How to Make Working Out Work for You

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 Wondering how to work in working out? Here are some ways to help you include workout exercises into your every day.


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I am not an athlete. I am a book worm, a homebody, an indoorsy kind of person. I understand when my 11-year old says he’d rather be creative than do something athletic.

But, I also know that exercise is not about weight loss. It’s about health. It’s about keeping your body limber and in good working order. While I can’t guarantee that disease and injury won’t take me down, at least I can be, as my husband says, a moving target. Quite literally.

Years ago I haphazardly started riding our exercise bike, shredding with Jillian, or doing yoga for weight loss. But, it was haphazard and wore off within a few days or weeks.

Currently, I’m working on long term commitment to a workout routine. I’ve been going to the gym for the last two and a half months. I started in early June. It’s taken some getting used to, but I’ve finally justified the money I dropped on exercise clothes. (That alone was motivation to keep going! You know how I hate to waste money.)

I’ve not lost a pound, but neither have I gained any weight. Some say I’ve traded fat for muscle; my son says that’s a myth. Either way, I feel better and well, at least I’m doing something. My muffin top is not “quite” as poofy as it once was.

Here are some of the things that I’ve learned that might work for you, too.

1. Go first thing.

If I don’t go to the gym or do an exercise video first thing in the morning, chances are I probably won’t do it at all. I just know this about myself. Other things get in the way and before I know it, the day is over. Getting up early to exercise is hard, but it also makes sure I make it happen.

2. Find great music and books.

Exercise, especially on a machine like a treadmill or bike, can get boring. Boredom is a prime threat to my motivation. It helps me to be adequately distracted or entertained. Sure, the machines have TV, but I’m not really a TV person. Instead I’ve turned to movies and books to keep me going.

Pandora has become one of my best friends. Both FishPapa and our6th grader are music fans and so they’ve created a number of stations on our Pandora account. I’ve encountered some new favorites like Owl City and One Republic as well as been reacquainted with some “oldies”. Music has a direct effect on my workout.

So do books. If I’m into a good book, the hour goes by in the blink of an eye. I want to stay on the mill so I can keep reading. Boring books have me yawning and yearning to go home. I’ve read SIXTEEN books this summer, thanks to my daily trips to the gym.

workout clothes

3. Get cute, confortable clothes.

There, I said it. I confess. Having cute exercise clothes and comfortable sports bras makes a huge difference for me. A. I don’t feel like a dork who doesn’t know what she’s doing. I’ll fake it until I make it. B. I have a purpose when I get dressed in the morning — to go the gym. Dressing the part has helped my motivation as well as my self-esteem.

I started out with three shirts, three shorts, two sports bras, and a couple pairs of compression socks. Thankfully, there was a sale at Old Navy the day I went shopping. At another Old Navy sale opp, I upped my shirts, bras, and socks collection since those items get stinky and sweaty first.

I’ve had running shoes for five years. I’m finally justifying their purchase.

4. Ask for help.

This was a hard one for me. I tend to be a know-it-all, in case you hadn’t noticed. So, asking for help was big. It was also freeing. By acknowledging that I didn’t know what I was doing, that I didn’t know how to work out, I invited folks into my situation and gained a cheering section. My husband, my son, my brothers, the attendant at the gym, and Toni all answered my silly questions and helped me figure out a plan for exercise.

I pretty much copied Toni’s 3 days of 1 hour cardio and 3 days of cardio + weights. Eventually, I’ll breakdown and consult a trainer, but for now, this is working to get me in the habit of exercising every day.

make working out work for you

5. Do a little research.

My magazine reading and websurfing usually has to do with food or kids. Rarely has it ever involved anything athletic. Until now.

What a trip for me to google “best core workouts for woman” or “ab workouts”. Who is this person I’ve become?!

I don’t usually give much weight to the stuff at, but the Sport Medicine channel has provided a lot of helpful information about which workout exercises will help me.

6. Stay hydrated.

I’m drinking water like it’s going out of style. For an hour on the treadmill, I can usually go through two water bottles. The weird thing is that my dry skin has improved.

The days when I don’t drink enough are days when I’m dying on the treadmill and I feel tired.

7. Find a babysitter.

I probably wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t have big kids to watch my little kids. My girls love to do exercise videos with me, but honestly, it’s distracting. Being able to leave the house — or exercise alone — gives me much appreciated space, mentally and physically.

If I didn’t have a built-in babysitter, I’d probably try to wake up really early and exercise very, very quietly.

Certainly, I’m no Jane Fonda, Jack Lalanne, or any of the modern day exercise gurus. I’m just a 41-year old mom of 6 trying to keep this body moving without pain, but this is what’s working for me so far.

What works for YOU for working out?

