start with finding a group outside of the RVA? Ask at your local running store. They will know!
The herd mentality is also significant in CrossFit! A good box builds a strong community with a positive, supportive culture, good coaching, safe scaling without shame, and great programming. CrossFit, like running, is for everyone!
But you can also find your herd if you are a part of a group fitness class and attend the same class regularly. I promise you will meet friends!
Sign up for a race!
For runners in a rut who are NOT injured, sometimes giving yourself a race to train for is the key for ramping up your motivation for running. I occasionally suffer from burnout in the winter after training all summer for a fall marathon, so having a spring race to train for helps me maintain a running schedule. Even if you are more of a walker, there is surely a local 5k or 10k coming up this spring to look forward to!
In Richmond, we have several choices. The Monument 10k is March 28. This event is one of the biggest parties in the RVA. It’s also very walk-able. There’s also the Uncorked 5k and Half Marathon in New Kent on May 2 and races in conjunction with the River Rock Festival May 15-17. If you are looking for a 10k PR, the Richmond Road Runners Club Carytown 10k on April 26 is a fantastic race, especially because it’s less crowded than the Monument 10k, and the course is more interesting than an out and back. It’s fairly flat with the exception of the long, gentle uphill on Grove! Speaking of the RRRC, the Sweetheart 8k is coming up in less than 2 weeks! That course is definitely NOT flat!
I will be running the One City Half Marathon on March 1st in my hometown of Newport News. They also have an 8k, a full marathon, and a marathon relay. I’m really looking forward to running this event! One year, I will hopefully run the full!
Sometimes a new outfit, pair of shoes, or a better fitting sports bra are what it takes to get you back to work. If you’ve followed my blog, I did an overview of what to look for in workout pants last year. I hope it was helpful! But just having something new to wear when you’re working out is refreshing. Take inventory of what you have, what fits, what doesn’t, and consider what types of workouts you plan to do. Personally, what I wear for a long run isn’t at all what I would wear to CrossFit. See what you need, and treat yourself to something new.
Look at your need for shoes. Taking up running? Or already running, but you’ve got over 300 miles on your shoes? It’s worth your time to go to a local running store to be fitted for shoes that suit your gait and the kind of running you will be doing. (My favorite store in Richmond is Lucky Road Run Shop.) Starting with that investment is much cheaper in the long run if it prevents injury and frustration for you. (I’m a Hoka fan myself!) Doing lots of gym workouts? Having a training shoe is better than running shoes for these workouts. They tend to be flatter (lower drop) and are more stable for weightlifting, body weight, and agility exercises. (My current ones are Reebok Nano’s, but I really want to try a pair of NoBull because they are so pretty!)
And for the ladies, having a good fitting, supportive sports bra can make exercising so much more enjoyable. I personally have a large collection of the Victoria’s Secret Incredible sports bras. I tend to stock up during their clearance sales. I noticed that they changed the bra last year, unfortunately, so I will be looking for a new go-to soon! Whatever you choose, try it on first. Jump around in the fitting room with it on. Make sure it keeps the girls in place! (And if you have a favorite, please comment, because I need some guidance!)
Be honest about your nutrition.
Are you really consuming the healthiest foods? Keeping a food diary, even for a few days, can be revealing. There are apps for this, most notably My Fitness Pal, which can help you track calories in vs. calories out. But all calories are not created equal. 100 calories of candy is not as nutritionally dense as 100 calories of fruit, for example. Don’t get obsessive with this, though, as it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole tracking calories. I will try to do this for a week if I feel like my fitness is off. The app also tracks macros (protein/fat/carbs), which is super helpful.
Did you decide to go plant based for the New Year? It took me a while to really get the hang of the transition from vegetarian to vegan. The worst part is eating in restaurants. I tend to go to chains like Cava or Chipotle frequently. I also have a few Asian and Mexican restaurants in my area which are vegan friendly. If the restaurant isn’t of your choosing, look at the menu online ahead of time. It can help you make better choices, and if your meal will likely consist of a salad and French fries, you can prepare by eating a snack first! For non-chain restaurants, I often ask the server what they recommend for vegans. Sometimes they even have a separate vegan menu. Sometimes I’ll get really lucky, and the chef will make something special. So it’s definitely worth asking! (The Kill Devil Grill on the Outer Banks of NC will do this if you call ahead. And on our recent trip to Wilmington, NC, the chef at Sweet n Savory Café made me a special meal off menu.)
Invest in recovery!
If you are new to exercising OR if you’ve found new workouts that leave your body sore, give yourself permission to invest in tools and services that help you recover more quickly. Don’t neglect the importance of at least one rest day a week. Also allow for time after your workouts for stretching. I could write a whole blog post about recovery!
Some things you may find helpful in your tool box are Epsom salts for hot baths, a foam roller, a rolling stick, and finding professional services in your area to assist with recovery. If you love massages, finding a good therapist who specializes in sports recovery is great! Cryotherapy is also popular, and there are new centers that specialize in this (CryoRVA.) And there are some talented rehab professionals who have made a career about helping athletes recover and avoid injury (DuraMater Therapy.)
Learning the best ways to help your body deal with the physical stress of activity will help keep you moving!
If you are lacking a bit of motivation after January, try one of these tricks to hit the refresh button. You can do it! Have you found other ways to stay motivated? I’d love to hear about them!