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This would be so much more enjoyable.....


If I had something like Perugia's historic aqueduct to climb, say a dozen times a day, I wouldn't have to fork out $65 (Cdn) per month to the YMCA! But I don't, so I'm a gym rat.

Fellow blogger Chiocciola posted an excellent suggestion on Slow Travel this week, suggesting that as part of the February blogging challenge, we might occasionally ask each other questions to trigger a response and provide a blog topic. Great idea, Chiocciola, sometimes it's hard to think of a fresh topic.

Her question to me concerned my gym routine; more specifically, how I organized myself to keep at it. She suggested this because I've mentioned (whined, perhaps) about my workouts. I've been working out since about 1983 (think Jane Fonda, headbands, Flashdance, legwarmers....) Ah, the good old days: hard-core aerobics in bad shoes on concrete floors. It's amazing we still have knees.

As a slight bit of background, by 1983 I had hit close to 250 pounds and I was only in my early 20s. I had to do something. I began to diet (crash diet, at times) and took up exercise -- aerobics, running (til my back gave out) and finally, straight gym work.

I've lost some weight and learned that the only way to keep it off -- to say nothing of losing more -- is to commit to sensible eating and exercise. (I should also note that my rules apply only in North America! On any other continent, all bets are off.)

So, for what they're worth, here are a few tips that have worked for me.

1. You really have to commit. I tell myself that I don't assume I can brush my teeth just once a week or shower monthly. So why should exercise be occasional? Accept the fact that your workout has to become routine, period.

BTW, making exercise part of your routine is essential to staying organized and on track. Once it's a habit, you'll keep your gym bag stocked and hit the gym, almost on autopilot. Try not to make it a choice.

2. Make things as easy as possible for yourself. Find a place that's very convenient. I deliberately chose a gym midway between my office and home. I pretty much have to walk past it every day. No excuse for not going in. I think there may be cheaper gyms in the suburbs, but that's a false economy -- I'd never get there if it's out of the way.

3. Pick the time of day that really works for you. A lot of people swear by morning workouts before work, so they won't be distracted at the end of the day and skip their workout. More power to them, but I've always hated mornings (except weekends) so I go after work. My routine is 3 nights a week, plus every Saturday and Sunday.

4. Have at least 3 gym outfits (for me, holey T-shirts and yoga pants) and resign yourself to doing laundry often. Seriously, don't leave yourself short of clean gym clothes because that can become an excuse to skip.

5. Keep your gym bag stocked all the time. Again, it sounds neurotic, but after every workout as soon as I get home, I throw the sweaty gym stuff in the laundry hamper, and immediately get a clean set and put 'em in the gym bag for the next time.

6. Keep your gym shoes just for the gym and always keep them right beside the gym bag. (But not inside; I let them air out a bit overnight.) If everything is right there, it's easy to shove it all in in the morning. Keep your gym lock in one shoe, always. Then you know where it is.

6A. I also leave about 3 pairs of sox and all my gym bras in the gym bag. It gets a bit heavy, but that way you always have sox and bras (which you might otherwise forget). I also keep Blistex, a water bottle and gum (my mouth gets dry) in the bag all the time.

7. Keep props handy. I usually have a magazine and my iPod in the gym bag. Workouts can get awfully dull, so the more distractions available, the better.

8. Make the gym a routine. I realize I sound totally anal about this stuff, but it really has to become second nature. If you let yourself skip too often, then that becomes your routine.

9. Don't rely on others. If you have a friend that wants to join you, great. But that can be a dangerous habit -- if she can't join you, it becomes an easy excuse to skip.

Comments (16)

Great post! I give you credit for how dedicated you are.

I used to work out regularly. I have never had a weight problem and have always had people ask me why I am bothering to work out, which I always thought was strange. The gym I had a lifetime membership closed. The past few years I have walked after school - a one hour walk up and back down a steep hill near my school with two friends from work. We have been bad this year at walking. I really need to start doing something on my own instead to be more regular about exercising.


Great ideas...Wish I had your comittment!

At least I can swim laps every day when the weather is warm, but that is not til April.

Wow, Sandra, wonderful tips! Thanks for sharing.


