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10 Tips to Change Yourself From a Dedicated Couch-Potato to a Gym Enthusiast

Written by Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project.

10 exercise tips
Photo by kajo55

Exercise helps keep you happy and vital. Studies show that folks who exercise are healthier, cheerier, more energetic, think more clearly, sleep better, and have delayed onset of dementia. What’s more, they get relief from anxiety and mild depression—comparable to medication and therapy.

But of course, no one really disputes the benefit of exercise. The trick is actually DOING IT.

My own favorite activity is reading in bed—preferably, while snacking. It took me a while, but I’ve managed to get myself into the habit of exercising regularly.

These ten strategies helped me stick to my routine:

1. Always exercise on Monday. Starting the week on the right foot makes it easier to stick to your plan.

2. Never skip exercising for two days in a row. You can skip a day, but the next day, you must exercise no matter how inconvenient. This rule dramatically increased the number of times I exercise over the course of a month.

3. Remember, exercise GIVES energy. If you feel too tired to exercise, remember that exercise boosts energy. It took me a long time to notice that I’d drag myself to the gym, work out for forty minutes, and leave feeling far more energetic than when I went in.

4. Any work-out “counts.” Give yourself credit for the least effort. My father, a runner, always said that all he had to do was put on his running shoes and close the door behind him. Why does this work? Because if I know I can quit after five minutes, I get started—and once I start, I usually follow through with my usual routine. Getting out the door is by FAR the toughest part.

5. You don’t have to shower. One problem—mostly for women—is that taking a shower can take too much time. Look for exercise like strength-training, yoga, or walking, that don’t make you sweaty.

6. Throw money at the problem. Spend more to go to a more convenient gym, or to get an iPod, or to work with a trainer. Exercise pays off BIG in your quality of life, so this is a place to splurge.

7. Don’t set the bar too high. I have a friend who thinks it’s not worth exercising unless she’s training for a marathon – and so she never exercises. She’d be better off going for a one-mile run five times a week.

8. Don’t kid yourself. Belonging to a gym doesn’t mean that you go to the gym. Having been in good shape in college doesn’t mean you’re in good shape today. Be honest about what your habits really are now.

9. You have time. Just take a twenty-minute walk. If you can’t do more, do that! Just a twenty-minute walk will really pay off.

10. Exercise for SANITY not VANITY. I find it more motivating to think about the fact that exercise is going to make me feel happier, calmer, and more energetic, right now, rather than to think about vaguer long-term benefits, like strengthened immunity or longer life. It’s not clear that exercise has much impact on weight loss, so don’t be give up when the pounds don’t fall off. It’s worth doing for so many other reasons.

If you’d like to read more about happiness, check out Gretchen’s daily blog, The Happiness Project, and join the Happiness Project group on Facebook to swap ideas.

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As long as you!

I feel that as long as you get yourself into the gym and move around, no matter if you are sick or tired. Keeping this a habit is the key to getting fit.

As long as you get in the gym and work yourself based on what you can handle is a core fundamental.

Worry about more advanced stuff later.

JUST EXERCISE in any way!


It's okay if you don't sweat.

It's okay if you don't sweat. Try not to get your heart rate elevated either. Breathing heavy or grunting makes you look unattractive, or even worse, ill. No one wants to be around unattractive or ill people.

It will be okay if the sweat dries on your body and you have to shower later. Sweat never killed anybody, and if you shower regularly, a little sweat gives you a delicious smell. Try it! You'll like it.

Good Post

Good ideas, thanks! I liked the tip on always exercising on Mondays to start the week out right and making sure you don't go two days without exercising. I find if I let myself miss a couple days its SO MUCH HARDER to get back in the routine.

One thing I have to be careful about is telling myself, I ran 2 miles this morning, I deserve cheesecake!

I got an Ipod for Christmas and it sure helps pass the time on the treadmill!


Ipod, Mp3 player, even a cassette player...

