Some days — especially during the face-freezing days of winter (and winter is coming, y’all) — the last thing I want to do is put on my gym clothes, add three layers of sweaters and sweatpants, and button up my heavy coat just to have to take it all off to sweat somewhere.
So, you know what I do instead?
Nothing. I do nothing.
Then that one day of not going to the gym turns into several days of not going, and now I’m not sure how to motivate myself to get back on the fitness train.
“I always speak to my clients about the cost of the ‘all or nothing’ mentality, and so instead, I greatly encourage a mindset of ‘always something,’” says certified nutrition and lifestyle coach, Paloma Pilar.
So, what if your motivation is at an all-time low? Start small.
You could always troll through YouTube and throw on some workout videos, but that’s personally not my jam.
Sometimes “you want to work out, but don’t want to think you’re working out,” says Jessica Sander, personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Chelsea Piers in NYC. Clearly, Jessica understands my dilemma!
She also says the key to making the most out of an at-home workout is picking exercises that engage larger muscle groups and focusing on the form. Think: lunges, squats, push-ups, and planks. Yes, the classics. But there are ways to make those fun.
Personal trainer Maddison Rotner says that’s also key. “Working out doesn’t have to be so serious. If you make it fun for yourself, it doesn’t have to feel like work.”
With that in mind, I tried out these seven, um, unconventional workouts for when you just don’t feel like working out.
Every time the girls go into confessional: Chair Pose.
I tried it: I knew there were a lot of confessionals, but I didn’t know there were that many! I recruited my girlfriends to do this one with me. Everyone chose a pose or a set to do (squats, planks, and Tree Pose for balance work). It made the show that much more fun and ridiculous.
Every time a commercial comes on, use that 30–45 seconds to hold a plank.
“If you’re watching TV, use it to your benefit. It’s already setting the time for you,” says Sander. “It’s much better to do a plank over crunches, because you’re using your entire core.”
I tried it: It keeps you guessing because you never know exactly how long the commercial is going to be.
Pick a song you love and write down a simple circuit.
Example: 10 push-ups, 10 squats, 10 lunges.
Repeat until the song is over.
“You can change the intensity, as well. Turn the squats into jump squats. Do jumping lunges or elevated push-ups off a chair,” says Rotner. “Make it short, sweet, and to the point.”
She suggests doing this circuit three times during the day to get the most out of it.
I tried it: Push-ups are no joke! I turned up Cardi B’s Money and felt like I was really working, and it was over so quickly.
Option 1: Dance around freestyle and burn some calories.
Option 2: Learn the choreography and really sweat.
Pro tip: Do this in front of a mirror.
I tried it: I couldn’t help but be in a better, more powerful mood after learning Beyonce’s Coachella dance break moves. This one is also a lot of fun to do with friends. We might not have perfected the moves, but we were sweating.
Plank for 30 seconds before you check Instagram (or your social media addiction of choice) throughout the day.
I tried it: Aaaand I’m going to have a six-pack soon! Also, it made me think twice about whether I really needed to scroll through my feed all the time. So, a win-win all around.
Do 10 squats every time you go to the bathroom.
I tried it: I drink a lot of water. So… that was a lot of squats.
Incorporating these small fitness goals into my weekend helped build my confidence that I had not, in fact, fallen off the fitness train. Then, I was ready to try a longer circuit.
Because isn’t Bohemian Rhapsody like 20 minutes long?
Line up 20 minutes of songs that you love. Pick 4 exercises (that engage those larger muscle groups), and commit to making the most out of those 20 minutes by staying focused and limiting rest between sets.
“Have a plan. Before you go into that 20 minutes, know what you’re doing. Get off your phone, focus on what you have to do, and before you know it, you’re done.”
I tried it: I did repeat sets of lunges, push-ups, squats, and jumping jacks to my favorite QUEEN songs. Knowing that it would all be over in 20 minutes, I was able to really give it my all in that short time frame, and I felt like I worked harder than I do in some hour-long fitness classes.
Does picking a playlist and deciding on four moves feel like too much? No judgement, I’ve been there. That’s when I turn to some online ready-to-go programs.
If you want to pay up a little bit, I love the be.come project (they have a “check in” before and after the workout so you can let it be known that you’re feeling unmotivated, but are choosing to work out anyway), beachbody (a classic), and VFitStudio (online group fitness classes where the instructors can see you and you see them).
If you’re opting for free, there are so many options online, you’ll just have to do some filtering. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can also access the complete Jane Fonda workout online for free (hey, style inspo!)
If all of this feels too overwhelming, you can always pull yourself off the couch and stretch.
“Don’t underestimate stretching and mobility. Stretching improves circulation by increasing blood flow to your muscles which leaves you feeling refreshed and invigorated,” says Pilar.
And after binge-watching another episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, it just feels good.
Pilar suggests starting with these easy stretching videos:
I tried it: I forgot how much I love stretching. It’s not something I think about doing in my home on a regular basis, but I truly felt refreshed afterward.
There’s no shame in finding non-conventional ways to work out and move your body.
“You can go to the gym for 2 hours and do absolutely nothing. Just because you’re there doesn’t mean you’re working hard,” says Rotner.
Sander agrees that it doesn’t matter where you work out, as long as you’re building muscle.
“The bottom line is the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn when your body is at rest.”
So, pull yourself off the couch, even if just to do a 30-second plank or hold Chair Pose while another girl cries over not getting a rose. Then congratulate yourself for working out (even for 30 seconds!) when you didn’t feel like it. Because something is better than nothing.
E.J. Johnson is a Brooklyn-based comedy writer and performance artist. If you like pictures of pink sparkly things, you can follow her @ej.sunshine on Instagram.