How to Get Addicted to Exercise

I used to hate exercise. The idea of jogging or working out was anathema to me. Oh, sure, I'd do the occasional yoga class, or go swimming. But exercise was not a regular part of my life.

Fast forward to after my first child was born. No matter what I did, I could not lose the excess baby fat. I tried dieting — low carb and The 4 Hour Body — but nothing worked for me. I'd lose the weight but then I'd gain it right back.

Six years later, I finally decided to do something about the extra 30 pounds I was carrying. One day I was watching my daughter play and I realized that she is always moving. I was the opposite. I had started a business a year after she was born, and I became super sedentary. When you're working 12+ hours a day, every day, sitting in front of the computer, it's only natural that you start to pack on the pounds.

I knew right then it was simple. Eat less, move more. I stopped worrying about what I was eating, didn't restrict anything, and just focused on getting more active and making sure I took in fewer calories than I burned.

In the past 4 months, I've lost 26 pounds (click here to read how I did it). I started out just walking slowly, and then eventually I started doing kettlebell swings at home. Then I joined a gym and am now doing spinning classes 3-5 times per week, plus doing 5K training and weight lifting.

I now love exercise and look forward to it every day. I never thought I would feel this way!

Here are my top 10 ways to get addicted to exercise…

10 WAYS TO GET ADDICTED TO EXERCISE

1. MAKE IT A GAME

What got me started and what has kept me going this whole time is my trusty Fitbit. For less than $100, I got a new lease on life. I know, it sounds crazy, but I'm really not exaggerating.

The FitBit made it so easy to WANT to exercise and get in shape. It is the thing that drives me every day. I want to hit my goals and I'm excited to get out bed in the morning and get moving. I LOVE seeing those smiling faces on my FitBit dashboard at the end of the day, and I look forward to weighing myself and measuring myself in morning. I LOVE watching the pounds drop off and the feeling of loose clothing — clothes I couldn't fit into before!

You don't have to use a FitBit, but find ways to make exercise into a game that's fun and you will want to do it as often as possible. The FitBit just makes it easy.

2. START SLOW

I started just by trying to achieve 10,000 steps per day. The Fitbit automatically tracks all the steps you take. I just walked. Running was out of the question — I hated running since I was tortured as a kid in gym class (think mean gym teachers making you run on a track in 100 degree weather in Texas).

Eventually I wanted to do more. Walking was a gateway drug for me. I found myself thinking about swimming laps or taking a yoga class. The more exercise I did, the more I wanted to do.

But I didn't push myself. I took it slow and worked up to doing more.

3. MAKE IT ACCESSIBLE

It's important to make exercise fit into your life. You have to make it accessible so you will do it frequently.

The best thing I did was buy a treadmill desk (read my review of the treadmill desk here). I can now get my 10,000 steps in every day without even thinking about it. Both my husband and I love the treadmill desk so much, we're going to buy a second one to keep at the office. In his words, “This is the best thing we ever bought.”

Yes, it's an investment, but here's what I say about that… you wouldn't think twice about buying a car, would you? And a treadmill desk costs a fraction of what a car costs. A car costs 10 times more!

A treadmill desk might not be the right thing for you. Maybe a better idea would be to buy a bike and ride it to work every day. Or rollerblades. The point is to figure out how to incorporate exercise into your everyday life in a way that works for you.

4. MAKE IT ENJOYABLE

Do what you love! If you'd rather get a root canal than do aerobics, try yoga instead. If you enjoy swimming, start there. Take a dance class. Buy a pair of rollerblades or just walk and listen to a good audiobook.

Calling exercise a “work out” makes us feel like it shouldn't be fun — and then we dread and avoid it. Make it fun, and you'll find yourself looking forward to it and finding ways to get more exercise in every day.

5. MAKE IT DOABLE

Don't push yourself. People like to say “no pain, no gain” but if exercise is painful, you won't want to do it.

Sometimes, when I'm doing my 5K training or in a spinning class, I will think to myself, “I SHOULD push myself harder… I SHOULD keep running even though I am tired… or I SHOULD stand up on the bike when I just can't…”

But then I stop myself and say, “No, be nice to yourself. Keep it fun.” If you make it a miserable experience, you will NOT want to do it the next day.

The first time I took a spinning class, I could not stand up on the bike at all. Now, after a month of spinning classes, I am up out of the saddle 95% of the time when I am supposed to be. I'm stronger now and have a lot more stamina. It feels really good to know that I made so much progress!

