You want to step off the couch and into a healthier, more active lifestyle. You are absolutely not alone. Read the testimonials from former couch potatoes below and check out their easy-to-adopt tips. A little inspiration is a great motivator.
Don’t Give Up
“I wanted to get off the couch and back in shape early last year so I took up running virtually overnight. I bought new shoes and a set of wireless headphones and set out with a goal of running 3 miles on the first day. It doesn’t take a genius to predict that I was totally winded within a few hundred meters and pulled a hamstring in my second workout.
It was pretty discouraging, to be honest. I tried to keep it up for a week or two and then just lost interest because it was so hard. I started to dread going out running and the fun was kind of sucked out of it because I wasn’t seeing progress.
A friend suggested I sign up for a half marathon happening the following summer as a goal for my training. From there I started small. I paced myself better by running for two minutes and then walking for three minutes as a start. Eventually, I could run for three and walk for two. When my stamina increased I could run for longer periods and take short walking breaks in between.
I ran my first half marathon last summer and I haven’t looked back. My lesson was to take it in steps and not launch right into huge goal right away. Build up your stamina, and most importantly build up for your confidence and you’ll see results.”
– Petra, age 28
Set yourself up for a morning workout
“For the longest time, I couldn’t find the time to workout with my busy schedule. I would hit the snooze button at least ten times before rolling out of bed and straight into three cups of coffee before work. My workday is always packed full of meetings and I usually eat lunch at my desk. I worked long hours so getting to a 5PM workout class wasn’t happening. By the time I got home, it was dinner and lights out.
The pounds started to creep up on me and before I knew it I was at least 20 pounds heavier than my usual weight. So I decided to do something about it. I knew that the only window of time I would have to workout regularly was in the mornings before work, so I committed to three mornings per week at the beginning just to get started.
To prepare for the 6AM alarm, I set myself up for success the night before. I choose my work clothes the night before and put them out so there’s no debate. I fill up my water bottle and put it in the fridge and I always have my pre-workout snack ready like a banana or a greek yoghurt. I set everything up so that my time is as efficient as possible in the morning.
I have worked up to five morning workouts per week and I have dropped that extra weight I was carrying around. I’m also way more alert in my morning meetings and I have cut my morning coffee intake down to one cup.”
– Sarah, age 31
Practice Portion Control
“The more I learned about the amount of food I should be eating, the more I realized I had been overeating consistently for most of my adult life. It’s especially hard to portion control when you’re eating out with friends or colleagues a few times a week!
Some tips I tried that really worked were to share plates with friends at restaurants. We share an appetizer and then a main, or order two different dishes and split them to get the most variety. I also love eating at tapas style restaurants where the portions are naturally smaller and you can order as much or as little as you want. Other tips are to snack mindfully throughout the day. I take almonds and apple slices to work and keep them at my desk so I don’t feel famished at lunch and over indulge.
Portion control has really helped me with a steady weight loss. It didn’t happen overnight, but the pounds slowly came off and I’m feeling much more in control of my weight.”
– Rochelle, age 26
Get Enough Shut-Eye
“I used to operate on auto-pilot with as little as five hours sleep a night. Looking back, I have no idea how I even functioned, let alone kept my job and social life going. After a few years of long hours at work and late nights out with friends, I was burnt out. I was also pretty stressed most of the time and my fiancée tells me I was especially irritable. Not exactly the kind of partner I want to be!
The simple changes I made had a huge impact on my sleep schedule. I started shifting my routine to earlier in the evenings and limited my nights out to weekends. I set a “go to bed” alarm so I could establish a routine. So if my bedtime was 10.30PM I would set an alarm for 9:45PM to remind me to start wrapping up whatever I’m doing like watching a movie or online. A second alarm at 10.30PM is the signal to shut it all down and go to bed. I also never have my phone on at night. It’s charging and tucked away out of sight.
More sleep has changed my life in a ton of ways. Mostly, I have more energy to do things I love. And I’m not compromising my health while doing it.”
– Sam, age 29
Make Your Workouts Fun!
“I wasn’t active at all as a kid and then after college I was overweight from all the partying and late night cram sessions. I knew I needed to get moving. I tried a few gym memberships and struggled through treadmills and elliptical routines, but I was totally bored. Going to the gym felt like a chore and I was dragging myself there a few times a week.
I signed up for a hip hop class at a local dance studio that was for all levels and designed to get people moving. After one class, I was totally hooked. I realized I had been looking at workouts the wrong way and that I was ultimately getting better results from a cardio dance class than from static machines. The music and the people made all the difference in the dance classes.
So I guess my advice is to find something that you love doing that gets your moving. Working out becomes a fun part of your day.”
– Simona, age 24
Commit to 30 Minutes a Day
“An hour always felt like such a commitment for me with my busy schedule, especially with two kids and a full-time job. I needed to set my daily workouts to half an hour each because it felt easier to squeeze them in when there was a window. It really worked for me. Now I find thirty minutes either first thing in the morning before the kids get up, or that window of time before dinner while everyone has activities or homework etc. keeping them busy.
It doesn’t have to be a set class or anything fancy. I often just throw on my running shoes and go for a fast walk around the neighborhood. I put on a playlist or a podcast and it’s time dedicated just to myself.”
– Jenn, age 35
Skip the Fad Diets
“I was overweight most of my life. I ate way more than I needed to and I couldn’t find the motivation to go to the gym because I just didn’t have the confidence to show up and sweat it out. So I relied on diets to lose a few pounds here and there when I was feeling desperate. Any new diet that sprung up, I would try. Liquid diets, counting carbs, you name it I had tried it. Atkins was the only diet I tried that worked for a sustained period, but the moment I introduced carbs back into my diet I couldn’t hold back. I had deprived myself of carbs for so long that it was like the cravings came back twice as strong.
