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They say 90% of success is showing up.

It’s certainly true with fitness.

You know how once you get the inertia of attending a gym three to four days a week on a set schedule; you get into a certain rhythm. It becomes easier to keep up, you’ve reshuffled your work schedule, and you notice a considerable difference in your mood and energy levels.

Then something happens in your busy life and you skip a workout. Then two. Then three. Notice how considerably more difficult it is to get into that rhythm again? Feelings of guilt and annoyance emerge and a little voice starts whispering in your head, “Hey, you are paying for a gym. You should go. You are getting fat and lazy…but you are tired, you can wait another day and start on Monday…”

There is no magic trick to silencing that little voice. There is only one action to take. Schedule a date to go to the gym, like an appointment, on a day and time you are most likely to follow through.

Then don’t go right away. Give yourself time to get excited about it, so you’ll be eagerly waiting for your fitness fix. Like a day or two. This mental game will help you to look forward to a workout. Because otherwise, it will be a waste of your time and a waste of equipment, not to mention a deepening loss of motivation.

Immediate gratification is impossible with fitness—it takes time to develop toned arms and killer thighs. Especially after a long slump.

But it is possible to get that instant feel-great high from just one workout—by making movement as much fun as possible, not calories burned or pounds lost.

Make that your goal.

Show up and move. Don’t stare at yourself in the mirror, judging and criticizing. Don’t give any excuses for beating yourself up.

Whatever gets you going, do that. If you like group classes, pick a favorite and go to that. If you like cardio machines, give yourself some short amount of time, like twenty minutes, and step on. The goal is to enjoy this as much as possible, so don’t schedule unnecessarily hard or long workouts. To avoid being overwhelmed, get specific. Work on your biceps and shoulders only, for example. Or do lunges and abs. Or only one mile on a treadmill. Being specific will focus the momentum and you won’t get bored or indecisive. Your time on the fitness floor is better spent actually working out, not trying to pick a machine or remember a weight-lifting exercise.

If after twenty minutes you feel like continuing, voila. If not, feel free to leave—while the anticipation of a great workout is still tingling in your muscles. You’ll be counting the hours to get back into it.

After the workout, reward your body by stopping by the sauna, steam room, or whirlpool. Even five minutes of relaxation will feel luxurious—for your soul, your muscles, and your further motivation.

Little bursts of inspiration beat carefully laid out plans that are too structured to follow for our hectic schedules. Small workouts add to substantial benefits over time. The key is to figure out what gives you the most joy, and do that as much as possible. Once the rhythm is back, increase the intensity and work on variety.

Don’t fight yourself. Just show up and have fun.

Julia Timakhovich

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