I’m bringing you my top 10 reasons to workout that extend far beyond the typical “I want to have abs” or “I want to look smoking hot.” I get the aesthetic motivation. I am a bikini competitor in a sport where my physique is critiqued while I am wearing the teeniest of bikinis in front of judges with their clipboards. Chiseled abs, lifted booties, strong shoulders and arms, and lean legs are all super important in this sport, but those are not the only reason I workout. If those were my only reason, I would not show up half the time, because that’s just not enough for me.
Here are my top 10 reasons to workout that have very little, actually nothing, to do with my outward appearance. If you are struggling to find motivation to get started, borrow from these.
In no particular order, let’s begin.
A wise woman once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”
Elle Woods, as portrayed by Reese Witherspoon, was onto something when she made this statement. Exercise DOES give you endorphins and those endorphins DO make you happy. Ever had a solid workout and felt giddy afterwards? Ever heard of “runner’s high”?
I have never walked away from a workout sadder or angrier than when I began, but I have walked away many times feeling happier. I know that’s purely anecdotal, but think about times you’ve moved your body and ask yourself if you walked away feeling happier.
As somebody who has spent some time in both group and individual therapy and somebody who knows the value of therapy for one’s mental health, I can say that exercise is one form of therapy for me.
In every single type of therapy I have attended, exercise has been recommended as a coping method for dealing with depression and anxiety. Here’s why.
Depression is generally based on thoughts of the past. It can be regret, shame, sadness, guilt, worthlessness, or a multitude of other negative feelings related to our past. Anxiety, on the other hand, is concerned with thoughts of the future. It can deal with fear and worry.
Exercise, especially the high intensity kind, forces you to be present and tune completely into the current moment. You can’t think about that time you forgot your significant other’s birthday or worry about your upcoming job interview if you’re putting all of your focus onto getting through the next burpee or shoulder press.
Of course I still recommend seeing a mental health professional and encourage everybody to make therapy a part of their self care routine.
3. Me Time
Exercise is an activity that you do with yourself for yourself. Even if you are taking part in group fitness experiences, this is still time that you are devoting to YOU. For some of us, especially those of us who are parents, carving out this little bit of “me time” may be the only “me time” you get in a day. Sometimes we can’t even sneak off to the bathroom without somebody needing something from us. If you get into a routine of working out and letting those who rely on you know that you will be unavailable during that time, you’ll have this me time built into your day.
Working out has been my consistent time for myself throughout competition training, pregnancy, and now being a new mother.
4. Set an Example
Troian is not my only reason, but she is a major reason I do what I do. I exercise to set an example for her of what fit and healthy look like. I am mindful of the way I talk about fitness and the foods I eat around her because I know her little eyes are watching and her ears are always listening. Since I want her to grow up and have an active, strong body, I set an example of what it looks like to take care of myself so that she can implement that when she is old enough to understand.
Another example I try to make of myself is that of a strong, healthy vegan. There’s such a misconception out there that vegans are dying of protein deficiencies or withering away with weakness, so I try my best to set an example of health within this community. I know that I could have benefited from that when I was on the outside looking in, so I try to set an example for others who may be where I was not all that long ago.
5. Sleep Quality
It is so funny to me that my rest days are the nights where my sleep is the worst. I am sure that has a little to do with the fact that I didn’t expend all of the energy my body is used to during the day, so it takes me longer to fall asleep and I toss and turn a bit more than usual. On the other hand, when I’ve exerted myself during the day, sleep comes easily and I wake up feeling more rested.
It may seem counterintuitive that using more energy somehow gives you more energy because that isn’t really an equation that makes sense, but I don’t make the rules around here.
You also might be saying, “but I’d have to give up sleep to get a workout in.” I get you, I do, but it comes down to the quality of your sleep, NOT the quantity. That’s how this equation works.
Unless you’re one of those very few people who actually enjoy spending an hour on the elliptical, don’t force yourself to spend an hour on the treadmill. There are so many ways to be active and get your exercise in that you can find one that you actually enjoy doing. Fitness, contrary to popular opinion, can and should be fun. Dancing can be fitness. Swimming can be fitness. Yoga can be fitness. Find movement that brings you joy.
When I first started working out, the program that got me hooked was a mixed martial arts (MMA) style routine. I felt like such a badass and actually enjoyed showing up for that butt kicking every single day. It was the first program I ever completed start to finish.
While I do sometimes do moves or workouts that are not my favorites (curse you, burpees), I find enjoyment in the majority of what I do. My favorite is usually lifting heavy weights because I enjoy feeling strong, but I also enjoy a good twerk session, martial arts, or sometimes even a little interval cardio.
When you work hard towards big goals and you reach them, there’s a sense of pride that you gain as a prize for all of your hard work and effort. While I don’t feel boastful or “above anybody else” for the achievements that I’ve reached with my health and fitness, I do take pride in how hard I worked to accomplish something that was important to me. The cool thing about your health and wellness is that it is something you can continually look to improve, so you can continuously be proud of all the ways you are taking care of your body.
I have a lot of people come to me saying that they wish they had my motivation. I chuckle every time because it really doesn’t come down to motivation. It comes down to building habits and being disciplined.
I don’t always feel motivated to workout instead of spending time with my husband, baby, and/or dogs.
I don’t always feel motivated to lift heavy.
I certainly don’t always feel motivated to do cardio.
What I do feel is discipline. I don’t tell myself that I’ll workout “if I feel like it” or “when I get around to it.” I know that mindset doesn’t work for me and it very rarely works for others. Instead, I make it a non-negotiable part of my schedule and treat my workouts like appointments with myself that I cannot break (unless there’s a very good reason).
I’ve found that forming a habit of discipline in this area of my life has also led to being more disciplined in other areas such as budgeting, meditating, eating mindfully, etc. The discipline just seems to almost overflow into the rest of my life.
9. Keep Promises to Yourself
This is almost the same as discipline, but it’s worth being its own point. Working out on a regular basis is one way you can practice keeping promises to yourself.
Maybe you’ve “tried the fitness thing” before and fell off track. Maybe you’ve done it more than once. Maybe, like me, you’ve done it several more times than you would like to admit.
It seems that the more times we make and then subsequently break these promises to ourselves, the less our minds believe us when we say “I mean it for real this time” and try again. We then, sometimes without even knowing it, quit before we get started or self-sabotage our efforts.
Alternatively, the more we make promises to ourselves, the more we begin to believe ourselves again and make efforts to follow through.
Like discipline, this habit of keeping promises to yourself spills over into other areas of your life.
10. Survive a Zombie Apocalypse
I can’t guarantee a zombie apocalypse will happen, but I also can’t guarantee it won’t happen. My suggestion? Don’t risk not being prepared.
What did you think of this list? Did I cover everything or did I leave something out? I’d love to hear from you below!