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    11 Honest Pieces Of Advice To Make Exercise A Mainstay In Your Life

    Motivation, tracking tips, and strategies for making exercise a consistent part of your life.

    The first time I quit a gym, I left the manager’s office flushed and sweaty, made to feel embarrassed about walking away from something that was supposed to be “good for me.”

    Warner Bros / Via

    The second time, I used a painfully dishonest excuse to justify my decision (to a person who I’d never met before that conversation, and would never speak to again). By my fourth quitting session, I was so un-phased by the process that, honest to god, I ended the conversation by giving the manager my business card with an offer to give her career advice. Why was the fourth time so easy? Because after years of the back and forth, I finally understood that signing up for a gym membership wasn’t the key to working out. I actually had to show up — every day.

    In December 2017, I made a goal to make my overall health a priority.

    Augusta Falletta

    Past Me had made fitness goals like “get skinny” or “fit into my jeans from high school” (LOL at that "realistic" goal). Each time self-loathing was the root of my motivation, I failed miserably. Like, go-to-the-gym-once-every-six-months kind of miserably. It wasn’t until I realized that my physical health greatly improved my mental health that I felt truly motivated to exercise consistently. Since that moment, I’ve run a half-marathon, the New York City marathon, and have exercised at least 16 times a month for a year straight.

    Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about motivation, consistency, and what it really takes to take care of yourself.

    1. First I had to handle one of my biggest excuses: "There's no time in my day to work out!" Plain and simple, we make time for what we care about. Instead of my usual attempt (and fail) at working out at night, which competed with dinner, social plans, and tiredness after work, I started waking up early to work out.

    Augusta Falletta

    It truly does not matter what time you exercise. It matters that you find a time that you can habitually use for exercise, even when excuses come up.

    Some things that helped me form this habit were:

    - Sleeping in my workout clothes and putting my sneakers, headphones, water bottle, and lock by my front door. (Yes, I sleep in my sports bra, too.)

    - Keeping my phone across the room so I'd have to get up to turn off the alarm.

    - Actually going to bed early so that I got enough sleep.

    - Setting up my breakfast the night before.

    For even more advice on exercising in the morning, check out this post: Here's How I Actually Became A Morning Workout Person.

    2. Keeping a daily tracker in my bullet journal felt like the equivalent of giving myself a gold star every day.

    Augusta Falletta

    Writing out a one-page calendar like this on a sheet of paper (or printing one out) is 1. Free, 2. A great analog tracker for progress, 3. A way to hold yourself accountable. You can get fancy by using different colors to track different things (i.e. pink means cardio, blue means strength training, etc.) or keep it simple by just circling a number.

    If you'd rather track the habit on your phone, check out Done: A Simple Habit Tracker for iOS.

    It's small, but getting to the end of the month and seeing how many days you chose to take care of yourself can be pretty powerful.

    3. I found an accountability partner who would keep me honest. We made a pact to exercise 16 times a month, sending each other photographic evidence each time — and we've been successful for 12 months straight.

    Augusta Falletta

    After reading Gretchen Rubin's The Four Tendencies, I learned that I'm most motivated by external obligations, something Rubin calls an "Obliger." While other folks are motivated by their own expectations on themselves, I'm most efficiently motivated when I know there are external forces counting on me. This is a huge part of why just signing up for a gym never worked for me. Having an external force like an accountability partner or a major goal (more on that in a minute) really helped me to stay on track.

    BTW if you want to see how you're best motivated, take the quiz here.

    4. Signing up for my first race gave me a goal — and a date to meet that goal — which was honestly so damn exciting.

    Augusta Falletta

    In December 2017, I signed up for my first half-marathon in April 2018. It was that external obligation made me get up at 5 a.m. on the mornings when I just wanted to stay in bed. Seeing my mileage improve in both time and distance from week to week was an indescribable high, reminding me that there are so many fitness milestones beyond weight or inches lost.

    Shorter races like 5Ks and 10Ks can help to give a larger purpose to your regular exercise routine. And listen, straight up running isn't for everyone, but there are other events like Spartan Races, Tough Mudders, and the Run Disney races which are basically just big parties where you're moving for hours with other Disney fanatics.

