Whoever said “it’s a piece of cake” wasn’t eating that cake, was he? Fitness is a commitment and it takes daily, weekly, and monthly evaluations and motivation to keep moving forward. Here are a few ways to do just that.

How to get motivated to work out

Finding time to workout seems impossible sometimes. But like anything else in your life that’s worthwhile, it’s important to carve out the time to invest in yourself. I think of exercise as two-fold: an investment for today and an investment for tomorrow.

Investment for Today

It’s Monday morning and my body is saying roll back over, hit snooze…I’m not ready. My brain is saying, ok 5 more minutes, but you have to get up. You want to get up. You will be happier if you get up. It’s a constant internal battle. The days my brain wins and I get my ass out of bed, I am happier for multiple reasons.

I’ve told myself, even if I do 30 minutes, that’s something. It could be a quick run outside or just some free weights in my living room while I catch up on last night’s Scandal. The key is, I have to do something.

Since I’m a planner, I have a habit of planning out potential workouts for the week based upon my schedule for work and things going on socially. For example if I have plans Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights, I know I have to workout in the mornings on those days. I don’t want to chance that I’ll be too tired after I go out, and let’s face it I probably will be. I use my Google Calendar to pencil in my potential workouts:

Monday — Pilates or yoga class after work

Tuesday — Run outside before work

Wednesday — kettle bells before work

Thursday — Spin class at the gym after work

Friday — Run outside before work

Sat / Sun — take one day off.

Even if I don’t strictly stick to this schedule, I’m still attempting to do something each day, typically with one day off.

This is an investment for today because it allows me to start or end each day with a “hell yea!” It allows me to feel better about myself which in turns allows me to typically eat better and more productive on other things. It’s a win-win for that day.

Investment for Tomorrow

My planning isn’t always for the week. I typically have month goals I’m trying to reach, such as a 5K I may be training for. I haven’t run regularly in a while due to a crap knee so I have a new goal to reach. I want to run at a speed that allows me to kick some butt that day, but also be able to run more races in the future.

In addition, since I’m not in my 20s anymore, I want to ensure I’m taking even better care of myself. I see people who have let themselves go — whether you’re in a relationship, too busy to figure out the work/life balance, and/or just don’t care enough. I don’t want to be that person. I want to be someone who always has the energy to go hike a mountain (or some hills), and is excited to run that next 5K. I’m working for my future self…because she will probably be pretty awesome.

Whatever your drive — today, tomorrow, or just that next run, it’s important to invest in yourself.

How to work out anywhere

Because sometimes you don’t want to go to the gym, or don’t have the budget or the time. There are plenty of other options, including ways to work out at home (or on the go). Nowadays you don’t have to buy dvd sets, you can stream the lessons or have an app at your disposal anytime, anywhere. For real.

Five exercise routines or apps that will keep you from getting bored:

  1. Insanity — literally “insane” workouts pre-built for you. You follow the schedule that’s already made. Stream or get the dvd based upon your needs.
  2. Nike Training — over 100 training workouts pre-programmed based on your goals.
  3. Sworkit — pre-build your workouts and personalize the routine you want to follow.
  4. Daily Burn — Choose the streaming session you prefer. Anywhere from 15 minutes to 60 minutes. Instructors teach pilates, weights, and other cardio/sculpting routines.
  5. Or make up your own and reference our go-to list

Or have a few of these and choose what you feel like that week or day. No one wants to be get bored with their routine.

The Things You Need

The gym is a lot more effective and so is your workout when you have the right gear to make your fit goals more efficient.