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  1. I’m assuming you listen to your books at the gym – what’s your preferred app? I like the look of audible, though $15 seems a bit steep for one book per month, and one of the free audiobook apps I have only has books from pre-1923…

    1. Actually I’m reading them on the ipad. I check out kindle books from my library or rely on free kindle books.

  2. The y usually has babysitting included! That’s how my running journey began in October 2012. I just needed an hour of adult interaction without my kids. It turns out they wanted an hour with their friends too. On October 12th I’ll be running my first marathon.

    Also having a buddy to workout with really helps. Then when you aren’t feeling it you still have to go so you don’t let that other person down.

    1. Good point! My kids don’t go to the child watch, so I kind of forget it’s there.

  3. Another important thing – just do it. Making it a habit means going when you don’t feel like it. When you’re tired. When you have a cold. And for me, recently, when you have an injury (there’s almost always some sort of exercise you CAN do! I hurt my knee, but I can still workout my arms and abs).
    I love having a membership at the Y. Since we are low income, we pay a reduced rate, and the family membership includes childcare. It’s taken away most of my excuses to not exercise!

    1. Thanks for the reminder. I’m wondering how motivated I’ll be once the time changes and the weather changes.

  4. Good job, Jessica! I started embracing the gym when I discovered the group exercise classes at my Gym. I go to Golds and they have the Les Mills Body Pump and Body Combat there. If you have any classes like those that you can try, I highly recommend them. I was much like you in not really knowing how to work out and really found the gym boring. Now I try to schedule whatever off time I have around the particular classes that I get something out of. Body Pump is 60 minutes and focuses mainly on weight training. So I have learned how to use the weights properly and it goes much further than a few boring reps on the machines or free weights. Combat is a mixed martial arts inspired thing. I never in a million years thought that at 40 I would be starting out doing karate and kick boxing and tae kwon do but I love it so much. My muscle tone has increased tremendously, as has my endurance. My confidence has changed so much that I have gone from the back corner of the class to the front, right in front of the instructor. Both classes also include things like push ups and ab tracks. I haven’t lost much weight either, but I have seen a significant change in me and I feel better, so that’s truly the important part. Thankfully, my gym has a daycare center, so that helps most of the time. Too bad I can’t take the kids to the gym at 6am! 🙂 Keep up the good work, Jessica!

    1. I think the Y has Body Combat. That is pretty laughable to think of ME doing that. But, hmmm….

  5. I started CrossFit last September and I can’t imagine not starting my days with my fellow athletes at 7am (even worse in the depths of a cold Canadian winter!). I ran a mile today for the first time EVER and it was so empowering. And the mental health benefits of a serious workout and me time cannot be stressed enough. I wish I had done this earlier but no looking back now! And I hear the other poster on the awful workout clothes!!! Mine are a joke. On the list!

  6. On one or two days a week when my husband is off work, I sneak to the gym before they wake up and my little man needs to nurse. I use these days as my heavier weight training days. The other days during the week, I wake up and do Bob Harper videos on the other side of the house. Usually I get through the entire thing before my dumpling awakes, but sometimes I have to take a break to nurse him back to sleep. I have learned to roll with the punches and get it in however I can. Before having a child, I was at the gym every morning and I was a personal trainer and spin instructor for years so I had to adjust to working out in a bedroom and challenging myself as if I was at the gym every day. For this, I highly recommend Bon harper’s cardio rev and pure burn super strength videos!

  7. I had to laugh when you said your son ld you that swapping fat for muscle can’t happen. In a way he’s right – fat doesn’t turn into muscle. What happens is that you loose fat and gain muscle – different things in different places. Definitely happens – personally I’ve lost 5 clothes sizes, seen tons of definition and only lost 5 stinkin’ pounds. Personally, I’ll take the inches over the pounds! 🙂

    Great for you for figuring out what works for you – that’s the key to any workout. I’m a Jazzercise instructor and I tell people they need to find what works for them. I love my Jazzercise and tell people so and since it’s what works for ME I stay with it. Everyone needs something they enjoy and they can stick with it too!

    Keep up the good work, Jessica!

  8. Having cute clothes makes everything easier and more fun!

    Have you heard of Lindsey Brin? She’s a personal trainer who specializes in pre/postnatal fitness. Her big thing, though, is the core.

    I’ve used some of her dvds and have a noticed a big improvement in my “mom belly”.

  9. I do that whole “wake up really early and exercise before hubby leaves for work” thing. And, honestly, there’s something truly lovely about having three miles in before the clock hits seven. 🙂 (I really need to work on that whole work out clothes thing, though. It’s embarrassing what I wear. Truly. 😉 )

    1. Old Navy has had some really good sales. I got shirts for about $3 each shipped. 🙂