The Complete Lazy Person’s Guide to Working Out
If you prefer sweatpants to sweating, TV time to Tabata training, and crunching on chips to performing actual crunches, you and I could probably be best friends. The only difference? For some reason I pursued a master's degree in exercise science and am certified as an exercise physiologist. Believe it or not, being lazy and enjoying a great workout aren't mutually exclusive. Laziness and healthy activity go hand in hand quite nicely -- you just need to know how to harness both.
Accept the lazy
The only way to work past your lazy nature is to work with your lazy nature. No Type B person is ever going to wake up one morning and suddenly be a Type A person. No chronic procrastinator is going to start keeping a planner months in advance. Likewise, no lazy person is suddenly going to wake up one morning and be a hyper-motivated person.
Instead, accept that you have a personality trait that makes exercise completely unappealing. It’s totally fine.
Once you accept yourself for who you are, you can start to work past it. Repeat after me, “I’m lazy. I like being lazy. I will probably always be lazy, but I can still be healthy. Lazy people deserve fitness too.”
Bribes are amazing -- just ask anyone who owns a dog or a toddler -- and the effectiveness of bribes isn’t limited to those with as-yet-undeveloped brains. If I know anything about lazy people (and I think that I do), it’s that the right bribe can get just about anyone to the gym.
Take coffee. Coffee and lazy people are like a match made in heaven, which, in turn, makes coffee the perfect bribe. The process is simple: don’t let yourself drink your morning mocha until after you exercise.
Finish your workout? Get a coffee. See? Couldn’t be easier.
The trick with formulating the right bribe is twofold:
1. The bribe must offer an immediate reward.
No lazy person has the desire to wait a month to “earn” a new pair of running shoes after exercising consistently each week. Lame. This type of bribe is terrible because there’s no immediate benefit to accomplishing a given workout.
2. The bribe must be something the bribee has a desperate or urgent desire for.
You have to select something that, if withheld, causes some level of mental pain. Other examples could include: watching a favorite TV show, having sex, etc. All of these offer an immediate and desirable benefit, and if withheld, can cause distress (sometimes to those around you, too -- how’s that for extra motivation?).
Make it a quickie
Shorter may not always be better, but when it comes to the length of a lazy person’s workout, short is good. In fact, it’s perfectly fine to stop aiming for a 30- or 60-minute workout.
Instead, carve out a few 10-minute “fit breaks” throughout the day. Jessie Perry, the owner of JPerry Fitness says, “Do 10 minutes before breakfast, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes in the evening.”
Super-short workouts may sound too simple, but experts agree that this type of efficient workout is the way to go. Laura Flynn Endres, the trainer behind This Is Fit Workouts, puts it this way, “Longer and harder isn’t better. Better is better!” So stop dreading a long, hard slog at the gym, and start thinking: “quickie.” Because, really, who doesn’t love a quickie?
As in, follow a short circuit workout (see what I did there?).
Circuit training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are two excellent ways to cram a lot of physical benefit into a short period of time. These types of routines work because they’re designed to keep your heart rate up while targeting multiple muscle groups, often combining strength and cardio exercises into a single short routine.
There are lots of ways to set up a circuit, but in an effort to keep things simple (you’re welcome), try selecting any five exercises -- let’s say squats, push-ups, lunges, dumbbell rows, and sit-ups -- then simply cycle through each exercise for 30 seconds, racking up a total of 10 minutes. In almost no time at all you’ll have accomplished a full-body strength and cardio session.
Go for convenience
Not everyone is cut out for home-based workouts. If you know you have to head out the door to break a sweat, the gym you choose absolutely must be convenient. If you’re already having a hard time convincing yourself that a 45-minute cycling class is worth putting on pants for, in what world do you think you’ll be more likely to attend if you have to drive 30 minutes to get there? There’s no way any lazy person worth his or her salt is going to add an hour-long drive to a class that’s over in less than 60 minutes.
Jenn McAmis, an ACSM-certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor, agrees, “Make it easy on yourself! If you’re not a morning person, why do you think you’re going to start enjoying a 5am class on the other side of town? Go to a gym that’s on the way home from work. It’s much harder to make excuses when it’s convenient.”
If all else fails, just stand up. Seriously, your couch isn’t doing you any favors. Some people say dog owners start looking like their dogs; I say there’s a direct correlation between how much time someone spends on the couch and how much she looks like it (i.e. big and a little fluffy).
Sedentary “activity,” is an independent risk factor for all-cause early mortality -- that is to say, DYING. As nice and comfy as your butt feels in that chair, it’s going to feel a lot less comfy lying in a coffin (or so I would assume).
Do yourself a favor and stand up. Often. Set an alarm to go off once an hour, and make a point to stop whatever you’re doing, stand up, and walk around. It doesn’t have to be for long -- even a couple minutes will help.
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Laura Williams is a certified exercise physiologist with a master's degree in exercise science. When she's not writing fitness content for Thrillist, About.com, SheKnows, and Girls Gone Sporty, she can be found hosting quick, live-streaming workouts on Periscope -- she'd love you to join her!