Great post! I bet you have inspired a lot of people t get started.

I have been a Curves girl for more than six years, and I too have slacked off in the past month or so.

But, like you say, working out is important to your overall health and it needs to be a habit.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, That was an excellent idea and question from Chiocciola. And you wrote such a great and detailed response. Excellent tips! You are so right about developing a routine. For me, the i-pod is critical. I have to have music when running or working out. Some people don't but I would get very bored.

Thanks you for this wonderful post! Have a great evening Sandra!

Barb Cabot:

This is a very inspiring post. Thank you so much. I need to get into an exercise routine. Your tips are very helpful.

Sandra - great tips. I've been using the gym at work a lot. If it wasn't in the building I doubt that I would go at all though. They're talking about moving the office - lord knows what I shall do then!

Sandra, you are the best! Thanks for writing such a detailed answer to my request!! Your tips are so true, especially about the convenience and the stocked gym bag. My gym is already convenient so now I just need to keep my stuff ready! And I love the idea of putting the lock in the shoe! I go to a gym that has four DC locations (it is local so I enjoy supporting it) and two of them are closer to the office than to home. One of them has had a bad theft problem so you really need a lock there - but I always seem to forget! This is a good way to remember.

Thanks again!!! Awesome post.


Girasoli, you make an excellent point -- exercise is about far more than weight control, something I dwell on far too much. For me, it's also a great stress reliever. I also believe the stronger my heart and lungs, the better I can cope with my asthma (which is quite severe, tho under control.)

I hope you can find an exercise program you enjoy!

Palma, it's not that long until April, and swimming is such a good work out. You must have very strong, toned arms and shoulders.

Hi Candi, thanks for your comment.

Nancy, I've heard good things about Curves, it sounds like a great workout environment for women.

Kathy, you're so right about the iPod. It keeps me from getting bored -- and from smacking those people who talk on their cellphones while "working out" or those who stand around chatting really loudly with friends. I can just tune them out....

Barb, thanks for stopping by! Good luck finding an exercise plan that suits you.

Jerry, that sounds like a crisis is brewing -- having a gym right in your biilding would be so handy!

Chiocciola, I hope there is something of value for you in my ideas. The lock is really crucial, my gym has a theft problem as well. Of course, it's also crucial to lock you own locker, than the empty, adjacent locker (which I've done more than once!!) Good luck, I hope you find a system that works for you!


Sandra -

You are an inspiration...

This is very important for those of us here who spend quite a bit of time at our computers. I have a small gym area in my basement, la piccola palestra, I call it, with an elliptical machine, weights, some other things. Therefore my problem isn't exercising, it's that I don't get out of my house very much...



I remember that section of stairs. That's why I never gain weight in Italy even though I'mm constantly eating!

Dana, that is so true - I also spend the day in front of the PC and I really need to work out to keep my back, neck and shoulders healthy (or as close to healthy as possible!)

Sandra, I can proudly report that I went to the gym today after work and I hadn't forgotten anything! Yohoo!


Dana, I think it's harder to be disciplined to exercise at home -- a million distractions! Good for you for setting up your own gym.

Jan, I know what you mean -- all that walking really saves our butts!

Bravo Chiocciola! Way to go!

I've recently added some rowing to my routine to try to strengthen exactly those upper back muscles that work so hard holding my giant head up over the computer all day!


Wow, what great tips Sandra. Thanks for this wonderfully well thought out post - very inspiring. I just need to get on board with the commitment and get started, and then the rest make so much sense!

We had a great workshop at my gym a few weeks ago, "Strength training for yoga." It focused on chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps and back, to get us stronger and more able to hold our chatarangas for an extended period of time! IT has helped me get more regular about strength training. I find it a lot more enjoyable than cardio!


Thanks Anne!

Chiocciola, that does sound like a great workshop. I never do chaturanga properly because my shoulders aren't strong enough -- I sort of lower down onto my tummy and do the back bend before quickly pushing back up into downdog!

I used to enjoy strength training more, but some reason have gone off it. But it's so important -- and it really helps to find a form of exercise you actaully enjoy!

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