If this was the year you vowed to press pause on “Stranger Things,” pry yourself off your well-worn couch, and trade in your jammies for workout gear, only to find yourself watching “Stranger Things” for the past two weeks — in your jammies — we feel you.
The struggle is real to find the motivation to put on 42 layers of clothes to brave the frigid temps to hit the gym. Your couch is comfy. It’s safe. It’s warm.
But we have faith in you. And so does personal trainer and fitness instructor Jay Agustin and health and wellness expert Jackie Mirkopoulos. Both believe you can slither off that couch to get healthier this year.
Couched in excuses
The couch ate your motivation? Yep, heard that one before.
“I have heard every excuse in the book,” Mirkopoulos told HuffPost Canada. “At the end of the day, it comes down to priorities and choice. The key word here is WANT to get healthy. I tell clients that they first need to see the value in taking better care of themselves and once they identify value, it’s easier to make it a priority. They need to want it.”
For example, Mirkopoulos said she makes her health a priority because she has a long family history of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
“Being health-conscious will help me avoid these issues for myself,” she said. “Try to have an honest conversation with yourself about the value of your health. Basically, nothing else matters if you’re not healthy to enjoy it.”
Watch “Stop making excuses.” Story continues below.
Who has time to work out?
You do, that’s who.
The truth is that your mentality is half of the battle. Being stuck on the couch is a decision you’ve made and accepting that fact is step one.
And, working out doesn’t have to take hours on end — even 15-30 minutes a day will help you get fitter.
“If a CEO with over 4,000 employees and two kids has time to work out with me, you have time,” Agustin told HuffPost Canada. “Try changing your words from, ‘I don’t have time to work out’ to, ‘I don’t want to prioritize my health.’ You’ll think your sentence over.”
So, take your “This Is Us” binge-watch to the gym and boom, extra time for you to spend crying on an elliptical rather than into your duvet. JK! There’ll be no tears when you start exercising. You truly can achieve gain without pain. Trust.
It’s too expensive
“This one is interesting because a lot of the same people who state this make two trips to Starbucks a day buying $6 lattes,” Agustin said. “The amount you’re spending at your local coffee shop can buy you that gym membership.”
There are also a lot of free classes during the winter, especially at the beginning of the new year. Most classes are not routinely free, of course, but you can often find free intro sessions almost weekly or bi-weekly. Check out Lululemon or Eventbrite for free or pay-what-you-can classes.
You’re also not confined to only working out at a gym. Local community centres often have classes that are either free or are inexpensive. And, Google is your friend when it comes to online exercise videos you can do in the comfort of your own home. Possibly even in your PJs. We’re not judging.
You’ve ditched the excuses, now what?
Ditch the Netflix, said Mirkopoulos.
“Couch people are couch people, until they’re not,” said the wellness expert. “People watch just as much TV in the summer as they do in the winter, due to how entertainment is being delivered to us through streaming networks carrying seasons at a time of TV shows and endless movies.”
By getting rid of Netflix or other similar streaming services and going back to regular cable, Mirkopoulos guarantees that alone will decrease your couch time.
Also, consider limiting the time you spend scrolling on your devices — researchers have found that we basically spend an average of too much time on our phones. If you can cut down your scrolling time to 30 minutes a day, you’ll have more time for lunges and less time for lurking online, and better mental health to boot.
To free up more time to exercise, try delegating more at work and at home if you have children, or include them in your workouts if possible. Also consider integrating your time for socializing into your workouts as well — friends who side-plank together, have tight abs and more fun together. Win-win!
And instead of jumping on public transit to head into work, walk or bike to get your body moving. Instead of grocery shopping daily or weekly, set up a food delivery service so you can spend that time working out. And, instead of partying all night, maybe skip the afterparty so you can rise and shine for a morning yoga class on the weekend — your liver, bank account and body will thank you.
You’ve ditched the excuses and Netflix, now what?
Start small, and hold yourself accountable.
“People think you need to spend hours in the gym. That’s just not the case,” said Agustin. “For someone who hasn’t done anything for months, or even years, building the habit of walking around the block can create the momentum you need to eventually want to do more.”
Once you build this momentum, the personal trainer also recommends calling — or, let’s be real, messaging — that friend you constantly see on social media who’s giving their all during their workouts, to ask them to guide you through a workout.
“I can guarantee they’d take even 30 minutes to show you a thing or two,” he said.
Once you’ve acquired the know-how, schedule in your workouts ahead of time, and consider doing them first thing in the morning.
“Getting it done first thing in the morning means no excuses, it gets your body moving and you’re mentally set up for the day,” said Mirkopoulos, who is also the cofounder of Evolve Holistic.
And Augustin says accountability is key.
“If you’re going to take just one of these tips, it would have to be to schedule your workouts and make sure someone is either with you for every workout or has agreed to follow up with your appointments,” said the Toronto-based fitness instructor.
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With this said, if you’re just starting up again, don’t schedule more than you can handle. Six workouts in a row will have you knocked on your ass by the end of the week, likely leading you to skip another three or four days because you won’t be able to move. Start with two to three workouts a week, and add another day or two once you can keep this up for a month.
“Play the long game,” said Agustin.
Besides joining a new gym, he also recommends finally purchasing that latest online program you’ve been meaning to check out on social media and trying new things to help keep you motivated.
“‘Healthy’ doesn’t just mean skipping out on some calories and getting in the most amount of workouts per week,” said Augustin. “Find what your version of healthy is and work towards it; whether that means experimenting with yoga, dance, painting, boxing — the practices that scare you at first might be the ones that feed your soul the deepest.”
Pro tip: Keep your fitness clothes organized and where you can see them as a reminder to stay active. Having everything organized ahead of time will help eliminate potential barriers the day of. Agustin also recommends buying new workout shoes at the beginning of the winter season to get you motivated to show those high-tops off.
You’ve ditched the excuses, Netflix AND couch, what’s next?
We don’t blame you for having Uber Eats on speed dial. But experts warn that all that takeout will derail your get-healthy mission.
And they key to getting healthy this year is being mindful about not only what you’re doing to and with your body, but also what you’re putting into it.
Nutrition and hydration is paramount the winter since the below-freezing temps means cold and flu germs are in full effect, and the dry air can deplete our bodies of moisture, said Mirkopoulos. Getting your vitamins and nutrients will not only help you ward off nasty viruses, but it will help you on your wellness path.
Agustin recommends setting aside time once a week to fully prep your meals. Organizing and preparing your meals ahead of time sets you up for a variety of delicious and nutritious meals, without investing all of your precious time and energy.
“Keeping things simple is vital here. Recipes that are tasty with the least amount of ingredients work well,” he said.
Pro tip: Prep different protein options to cycle through if you find that you get bored — the rest of the meal can stay the same.
And, consider investing in a meal prep service for at least one or two meals a week, if your budget allows.
“These can be costly, but there are many options now that deliver twice a week to make sure your food stays fresh,” he said. “If you can afford this option and sustain it, it can be one of the most convenient and healthy ways to stay on top of your nutrition.”
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