Here are seven items I always have:

  1. The perfect pair of sneakers — I’m no sneaker expert, and I know there are different types of sneakers for different types of fitness (i.e. running, hiking, etc), but it’s important to ensure you find a pair (or two) that are right for your fitness needs. I’ve gone through many over the years, but recently I landed on my favorite. They are like walking in clouds, and I’m excited to put them on. My feet never hurt, and I know I am more quick on my feet in them due to the comfort as well. My go-to: Nike Free Sneakers
  2. A yoga mat — Whether you’re taking it with you to the gym, or keeping it at home, it’s helpful to have for those days you want to stretch, do a little yoga, and/or keep your fitness going even when you’ve only got 30 minutes before work.
  3. Free weights — As with the yoga mat, it’s nice to have at least one set of weights at home for those days you can’t make it to the gym. They’re great for helping tone, and are clutch when it comes to becoming stronger (and that doesn’t mean being bulky, it means being strong).
  4. The right sports bra — No one wants to take the chance of “popping out” during a spin or cardio class, with the whole class watching. Yikes. It’s nice to have a few that are meant for heavy cardio versus lighter fitness where you need less coverage. The key is ensuring you won’t slip out when going hard, but also feel that it’s not too restraining and you can still feel comfortable. My tip — go to a local fitness shop like Lululemon or Athleta and ask them to help fit you properly.
  5. A suitable gym bag — It’s no fun digging through your work bag or random tote bag trying to find your lock, deoderant, and ensure your dirty clothes don’t smell up your bag. A good gym bag will let you organize your stuff, and leave space for clean vs. dirty clothes and ensure your water bottle won’t leave perspiration over your clothes either. You don’t have to spend your weekly budget on one either, just do your research and even check out your local marshalls or models. My tip, find a bag you convert to a messenger bag or backpack so you aren’t restrained to just a shoulder bag. And if you’re ok with spending a bit more, the Andi bag is my fave.
  6. Fitwear that “fits” — Some people laugh that I value my leggings so much. It’s because they motivate me to workout more because I feel good in them. I’ve taken the time to ensure my leggings, tops, bras, etc fit my body so when I’m working out, I’m not pulling or tugging or trying to ensure my clothes stay on properly. They stay where they’re supposed to be and I feel good in them. They shouldn’t detract from your workout, but enhance it.
  7. A cold water bottle — Whether it’s a Sigg or a Swell it’s helpful (especially for those long cardio workouts) to have a water bottle that can keep your thirst quenched with cold water. My favorite is that I can take my Sigg and place it on the back of my neck to help cool myself down during a spin class. Trust me, it works.

In the end we all have our things that help us workout better, but hopefully a few of these will help you be even more efficient and inspired.

What you can takeaway from the experience

I like exercise classes because they motivate me to try harder. For example, when I go to Spin class, I’m ready to burn some calories, and get my sweat on. It usually allows me to not only feel like I got a great workout, but also provide me some stress relief from the day or week. I can let go of the world, and just focus on my goal for that one hour. But what I’ve noticed is that during that time, I’ve learned and achieved a few more things:

  1. No distractions — Spin class allows me to turn off my phone, not worry about what Facebook message I have, who has liked my Instagram photo, or who’s texted. It allows me to tune out and be in the moment without technology and without unnecessary distractions. I need more of that in my life. Even taking 30 minutes a day to just say no, to tech.
  2. Me time — While I’m on the bike, I have time that’s meant for me, specifically. Whether I’m with a friend in class or not, it’s a time when you’re in your own zone. Whether the class is 45 minutes or 75 minutes, that time is yours, and you feel refreshed after. I’ve tried to translate that to a weekly basis where I take time for just me. It allows me to recharge and be a better friend too.
  3. Listening to my body — There are times when my knee may hurt, or my head is feeling achy from the night before. It’s important to understand when to go a little slower in life, and when you can push through.
  4. Pushing harder — Typically, I tell myself, “hell yes you can finish this class, and break your record from last time!” The same goes for regular life whether it’s eating better, walking a few more steps during the day, and completing some extra items off your to do list.
  5. Goal setting — spin class allows you to focus on endurance so your body can go further. I recently took a 75 minute spin class, which tested my mental and physical capacity to make it through the entire duration. Instead of focusing on the time (so easy to do), I focused on the mileage I wanted to complete before the class completed. The same goes for life — we can always change our story, and focus on the goals that allow us to accomplish a bit more.

And when you step off the bike, hopefully it doesn’t stop there.

The Playlist

Lastly, what’s better than a playlist to get you in the mood to kick some gym butt?

Here’s one to get you pumped up for your next workout — listen now!

Originally published at medium.com