The change happened when I realized I needed to start cooking my own food instead of eating out or getting take out. I slowly started to cook simple meals for dinner and took leftovers to work for lunch. I bought a few cookbooks and followed the recipes. It was the only thing that sustained me over time. Cooking is actually fun! And I can have variety because I use whole foods and I’m not ingesting fast food packed with sodium and sugars.”
– Lisa, age 45
Grab a Workout Buddy
“I used to find workouts on my own really boring and I always found an excuse not to go. I was a self-proclaimed couch potato for months, doing random workouts here and there but generally feeling tired and achy all the time. My friend asked me to join her at a spin class a few months ago and it totally changed my perspective. I loved it! We met up beforehand and had a few minutes to chat before class and then during the class we would sort of check in with each other and kept each other motivated. After class, we grab a coffee or brunch nearby and make it a social thing. Its way better than just going out for drinks every weekend and it has brought us closer together. I’m so grateful she got me off the couch and on to the bike.
As far as tips go, I would say plan ahead. Look at your calendars and sync up times that work best for both of you. Sometimes we go to a morning class and one of us drives the other into work after. And keep each other accountable! It’s much harder to say “no” when you know your friend is missing out if you don’t go.”
– Rose, age 27
Binge on TV (not food) at the Gym
“The best advice I ever got was to take my iPad to the gym loaded with a season of a show that’s on my list to watch. Some gyms are outfitted with TVs on the cardio machines, but they usually show boring daytime TV and they have limited channels. The genius of bringing your own is if you pick a one-hour show, you can finish a full episode while on the bike or the elliptical and get a serious cardio hit. I’m definitely not bored at the gym anymore and I’m seeing results from the ramp up!”
– Josh, age 36
Love the Lift
“I managed to get myself out of the house and doing a ton of cardio classes for a while, but I wasn’t losing weight quickly and frankly I was putting in a ton of time and effort with little payback. It wasn’t until I got a trainer at my local gym that I realized I needed to be lifting weight to build muscle in order to burn fat. My trainer broke it down for me in a way that I could understand and gave me a great routine to jumpstart my weight training in a safe and management way.
It was pretty great how quickly I noticed results, especially in my thighs and arms. Now I lift weights three times a week and fit in two days of cardio if I can. It’s totally effective and I won’t look back.”
– Jane, age 38
“For a long time, I was counting calories and staying within a certain number per day, but I wasn’t paying attention to the ingredients in the foods I was eating like sodium and sugar. I wasn’t losing weight and my energy was really low. I would get these intense sugar spikes after eating a sandwich with white bread and a Diet Coke for lunch and then crash by 3PM. I would look for something sweet to bring my energy back up and it became this vicious cycle.
It wasn’t until I started to learn about ingredients in foods and the appropriate amount of sodium, fat and sugar I should be having per day that I started to see changes. The most amazing benefit has been my energy. I now understand how to sustain my energy levels throughout the day by eating right and staying hydrated.
The first thing to go was diet soda. I used to drink up to three cans per day and now I only have one on a special occasion. The sugar content in those drinks was through the roof and I was dehydrating myself every time I drank one. Now I drink more water, watch out for foods with high sodium and sugar and I eat more fiber. It has been life changing.”
– Paula, age 41
Eat More Fiber and Lean Protein
“Plan and simple, eating more protein like turkey breast, chicken breast, avocado and nuts, and more fiber like leafy greens and vegetables has changed my weight completely. I have cut back on carbs and now I include protein in every meal and try to get vegetables in by eating more salads everyday.
The best tip for me was to have a salad before my main course at dinner. By the time I finish my salad, I’m barely even hungry and I have managed to get a few servings of veggies in. Other great sources to fiber are oatmeal for breakfast, apples and yoghurt. That simple change has made all the difference.”
– Sean, age 35
Keep a Diary
“My eating habits felt out of control at some point and I wasn’t always clear about how much I was eating and what times of day. I needed to keep myself in check and stay honest about where I was taking things too far like late night snacking.
I started a food journal on my computer using Excel and I logged every single thing I ate for one week. It was surprising to see my bad habit written out as a pattern in front of me. I could see that I was eating sugars as a pick-me-up in the afternoons and evenings, and that my soda drinking was way beyond what I should have been. Keeping record helped to put it all into perspective and give me a jumping off point to make some concrete changes to my routine. I highly recommend logging your food in a diary for one week and identifying your bad habits or room for improvement.”
– Ben, age 40
Drink more H2O
“I work from home and I’m sitting at my computer all day. I can say that I almost always had a coffee either in my hand or brewing in the kitchen throughout the day. Without knowing it, I was totally dehydrating myself by drinking tons of caffeine and no water.
I had to set things up so that I would be reminded to drink more water. A few things that helped were setting a calendar reminder on my computer that went off every two hours telling me to grab water. I bought a one-liter glass water bottle that sits at my desk and I fill it when the alarm goes. I also try to pace around the house when I’m on conference calls so I get up to stretch more often.”
– Robert, age 34
Tell Your Family and Friends
“The biggest motivator for me to get off the couch was when I told my family and friends about my new health and fitness goals. Everyone reacted the same way, encouraging me to commit and to keep going when I would find excuses. I needed my community of people to remind me of the benefits of what I was doing.
I went from being almost 100 pounds overweight to now within a healthy weight for my age and height. I guess I didn’t really know how much my family and friends felt I needed to make a change until I shared my journey with them. Their support kept me going.”
– Caitlin, age 34