But if I had pushed myself too hard in the beginning, I would have probably quit. Because I let myself go at my own pace, I love it now and look forward to every class. Something I never thought possible!

6. MAKE IT COMFORTABLE

One of the things I tell people when it comes to joining a gym is join the most expensive gym you can afford. Find a place you really want to go to.

I used to be a member of the YMCA and it was OK, but I never wanted to go there. In fact, months would go by and I wouldn't step foot in the gym. Even though it's only a 5-minute drive from my house.

This summer, I and joined an upscale club called Equinox. It's further from the YMCA, a ten minute drive from our house. And it is NOT cheap. It costs several times more per month for my husband and I to work out there. But it is worth every penny.

The gym is beautiful. It's like being at a luxury hotel. They have really nice equipment, TVs on the treadmills, fabulous teachers and trainers, a spa, a beauty salon, a cafe and a restaurant, a saltwater lap pool, hot tub and sauna, a rooftop lounge where you can get a little sun and just relax, plus unlimited towels and Kiehl's products in the showers.

Now I look forward to the gym and we go there almost every day. It's part of our morning routine, and we even go together before dinner and a movie on date nights.

7. GET A WORKOUT BUDDY

I'm pretty motivated to workout and look forward to my 5K training and kettlebell workouts. But it can be a challenge to get to the gym on your own. Until it becomes a habit, it's easy to talk yourself out of it. Having a workout buddy gets you to the gym and keeps you committed.

My husband is my workout buddy. We take spinning classes together some days, and other days we lift weights. It's so much easier getting to the gym since it's a part of our morning routine, right after we drop our daughter off at school.

You could also join a Meetup group or start your own group to go cycling or hiking on the weekends or play golf, surf, or whatever else interests you.

8. HIRE A TRAINER

If you can't find a workout buddy, you can hire a trainer. This can actually be even better than a workout buddy. Not only will you be sure to get to the gym for your sessions with your trainer (since you already paid for them), but the trainer will push you harder than you would push yourself on your own, and help you reach your fitness goals.

My mother-in-law, who is in her 70s, recently got a trainer and she says it was the best thing she ever did. She is so much stronger, has so much more endurance, and she feels great! AND she's losing weight!

9. GET THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT

I would never be training for a 5K if it weren't for 3 things: (1) The aforementioned Fitbit (2) My Vibram 5 Fingers and (3) The Zombies, Run 5K iPhone app .

As I said above, running is my worst nightmare. It looks painful and brings back memories of those awful days in middle school and the Texas heat.

I started thinking about running when I realized it was a way to get my 10K steps in a whole lot FASTER. Thanks, FitBit!

The other thing that was keeping me from wanting to run was the high risk of injury. Did you know that nearly 70% of runners get injured? Then I read that the Vibram 5 Fingers shoes. Apparently it's the SHOES that are injuring runners. Running barefoot greatly reduces the risk of injury. Plus it feels really cool to be running “barefoot”.

Finally, I read about the Zombies, Run app and thought it sounded like so much fun, I had to try. And yes, it IS fun. I'm in my third week of training for the 5K, and thanks to this little app, I really look forward to it. When I started, I could not run for more than 15 seconds. Now I can run for over a couple minutes at a time.

In addition to these items, I also bought a nifty little carrier to wear my iPhone when I run or walk or lift weights. I would go crazy just lifting weights or running without an audiobook or podcast to listen to. This is now MY time to read!

10. REWARD YOURSELF

Now… this is something I just started. I'm using a spreadsheet to track my exercise activities, and I'm giving myself points for each thing I do. Every time I complete a spinning class or a 5K training run, I get 10 points. I also get 10 points for each day I complete 10K steps.

Those points convert to dollars which I can use to buy myself. I keep a separate list in the spreadsheet of all the things I want and what they cost. Like an workout outfit from LuluLemon or some rollerblades — or a mani-pedi or facial.

Can I just tell you how well this is working? Yesterday I did a spinning class, did my 5K training run, AND I racked up 18K steps and walked/ran almost 8 miles!

And I can't wait to get my new rollerblades so I'm going back to the gym today…

If you don't have a budget to reward yourself with, you can reward yourself with non-monetary things. Like a walk in the park or on the beach. Sleeping late on Sunday. Pizza night. Time spent with your children. Whatever floats your boat and gets you motivated!