I Have No Motivation to Exercise at Home

Has it really been two months since I’ve taken any form of public transportation or attended a group fitness class? Seems a lot longer, TBH. Before the coronavirus pandemic forced everyone in New York City to stay indoors, I had a rigid weekday schedule that I loved: On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I’d wake up at 7 a.m., take the subway from my apartment in Brooklyn to a Barry’s Bootcamp class in Manhattan, then skedaddle to the office at One World Trade. My new normal looks very different. I’m extremely lucky that my job allows me to work remotely, but now that my dining table has to double as my new desk, it’s hard enough to delineate which areas are for business and which are for pleasure. So when everyone is suggesting that I make my tiny apartment into a communal area to work and sleep and exercise, that’s where I have to draw the line.

Now that we’re social distancing and fitness studios are closed, we’ve been forced to get creative with how we move our bodies. And I appreciate how the fitness industry has embraced technology and social media to make their brands and instructors more accessible. Trainers are hosting classes over Zoom, fitness apps are offering extended free trials, and at SELF we’ve been livestreaming workouts on our Instagram.

Again, thank you to everyone who’s helping others stay active! But I am respectfully declining.

It’s not because I’m ill-equipped. I have a set of 25-pound dumbbells, a 20-pound kettlebell, two yoga mats, and mini resistance bands—all of which I accumulated over the years from my many, many failed attempts at saving money on a gym membership. And even without these tools, free at-home bodyweight workouts are everywhere online.

The motivation, however, is nonexistent, especially when the only place I can do any of these workouts is in my own home. I know what you’re thinking: “Trainers are livestreaming workouts so that they can see and talk to you where you live. Shouldn’t that be the motivation you need?” Fair point, but it’s just not the same. I’m the type of person who needs in-person, eyeball-to-eyeball connection to psyche myself up to survive 45 minutes of muscle-burning hell.

During a Zoom, sure, they watch me and try to correct my form over video—but I can also quit whenever I want by closing my laptop. It’s much less awkward than physically leaving the room to “refill your water bottle” and *maybe* never coming back. And please don’t try to convince me that a high-five to the selfie camera on an Instagram is an excellent substitute for the real thing. As much as I want these temporary solutions for classes to work, I simply can’t motivate myself enough to exercise at home without that real-life accountability.

You know that feeling of not wanting to disappoint a trainer even though this *literal stranger* doesn’t even know your last name? Or the imaginary competition between you and the rando to your right who’s also just trying to breathe, praying that this 30-second treadmill sprint is almost done? That’s the kind of motivation I can’t replicate alone.

I wish that finding ways to be my own hype man was the only thing standing in my way of doing mountain climbers in front of my couch. But nope. It’s also about my living space.

Before New York City was put “on pause,” I had a specific place to exercise (the gym), a separate place to focus on work (One World Trade), and another place to get away from responsibilities (my apartment). In the gym I would push myself to chest press two 35-pound dumbbells. At the office, I wore nice button-ups and held group meetings with my team. But as soon as I stepped through my apartment door, those parts of my life no longer existed. By 7 p.m. (6:30 on easy days), I wasn’t thinking about whether my lack of exclamation points made me seem like an asshole in an email or if the Barry’s instructor (who only knows me by station number) witnessed my epic 16.2-mph sprint on the treadmill. I was deciding what New York Times recipe to make for dinner and texting friends about which weekend plans we wanted to bail on (but still hang out together and not post about it on Instagram).

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