    If you're not into crowds or group events, give yourself a personal goal with a date, like "I want to go for a walk every day for 10 days straight" or "I want to hike the trail by my house before my next birthday."

    5. As much as you plan ahead, some days are just completely messed up. On those days, I had a backup plan: short workouts.

    Nike Training Club

    Most days, I'd give myself enough time to workout for 45 minutes to an hour. If my alarm didn't go off (or I spent too much time on Instagram instead of getting out of bed) instead of just skipping altogether, I'd use the Nike Training Club app to workout for 15 minutes or less. This was my way of not throwing out the baby with the proverbial bath water.

    Besides sorting by the duration of a workout, you can use the NTC app for workouts specific to muscle group, intensity, or equipment needed. The workouts come with videos to show you the exercise and audio guidance in your headphones, so it's like a personal class that you can do at home or at the gym. This is my preferred workout format most days because of the app's guidance and how awesome I feel afterwards.

    Get the Nike Training Club app for iOS or Android for free.

    6. For even more help, I joined a Facebook group that has littered my feed with tons of amazing motivation.

    Augusta Falletta

    Facebook's algorithm is currently favoring groups, which means that any time I'm on my newsfeed, posts from this amazing group come up. People share their milestones, their reasons for running (many of which are to improve their mental health), and the beautiful views they see on their runs. It's a network of strangers who cheer each other on, offer advice, and generally make each other feel supported.

    You can search Facebook to find a similar group, or start one of your own!

    7. Instead of getting drinks or dinner with friends, I started making workout classes our social time.

    Augusta Falletta

    Nothing bonds people like laughing about how ridiculous we all look during a dance class or getting emotional about a spin instructor's inspirational speech. The classes cost what dinner and drinks would cost anyway, but you could also go for a run or walk (for free!) to get the same effect.

    8. Crowdsourcing accountability on Instagram keeps me honest. I'm sure it pisses some people off, but lots of people have told me that my posts have motivated them to workout, so it breaks even.

    Augusta Falletta

    I said it before and I'll say it again, knowing that I'm motivated by external obligation means that I know I'll be more likely to workout if other people are counting on me. Ridiculous? Maybe, but hey, it's worked for over a year.

    If you want to crowdsource accountability in a more ~private~ way, text your group chat or your mom and tell them your plan that day. Have them keep you honest about it and then celebrate when you actually get out and exercise!

    9. Making friends with like-minded athletes gave me a circle of folks to help lift me up when I needed it.

    Augusta Falletta

    When I signed up for the New York City Marathon, people started coming out of the woodwork to support or train with me. A small group of people became the ones I leaned on for peer cheers when I completed my weekly long runs or support when I just couldn't fathom running 18 miles on a Sunday. Even though I didn't do any IRL training runs with these friends, the collective experience was enough to propel us forward and ultimately, finish the marathon strong. What an accomplishment!

    Joining local run clubs, regular workout classes, or Facebook groups is a great way to find your people. And you know what they say about becoming the average of the five people you spend the most time with! If those people are aligned with your goals, you'll be more likely to succeed.

    10. Through the entire process, I haven't weighed or measured myself once. My progress was measured in plenty of other ways, though.

    Augusta Falletta

    - My first running-related goal was to be able to run 6 miles by my birthday in January 2018. By November 2018, I was able to run 26.2 miles. That's some real freaking progress, if you ask me.

    - My body no longer relies on caffeine for energy. If I get up in the morning and work out, I don't need coffee to wake up — or to stay awake during the 4 p.m. slump.

    - For years, I've had Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD. Basically, for two weeks before my period, my anxiety goes through the roof and I'm depressed. As soon as I get my period, I feel stabilized again. Thanks to regular exercising (and particularly marathon training) I've noticed feeling stabilized throughout those two weeks, which is a godsend.

    - Thanks to publicly showing my fitness journey, I've made so many new friends both online and IRL, and I've deepened my existing friendships by connecting through workouts and goals.

    11. My most important piece of advice is this: Do not beat yourself up on the days when exercising isn't a priority.

    And above all else, celebrate your wins! You earned 'em.