This really helps me out. My exercise routine changed from drudgery to discovery with my Mp3 player and downloading new music all the time. Even with some old favorites, this REALLY made a big difference in my attitude.

keeping fit, losing weight, staying together

I'm naturally lazy, always ready to find a way even to put off procrastinating. If I didn't have a way to be sure I get some exercise, I never would. For me the easiest way is to cycle to work, come rain, snow, or bad mood - just do it. No excuses.

Exercise certainly does help you lose weight, but not if you eat more calories to compensate. Being hungry is part of the deal - what's important is to get into a frame of mind where "hungry is good". Hungry is good during the day but especially when you go to bed. I've been going to the gym instead of lunch for the last 6 weeks, and over that time have lost weight at the rate of about 250g (the weight of a steak) each day. And my muscle tone and strength have markedly increased, too.

What works for me

One tip that works for for me is to put on the clothes that I will be exercising in. Get up in the morning and put on your running kit, get home from work and change into your gym gear. It means you are going to exercise.

"Exercise for SANITY not VANITY". I would change this to "find out what motivates you to exercise". If its looking good in the mirror that's great, if it's being able to have a bar of chocolate without feeling guilty that's cool too.

I Agree Wholeheartedly

I enjoyed this article.

I am an occasional gym-goer, and I work out w/a personal trainer twice a week, but I've found that nothing beats getting up early and running in the cool morning air. I do, however, second that it's all about those first steps - getting on the shoes and closing the door. I have every thought about going back to bed, to the softness of the pillow; but I concentrate on how good I'll feel afterward.
So my answer to #5 is to bite the bullet and get moving before you shower each morning.

And, although I have about 20 pounds to lose, I feel strong, graceful and energetic when I run, and that's what I concentrate on, for now. My mood is a million times better, and I find that I don't dread beginning my day. Right on - this article is full of good tips.

I also agree w/the theory that every exercise counts. I'm a big advocate of kaizen (small consistent steps that lead to big change over time). And if you start small and hang in there, you have a much better chance of staying in the game.


According to any yoga expert, if you aren't sweating, you aren't concentrating, or doing it right.

Yoga Experts.

I have trouble believing that any yoga expert has said that. That philosophy is so Western. I hope that you have the chance to learn the joys of what yoga really is and how it was meant to be used.


I agree with the last post, as no TRUE yoga instructor would ever say or believe that. I've taught yoga for years, and yoga is NOT about sweating, exercise, etc., period. In fact, the asanas (poses, stretches) are nothing more than tools for honing one's ability to concentrate, to meditate more effectively. Yoga is a state of mind, a philosophy, not a workout, not an exercise.

Western society has transformed yoga to meet jive with our societies need to see instantaneous results. If one doesn't sweat, one isn't tired, and so forth, most don't believe that they've truly worked out in any real way. The same is said with how most routines have evolved into quick, flowing series of movements. I find the best workouts are done on the mat, slowly, methodically, and in a controled way. For the record, yoga such as "hot yoga" and some more intense versions of traditional schools can be unsafe to beginners, and in fact is more flexibility training than anything else. Still, it's rewarding, beneficial, etc., but in reality, it's not TRUE yoga.

That being said, yoga is poweful, in many ways. It's easier to maintain as a lifestyle, it has far reaching benefits (mental, physical, even emotional), and when done routinely for a period of time, your body can be transformed into a very lean, efficient vessel.

To get to the point the article was trying to make, you burn calories ALL the time, and increased activity means an increased calorie burn, so it's not useless or ineffective, and walking 2 miles a day and burning an extra 200 or 300 calories because of it, can mean losing a 2 or 3 pounds in the course of a month, maybe 10 or 15 in a year, of course leveling off as your fitness level increases. And for some, it's easier to walk for a lifetime, than to run, lift, bike, etc.; consistency is key, and rather than make radical life changes, make one's that are doable, that you can keep, and when you've fully incorporated them into your life, you can move forward if the want and desire is there. Moderation makes the difference.

good sujjestion for health freaks

It could have been great contribution if yiu added breath controls execrcisc in daily life and warm methods

Sweet Sweat

I'm going make a t-shirt that says,

"If you aren't sweating....
Get off my bench!"

