Five Ways to Make the Gym an Enjoyable Place to Be

Before I had my children, I loved going to the gym. While I didn’t go every day, I was very active at my college one and enrolled in myriad workout classes during my four years there. As a newlywed, my husband and I quickly realized that our after-work hours could be best spent sweating it out together rather than vegging out in front of the television watching reality show reruns. So, we joined the local gym and made it a point to go at least three times a day.

During those days, we would run the upstairs track a few times together, going just enough laps to equal a mile. Then, we might split up. He would hit the weight room and I would make a beeline for the elliptical machines. Or, we may play a little basketball or paddleball together until it was time to go home and let out our new puppy, Pablo.

Then, as it has a tendency of doing, real life set in. We had babies and our careers changed. Suddenly, we weren’t working dependable eight-hour shifts, where we had plenty of time to spare in the evening. I left my full-time job in marketing and started doing proposal management and technical writing from home. The work was helpful but sporadic, often coming in spurts in the evening. My husband transitioned from his job as a plumber to a sales associate role, which found him on the road more often. Thus, our standard gym routine hadn’t just been changed a little. Rather, it had been completely upturned and now, with two children underfoot, we were lucky if we found the time to make dinner, much less hit the workout room.

Still, we’ve both been eager to get back into the swing of things this year. Our children are old enough to stay in the in-gym childcare center for an hour and we’re both looking forward to a trip to Key West, Florida in November to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary. We want to look our best and we know we can’t get there unless we start taking our fitness seriously, and for us, that means rejoining the gym so we can get back to the way we were. Here are a few ways we are making the process as enjoyable and successful as possible.

1. Make it as easy to go as possible.

My husband is an early riser. He wasn’t always this way, but his job in sales has forced him to rise at 6:00 a.m. for so long that it’s become almost second nature to him. On the other hand, while I got up at the crack of dawn for seven years as a full-time worker, I’m relishing this new role of mom, where I can sleep in until the baby cries. Granted, that’s not a luxuriously late start. We are usually up and eating our yogurt by 8:00 a.m. Still, the idea of waking up any earlier than that to go to the gym is really difficult for me to get my head around.

As the temperatures dip and fall creeps in, I know I’ll be even more hesitant to leave our cozy cocoon of a bed. That said, I’m determined to set out my clothes the night before and have everything ready in the bathroom that I need for the day. If I know that I just have to roll out, slip on my clothes and brush my teeth, it takes the stress and the burden out of the routine. I can do all of that in the dark and the more proficient I become at it, I might even be able to add a few minutes to my wakeup call.

2. Invest in some quality workout gear.

Thanks to celebrities-turned-fashion-designers such as Carrie Underwood and Kate Hudson, there has never been a better time to look fashionable while hitting the gym. I adore the fact that now, there are plenty of options on the market for both men and women who want to look put-together, chic and tough while raising those dumbbells or sweating it out in the early morning on the treadmill.

Maybe it’s all in my head, but I know I’m more motivated to push for that extra lap or keep jogging that extra mile if I know I’m looking fantastic while doing so. To that end, I’m investing in a few key pieces of new workout gear for my wardrobe. For me, that means some stretchy but flattering leggings, a few new tops and some sneakers that are bright and bold to propel me through the workout. You can learn more info here about some of the picks I’m eyeing! I’d much rather slip on these in the wee hours of the morning and head out the door than my oversized, baggy gym shorts and heavy cotton tee that does nothing but hold heat in.

3. Partner up.

You would think this one would be easy, right? My husband and I can be gym accountability partners! Yet, I have found that it’s much easier for me to partner up with a girlfriend, and he with a male buddy, than for us to be each other’s cheerleaders. Maybe it’s the fact that I love to sweat it out in the Tuesday morning hot yoga class and he’d rather eat glass than go in there, or that he loves to pump iron and I’m not interested in gaining that much muscle mass. Either way, we’ve taken to spending time in separate areas of the gym and it’s just not feasible for me to be in the room with him but not working out myself, simply cheering him on and interjecting words of motivation.

So, I asked my best friend to come along with me on this journey. A new mom herself, she was ready to get back into the grind. Plus, with the kids at childcare, we get to gab and catch up before class starts, which feels like a total win-win for us both. Of course, I catch up with my husband at the end of our sessions and we’re both rooting for each other, but sometimes a spouse should remain just that and an accountability partner can be someone else!

4. Find your gym.

For some, this might be the fancy gym uptown that offers tons of amenities like a heated pool, sauna, and top-of-the-line exercise equipment. Maybe those features excite you and encourage you, and plus, the high price of membership might motivate you to go as often as possible!

Or, maybe you’re more comfortable at a low-cost, no-frills gym that lacks in amenities but comes with zero pressure and a very friendly front desk clerk. Take your time to try out a few gyms in your area before deciding to join one. Many will let guests come for free for a few time to get a feel of the place before signing on the dotted line.

Make sure the gym you land on is one that makes you feel welcome and at home, and is one you actually want to wake up early for, or head to straight after work. If not, you could spin your wheels on the membership but get nothing and go nowhere in return.

5. Take it slow and amp up the rewards.

Sure, I would love to lose 10 pounds and be in a size 2 by the time our Key West trip rolls around. Yet, that might be too lofty of a goal. To really determine my pace of progress, I’ve decided to track my daily changes and try to challenge myself to do something new at the gym daily, whether that’s add an extra five pounds to my weight machine or stick around for a second yoga class.

Yet, I am fully aware that it’s often baby steps that lead to the most sustainable progress. As such, I am not going to push myself or my husband too hard, too quickly. When taken intentionally and strategically, it’s often those smallest steps that generate the biggest reward. So, as we celebrate every milestone, no matter how small, we will do so with rewards that we can actually look forward to. For us, that means creating experiences. For instance, when I lost my first five pounds, we booked a babysitter and took a date night to the movies. Sure, we could indulge in a sweet treat to celebrate our progress (and I’m sure we will at some point), but we would rather make a memory together.

Though this journey is just beginning, I can’t wait to see it unfold. We are dedicated to this process and determined to do it together. From our newlywed days to now, I cannot believe how far we’ve come. There’s no one I’d rather tackle this challenge with, and I’m also excited to show our kids that with a little hard work and perseverance, you can do some pretty great things.