Be Well: Five Tips for Sticking With the Gym

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I've been picking up speed getting back into my gym routine lately, and I wanted to share some of the tips that really helped me get motivated and stay motivated. So here you have it: my wisdom on conquering the gym:

1) Push through those first five minutes: The first five minutes after my alarm goes off and before I head out the door to the gym are hands-down the absolute worst five minutes of my day. There is literally never a time when I don't hate my life for the first few minutes I'm awake. For awhile, I was letting my morning grouchiness be enough of a reason to crawl back in bed. Not anymore. Now I coach myself through those first few minutes, force myself out of bed, and spend a few minutes before the gym doing mindless things like looking at Instagram to ease into my day.

2) Find a friend: I've said this before - going to the gym with a friend will increase your attendance rate by about 1000%. If you don't have a friend that you can drag to the gym with you, make friends with the people who are at your gym. Just knowing that someone expects to see you there will make you feel obligated to show up, which is a GREAT thing when it comes to exercise.

3) Snack, snack, snack it up: There are two considerations here - 1) You need to find the right pre-gym fuel to keep you feeling good through your workout. My pre-workout food of choice is currently KIND bars - they're healthy, they're small, and there is no preparation needed. 2) You need to plan carefully for your after-gym snack. Unfortunately, an hour of spin class can be totally negated by the 30 seconds it takes you to stuff a brownie in your mouth. So plan ahead, pack and prepare a healthy post-gym snack, and don't put yourself in a position where you feel like you just have to get that pastry - because you earned it, right? (Wrong.)

4) Love your look: I know this sounds silly, but don't discount the power that great workout clothes can have in getting you to go to the gym. Knowing that what you're going to wear feels good and looks great is an easy, effective motivator. Invest in some quality items in fun colors and put another point in the "I'm excited to go to the gym!" column.

5) Variety is the spice of lifting: If I lived in an ideal world, I would do a completely different workout every day. CrossFit one day, swimming the next, yoga the day after that, a morning run after that, and so on. Variety is nothing but positive when it comes to fitness: your body will burn more calories if you keep it guessing, and you'll be much less likely to get bored and quit if you're changing it up every day. So check out the fitness classes your gym offers, find a fun new route to run, or learn how to do a new kind of weighted exercise. Staying entertained is half the battle!

Be Well: On Failure

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One month ago, I purchased an unlimited one-month membership to my Crossfit gym for a cool $275. Now that my unlimited month is over, I think it's about time I evaluated my purchase. How good was I at going to the gym?

There's not much investigating to do here: I did horribly. In 30 days, I went to four classes. That's about $66 a class. While I get a lot out of Crossfit classes, I did NOT get $66 worth of health and wellbeing out of each of those classes.

What happened? I'm inclined to claim "it was a busy month!" because it was. That's not a lie. A couple of the weekends over the past month were taken up with visits and trips. I worked really late more often this past month. And I had more social events during the week than normal. All of that combined to make it difficult for me to show up at the gym at 6AM. So that's a good enough excuse for not going to the gym, right?

It's not. I know what I did this month: I purposefully avoided following my own advice. I didn't schedule classes ahead of time because I kept thinking to myself that anything could come up. And I purposefully did not text my friends who usually go to the gym with me because I didn't want to feel obligated to show up in the morning. I convinced my husband that we should start watching Orange is the New Black...and then turned our addiction to that show into yet another excuse to stay up late and skip the gym. I made every effort to make it easy to stop going to the gym, and I paid for it. Literally. I went to four classes at the gym. I cancelled eight that I had signed up for.

I apologize if reading about my fitness struggles is getting horribly boring while not being motivating at all. Back when I was posting demos of me doing burpees and things like that, you guys were totally like "oh my gosh I have to go to the gym right away! I'm so much healthier now that I found you! Thanks, Natalie!" right? Cool, I thought so. I started writing about fitness on this blog because making myself go to the gym used to be my special talent. Now it's my special struggle.

I wanted to write about my complete failure to make my gym membership worth it so that all of you guys know that it happens to everyone. But I also wanted to write about it because I want to do better. I don't think it's acceptable to do this month after month. When I have months like this, I hate that my thighs feel squishier, my stomach looks rounder, and I feel so darn lazy. I nervously peer into my future and worry that if I keep going at this pace, I'll wake up three years later and 30 pounds heavier. So I'm committing myself, publicly, to doing better next month. I'll check back in in 30 days so I can wow you with my success story. I'm determined.

I just might not start until Friday.

Have a great day!

Be Well: Bent Over Row

This is probably the easiest exercise I will ever feature on my blog. I've been a little dissatisfied with the state of my triceps for the past few months, so I've been on the lookout for simple yet effective workouts to get them back to the toned state they once were in! (Side note: one of the major obstacles to getting my toned triceps back is my tendency to make bad snacking decision, such as pounding down a couple handfuls of M&Ms while writing this post...please don't judge me.)

Anyway, I love the bent over row because it's great for isolating your triceps and it can be done with a barbell or with free weights. The thing that is key (KEY!) to this workout is keeping your back FLAT - not rounded, not arched. All effort should be concentrated in your arms. Your back should not be strained at all. If you need to stand at a 90-degree angle from a mirror so you can observe the angle of your back, do that.

Additionally, you need to choose a heavy weight. If you (or I) want results, your (or my) triceps should be burning at the end of this exercise. Your triceps are surprisingly strong, so I would suggest using a 30 lb. barbell or 15 lb. free weights at the very minimum.

Start with your back flat, bent ~ 45 degrees at your waist, feet hip distance apart. Slowly raise the barbell up towards your chest, sending your elbows straight back. Your movement should be slow - if you try to do this quickly you will lose your form and compromise your workout.

At the top of the motion, the bar should be pressed into your chest and your elbows should be pointing to the back of the room.

Slowly lower the weight back down. It's important to keep in mind that the lowering of the weight is JUST AS IMPORTANT as the raising of the weight. Shortchange the lowering part and you're making your workout half as effective.

I recommend three sets of 15-20 reps. I'm definitely going to be including bent over rows in my upcoming workouts - I hope you are too!