I shower before, (women in perfume at the gym is a peeve of mine, I don't like inhaling that stuff when I'm doing intervals tyvm), and after the gym. Yeah, it's a pain but being overweight and cranky is a bigger pain.

I agree with the previous comment - initial motivation is more often than not, the idea that exercise will promote weight loss. I'd rather tell people to just throw away the stupid lying scale.

Done correctly and in conjunction with proper diet, exercise absolutely will promote fat loss - not weight loss. Of course then you get the words diet and exercise in one sentence and people tune out.

Deconstructing the Meme

When you find that T-shirt...

"If you aren't sweating....
Get off my bench!"


I can't stand those who like to just walk around in extra tight gym clothing and sits for EVER on benches pretending they're doing something!!!! Drives me nuts! Neither can I stand those who grabs the bench WHILE you're adjusting the weights on it, AAAARRRGGGG.

Further I really do agree that Mondays are THE day to start your workout with. I also think that going on a Friday afternoon when it is pretty much empty is the most relaxing thing you can do after a hard work-week! No one goes out to enjoy the nightlife till 9pm anyways, so working out before that really gives you that extra boost to party on till the sun comes up;-)

Its so true!

having to fit in time to shower is a huge excuse for me! I have really long thick hair that takes me an hour to dry & style. The last thing I want to do is get it all sweaty and stuck to me so I have to wash it again. you've given me a way out of my excuse (thank u?)!

Also it is true to say that "It's not clear that exercise has much impact on weight loss". Excercise gives you muscles and muscles are heavy. anyway you can be fit and still be 'fat'. even if your not losing any weight you are definatly still improving on your overall health. Thats what the focus should be on. If you doubt me on this, go check out the real reason the BMI scale was invented - Nothing to do with what it is used for today. astrology not biology.

good... but a couple big mistakes

EXERCISE has a HUGE impact on weight loss! Strength training SHOULD make you sweat! If you want to increase your heart rate to get a cardiovascular workout, you should be sweating. Any kind of walking is good for most morbidly obese people because even walking 20 yards down the hallway gets their heart rate up. I know. I work with morbidly obese people every single day. The code for that is 278.01 (ICD-9). Don't feed people misinformation!

Strength training can be

Strength training can be just 4 push-ups (or whatever exercise you think is hard) during a commercial break or whenever. That might not as effective as a real workout, but "every workout counts", and there's no need to shower afterwards.

Strength training can be

Strength training can be just 4 push-ups (or whatever exercise you think is hard) during a commercial break or whenever. That might not as effective as a real workout, but "every workout counts", and there's no need to shower afterwards.

Nice post...

but strength training done properly should make you sweat plenty. Granted, if you're going to do bicep curls with the pink dumbells you probably won't build up much of a sweat, but heavy compund movements will.

I really like the "Any work-out counts" idea. I've often been put off a workout because I planned something a bit too gruelling. The call to action is always the hard part.

Mike from Hotbodytraining.com

I Agree

Getting in the gym is the hard part, and even if you're there just for 15, 20, 30 minutes, you're there, doing something, bettering yourself, even if in a small way.

For some, just getting used to BEING in the gym, getting there daily, developing a routine is the hard part. And while technically it's true that you won't become the "beast of the gym" by using the "pink weights", that's not necessarily the average person's goal or intent. We're trying to get people there, to workout, to increase their overall wellbeing, and honestly, most people that go to the gym are seeking to increase their health, their fitness level, perhaps because of the advice of a doctor, to combat arthritis, whatever, and for some of these people, that's enough.

Get the gear

Great tips.

I would also add that it's worth putting some effort into getting gear that you feel good in while exercising. If you hate that baggy t-shirt, nasty shorts and old trainers that you've been wearing to the gym, then be kind to yourself and hunt down some flattering clothes. Also, a good sports bra really is worth forking out for.

It's intimidating enough doing somthing new and challenging in a foreign environment. Make it easier for yourself where you can.

