4 Ways I Trick Myself Into 4 Workouts a Week

POPSUGAR Photography | Ericka McConnell
POPSUGAR Photography | Ericka McConnell

This Winter, I fell off the fitness train. Big time. I could tell you all the excuses that kept me from my workouts: my treadmill was broken (OK, so just the readout didn't work), it was way too cold to run or ski outside (holy crap, those -10 degree days were insane!), or I was too busy baking to make it to my favorite hot yoga classes. Excuses, excuses! Really the reason was that with a full-time job, taking care of my family, and all those household chores, it seemed impossible (and exhausting!) to squeeze in workouts.

It was time to get real. I mean an hour during the day doesn't just fall into your lap! If I wanted workouts to happen, I had to make them a priority, and for me, that meant penciling them into my schedule so they were as important as any of the other appointments I had on my calendar. Here's how I was able to trick myself into getting in four workouts a week.

I Finally Said Yes

A running buddy's relay partner for an upcoming marathon had to back out because of an injury, and she was desperate for a new partner. In my 15 years of running, the only race I've ever done was a 5K, so I said, "What the hell?" Knowing I have to be ready to run 13.1 miles by the end of my training sure makes fitting in those weekly workouts nonnegotiable. The other day I woke up to 36 degrees and flurries. Normally I would have said "F that!," but I knew I had to work on hills that day. Then a week later, I did a five-miler in the rain. I hated pretty much every step, being pelted with drops in my eyes, but afterward, I was damn proud of myself. And it felt good writing it down in bright orange on my calendar (another little motivating trick).

The Alarm Is Set

The time change was crucial in getting in my workouts, and I'm taking advantage of the early morning light. Three times a week, I set my alarm for 5:45 a.m., and without even thinking, I slip on my workout clothes that I've laid out the night before, eat half a banana with some water, and get outside for a run. I'm not going to lie — in the beginning, it felt like torture, pulling myself from my warm blanket cocoon, but within five or 10 minutes of my workout, I was totally into it and loving the quiet serenity of my still-sleeping neighborhood. Now when the alarm goes off, I can't ignore it. Even if I want to sleep in, I can't. My brain wakes up, my dog, Reuben, wags his tail excitedly, and I know I can't let myself or him down.

Sundays Are My Day

I've been teaching yoga classes on and off since 1999, but after two pregnancies and mommyhood in full force, it was a little too much to keep up with. I finally committed to Sundays at 9 a.m., and since I demonstrate the poses while I teach and I get to pick what we work on, I get in a great practice. My hubby watches the kids, and my friends come to the class, so it's something I look forward to every week. And because I'm the teacher, skipping out is not an option.

It's All About the Gear, Baby

Jewelry, expensive shoes and clothes, vacations — those aren't my thing. But splurging on new fitness gear? Now that really gets me excited. After every workout, I put a dollar in a jar ($5 for superlong workouts). Then every month or so I empty the jar and get a new top, a pair of capris, or a pair of kicks. And this Summer, I may add a mountain bike or GPS watch to my fitness gear family. On a day-to-day basis, the gear inspires me because I'm psyched to try it out. And with more expensive gear, I want to get my money's worth, so that motivates me too. Getting new gear is the best healthy reward! I work out, then I get new gear, which in turn gets me excited for more working out, and the cycle keeps going and going.