How I Fell Back In Love With Working Out After Years Of Avoiding The Gym

How I Fell Back In Love With Working Out After Years Of Avoiding The Gym
Photo: Rebecca Norris. Art: Cierra Miller/STYLECASTER.

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Once upon a time, I was a health fanatic. I counted my calories, meal-prepped food to perfectly-weighted portions, and never struggled with how to exercise daily, save for a scheduled cheat day each week. Of course, that was back when I was in college, with loads of extra free time on my hands. Back then, I was a bartender and freelance writer, with ample time to schedule bi-weekly meal prep days and workouts around my shifts. I even had weekly routine planning sessions tailored to each muscle group in my body—all without taking away from my social life, and with time left over to plop down and watch hours of Sons of Anarchy when I needed a break. Like I said, I had a lot of time on my hands.

But when I got my first real job post-college, everything changed. After receiving an offer to work at a men’s publication (and losing my shit over the chance to combine my passions for health and writing), I dropped everything to prepare for my move to New York City. I had just shy of three weeks to secure a roommate, an apartment, furniture for my first place and a loan to afford the move itself, not to mention create a budget (I’d be making a meager assistant’s salary, after all) and spend time with friends and family before moving day. For the first time in forever, my regular workout routine fell to the wayside.

That was five years ago.

When I first got to New York, I realized after budgeting that one of the things that I’d have to sacrifice was a gym membership—something that had been a large part of my identity for the four years prior. Still, I figured I’d be able to do at-home workouts and hold myself accountable for staying fit. Just three days after moving in, I realized this approach didn’t exactly keep me motivated. I needed to be surrounded by mirrors and weight racks and leg presses. I needed my home away from home, the gym. Slowly but surely, I found myself working out less and less, my dedication to fitness lost in the shuffle of my busy New York City life. 

Finding The Right Workout

As a writer in the health and wellness space, I was still keeping tabs on the latest and greatest workouts within the industry, and did so even when I wasn’t frequenting the gym. I booked classes accordingly to see if all the trendiest workouts lived up to the hype, and after trying everything from Flywheel and SoulCycle to Orangetheory and Barry’s Bootcamp (sometimes taking a 45-minute train each way to do so, mind you), I started to find my groove within the class-led space. Still, even though these classes gave me the motivation I needed to show up and sweat, I wasn’t totally sold.

One night, after a long day of deadlines, meetings, and events, I hopped off the train at my stop and decided to walk a different route home. It was on my walk that I discovered Lagree NY—a local, female-owned Lagree Method workout studio that I could’ve sworn I’d heard of before, but hadn’t yet tried. I took a mental note and went on my way. On my walk, I scanned through a series of articles touting Lagree megaformer workouts as the be-all, end-all for lean, toned muscles, and before even making it to my front door, I had booked my first session at the studio.

It only took one class to leave me shaking and sold. I can wholeheartedly say that Lagree was the second-hardest workout I had ever done, though not so unbearably hard that I didn’t want to go back. It wasn’t until the day after my first class that I realized how special Lagree really was. For the first time ever, my inner thighs were sore from a workout, and muscles all over my body ached in places that I didn’t even know they could. Just like that, I was ready to get back to my gym-rat roots and re-embark on my journey towards health. This time, I made space for a new type of journey, one of self-love. In the trenches of trying to rediscover myself, build my self-confidence, and improve my health, I had finally found the workout that clicked for me.

In the trenches of trying to rediscover myself, build my self-confidence, and improve my health, I had finally found a workout that clicked for me.

Setting Goals & Making Commitments

During my time in New York, I’d always found that the hardest part about respecting my health was finding the time to do so. When a typical workday lasts beyond eight hours, it’s easy to want to come home, take a hot shower and veg out for the rest of the night, with zero desire to wake up early the next morning to fit in a workout. Because of this, I knew I needed to devise a plan to re-convince myself of the importance of working out, and to effectively realign my priorities. So, I decided to set a goal.

In years past, that might’ve meant signing up for a half marathon and knowing hard and fast that I had to be ready to run it by a set date on the calendar. This time around, however, it meant committing to writing a story about what happens when you try the industry’s newest, most-beloved workout for 30 days on end. As someone totally averse to missing deadlines, I knew it’d do the trick, and I was right. Knowing that I had a story to write at the end of the month—one for which photos and before-and-after measurements were a requirement—I simply couldn’t press snooze in the AM. My workouts became part of my actual work! And so, I attended each and every class, pretending in my head that I had an accountability buddy there waiting for me to show up. (Sometimes mind games do work, y’all).

Thinking Realistically

In the end, what really made this new commitment so manageable was the decision to be realistic with myself about it. As a full-time freelance writer, I have the unique luxury of being able to start my day whenever I feel like it. Instead of trying to torture myself with 6:00 a.m. workouts the way I once did, I committed to daily sweat sessions between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. or 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.. While I know this is not an option afforded to many, it’s more so the idea of finding a time that works for your schedule and committing to it, wholeheartedly and unwaveringly. As simple as it may seem, I know from first-hand experience how easy it is to skip a workout when you don’t have the right mindset. Another thing that helped me stay committed was opting to register for classes instead of relying on my former go-to gym sesh. Taking classes that require you to pay if you cancel or reschedule last-minute will inspire you to be more committed. This way, a skipped class won’t just mean a blow for your body, but your wallet, too.

Putting Myself First

In addition to being realistic with my time, I started to address my yes-girl syndrome, finally learning how to say no to any projects or plans that got in the way of my workouts and the commitment I made to myself. As much FOMO as I sometimes had, it was the choice to value myself above all else that put me back on the path to improving my own health and wellness. In saying no to non-essential meet-ups and events, I’m able to stay committed to a daily and weekly routine that benefits my own mental and physical well-being. And look, I get it, it can be scary to put yourself first—especially when your busy schedule correlates directly to the success of your career. But at the end of the day, the success of your career will mean little if your body and mind are at their worst. After many years of neglecting myself in favor of other priorities, I’m finally in a place where I respect and honor my needs, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.