Track Results

Last year we used http://fitoff.com to run a company fitness competition. After each exercise I put in the type and duration and saw the points stack up. What better motivator than seeing your numbers increase - and being motivated by other people's scores to keep going?

I'm not sure I had ever been more diligent in doing some form of exercise - especially against a chosen few who kept getting ahead of me! The competition only ran a few months, but since the site has a main board you can always compete against someone, and I really like seeing how I was doing last year for exercise (I'm slacking a bit this year!)

It really helps with #4 and #9.

Back to # 10

Nice article although I do have a problem with number #10. Everything that I’ve read says that there is a direct correlation between exercise and weight/fat loss. Cardio burns calories – weight training builds muscles witch in turn feed on fat. Am I wrong here?


Strength-training doesn't make you sweaty?!

What kind of sad weight training doesn't make you sweat? If you're not sweating, you need to pick up something heavier.to

Strength Training

Not everyone sweats, even with strength training. I don't. Whether walking or high-resistance weight training, my metabolism doesn't seem stressed over the exertion.


any workout counts!

so true.. i hated going to the gym cause i just got so bored.. i had to drag myself there and i could NOT stick to a regular exercise routine. but i started bringing a book with me when i go, reading on the cycle and treadmill, which necessarily means lower intensity workouts, but now I go every day instead of once a month, and that completely makes up for it! i've lost 5 pounds in 3 weeks (without a change in diet) and have so much more energy! ;)

#10 - awesome! I have found

#10 - awesome!
I have found it to be true. Before I went to the gym, I was thinking like I could utilise exercise only for the sake of creating a toned up body but later I found that it gives a feeling of success, a feeling of overcoming your inertia.... Its a good feeling altogether, I love the gym.
Yeah, shutting the door behind also matters. Once im onto my motorcycle, its all easy. But getting on it to leave for the gym is the tuffest part. :D

love it

I loved the title of this post, very creative, it caught my eye immediately. I've recently become a regular gym-goer as well. I started 2008 with a 10-day fast and got a gym membership to 24 hour fitness. I'm dedicating this year to health and wellness. =)

http://jonathanmead.com - Authenticity, Clarity, Balance


Exercise does not give energy. This would be a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and is physically impossible.

Exercise might make you *think* you have "more" energy, but really what you're feeling is simply an effect of the release of endorphins into your system.

RE: Thermodynamics

I think you're incorrect.

Not about the Second Law playing a part, I just think that you're misapplying it in this specific case. Either that, or you're turning what should be a symantics argument into one about physics.

Exercise increases the efficiency at which our hearts (and likely other systems, organs, etc...) operate.

So, perhaps it would be better to say that instead of exercise giving you more energy, it allows you to use more of the energy you consume and store, with less waste.

...Although, tbh, I think an argument could be made that it really does give you more. I'm no exercise physiologist, but I tend to think that if you exercise, your body will start burning some of its stored fuel. That, combined with whatever you're consuming on a given day will be burned...


You could look at this in a different way. The psychological phenomena of the contagiousness of yawning is an adaptation that evolved in groups of animals to help in alerting them to danger. When one sees someone yawn, you yawn as well. The brain initiates this behavior, as the yawn itself draws an increased amount of oxygen into the lungs, sending more to the brain, and aids in "waking" individuals (which is also why we yawn when awake) to help in completing a task (such as fleeing danger).

Yawning requires calories but can make one feel energized, so that something like the act of exercise CAN in reality make one LESS tired or energized by the simple fact it initiates the burning of fuel in the body. Some of this fuel that is being burned is not even readily available to the rest of the body under normal circumstances, so you're not necessarily even depleting carbs and what not in the amounts that would lead to immediate fatigue. At any rate, one in theory exercises, in a manner of speaking, by being awake, period. You certainly can feel more energized in the mid afternoon as opposed to the waking hours of the day.

At any rate, that exercise IS the burning of FUEL, can explain in some situations why you might feel energized, with or without the release of endorphins. People can feel energized from light exercise that certainly does not release endorphins, so that alone could not be the case.

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