The Exercise Habit

One of the first things I do when I move to a new place is figure out a new workout routine. In Yemen, it was running from bullets. Just kidding, it was swimming laps and doing Crossfit in the hyper-masculine hotel gym with Marines who blasted death metal. Before that, in Washington DC, it was Jillian Michaels workout videos with girlfriends in my living room, and group classes at the trendy gym with the lemongrass body scrub in the showers. In New York, it was trudging to a ridiculously overpriced chain gym and going through the motions with the stair stepper and the free weights.

In Madrid, it was first a short-lived membership at the hoity toity gym. Now, it’s frequent trips to the budget gym where I squat, I lunge, do pushups, I lift weights, do situps and planks. If it’s a good week I do a yoga class and go for a jog. For more than half my life I’ve been doing this: Coming up with a workout plan and forcing myself to do it. It hasn’t been bad, but it’s really not that fun either. Mostly, it’s been a lot of the same. Lately I’ve been thinking I should try something new to shake up the monotony: Ditch the gym and walk all day; give hot yoga another try; learn how to box.

I told my gym buddy/real life friend, who is in the military, that I was bored with our gym routine.

“You know, it’s like a relationship that’s getting stagnant because I’ve been doing the same things for so long. I need to spice it up,” I said.

My friend has had jobs where she’s been required to sign a contract saying she’ll work out X hours a week, and currently she gets her physical fitness tested twice a year. She has to stay in shape or risk losing her job. She said: “I’ve always thought of exercise more like brushing your teeth than as a relationship. You just have to do it, all the time.”

This struck me. I’ve heard fitness instructors say consistency is the most important thing to living a healthy life. I’ve also heard it said that if something isn’t fun, you’re not going stick with it. But I’ve tried the supposedly fun things: A Zumba class, a balance ball class, a class with ridiculous moon shoes, and I didn’t stick with those. What has stuck for me is the tried and true exercises, performed over and over. Yes, it can be monotonous. I don’t skip to the gym filled with excitement about my next workout. But I do go and put in my time.

So I’ve decided to think of exercise more like a habit, like brushing my teeth. This is not glamorous, but hey, I’ve never had a cavity.

To making it a habit,

The Dame in Spain




  1. recommend Insanity. very addictive and there are a few different ones now. look at the youtube clip for the basic’s interval training and you’ll think you’re having a heart attack but at some point you start being able to do it

    1. I have done Insanity before, but it’s been a while, so I’ll give it another try. I’ve been using Nike’s Training Club app for the past year for gym routines, but I’m getting tired of those.

  2. I also view exercise as something that needs to happen regularly (if not quite as often as brushing your teeth) as a necessary part of well being. So I stomp it out on the treadmill, go to yoga, do squats, run, whatever. It’s good to add in the fun factor, though, and this post inspires me to mix it up a little. Merci!

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