11/28/2013 12:03 EST | Updated 01/28/2014 05:59 EST

If the Couch Is Winning Out Over Exercise, Consider This

Have you ever planned to workout before work, only to snooze your alarm? Or, bailed on an evening training session last minute? I know that I have. Even the most motivated exerciser will occasionally lose the internal "will I or won't I train" debate. I LOVE being active, but nevertheless, sometimes I feel like going home and curling up on the sofa.

The million dollar question is, how do you set yourself up for training success? What steps can you take to ensure that training 'wins' more often than the sofa?

Don't get me wrong, I am not arguing you should never relax! Part of adopting a healthier lifestyle is building in time for yourself, which includes adequate time to relax and sleep. I am not suggesting eliminating down-time; what I am suggesting is finding strategies that minimize how often the sofa 'wins' over being active!

Up until about six months ago, for me, the gym probably "won" roughly 85 per cent of the time. Eight-five per cent is not a BAD percentage, but it is also not ideal, especially because skipping workouts never makes me happy. In fact, it does the opposite. I end up sitting watching TV or reading my book and wishing I had made myself be active, even just for 20 minutes! In hindsight I always metaphorically kick myself because I know that if I had made myself be active, even for just 20 minutes, my day would have been better. I would feel more alive, energized and productive!

About six months ago I decided this cycle of "skipping and then feeling annoyed" was ridiculous. I needed to schedule adequate sleep and relaxation time so I could actually enjoy my down time, and then actually always train when I said I would train. That way I would get the best of both worlds -- quality activity and quality down-time (rather than scheduling inadequate amounts of relaxation time and then just feeling guilty when I did allow myself to stop and mellow).

To make breaking the cycle a reality, I decided to embark on a thought experiment! I can not tell you how helpful this experiment has been!

Every time I want to skip my workout I have a conversation with myself in which I place myself in the future, and talk myself through how I will feel depending on the choice I make.

For example, let's say I want to watch TV instead of completing my Sunday run. I first imagine how I will feel if I accomplish my workout. I will feel great! My day will be better. The relaxation and/or social time I get to have after my workout (although possibly shorter) will be higher quality!

I then image how I would feel if I skip the workout. I know I will feel crappy! I may get more time to relax, but I know I will not enjoy the time as much. It will not be quality time!

If I skip a workout I might get more time to relax (let's say two hours), but the quality of relaxing time will not be great, I will be annoyed at myself. On the flip side, if I am active, even if I just go for a 20 minute walk, I will get less relaxation time (in this example, 1.5 hours), but I will enjoy the time more.

The main take-away -- when it comes to adopting a healthier lifestyle, try to think long-term. When you have an urge to make a snap decision regarding your health, imagine how that decision will impact the rest of your day and your overall goal. Walk yourself through how you will feel three hours from now and try to remind yourself why you formed the goal in the first place.

I know what I am asking is not easy, but it is worthwhile. Find ways to set yourself up for fitness success and remember, adopting a healthier lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint! If you fall off of the fitness horse, get back on, just get back on a more informed rider!


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