The problem: Working out is so boring you can’t stay motivated

By Beth Janes


Single with no kids, Tiffany McDowell, a research psychologist at the Adler School of Professional Psychology, could make time to exercise. But she didn’t enjoy it, nor had she ever made it a priority, even after putting on 20 pounds two years ago. McDowell needs exercise to be fun—so Chicago sent her to the East Bank Club, which offers the city’s largest slate of group fitness classes, ranging from simple stretching to the dance-inspired Booty Beat and the high-intensity Peak Performance. “There’s enough so that you can mix up your schedule to avoid getting in a rut,” says Maureen Wagner, the EBC’s fitness and wellness programs manager, who served as McDowell’s coach.

THE PLAN: Group fitness at the East Bank Club

HER 12-WEEK PROGRAM: Wagner asked McDowell to take three classes a week that included cardio and strength training and add two more workouts of McDowell’s choice. McDowell spent the first month experimenting. After trying indoor cycling, Buff Yoga (yoga with weights), cardio kickboxing, Latin Dance, and other classes Wagner suggested, she found her go-tos. “I love Body Pump,” McDowell says of the cardio-tinged strength-training class that uses a barbell. After four weeks, she had doubled her barbell weight to 22 pounds. Cardio-lates, a hybrid of cardio and Pilates employing a personal trampoline, was another fun discovery—and easy on her joints.

As the weeks ticked by, Wagner pushed McDowell to increase the intensity, with classes such as ViPR Circuit—a boot camp workout centered around a weighted rubber tube—and Advanced Yoga. “I’m at the point where I can actually do harder classes,” McDowell said during week 9. “I can see my progress, and it’s exciting.” She also realized that Wagner’s vigilance and getting to know some of the instructors were motivating factors. “It’s great having people watch out for you and notice your improvements,” she says. “I need that personal interaction.”

Web exclusive Her diet rules:

  1. Eat many smaller meals. McDowell was doing this already but in a haphazard way. Swank mandated that each meal contain 400 calories and each snack 200, with a filling protein as the focus.
  2. Don’t exercise on an empty stomach. When working out in the morning, Swank says it’s important to have a full tank. “Your energy stores are depleted overnight; a banana or berries helps replenish them without filling you up too much,” Swank says.
  3. Make your own fast food. McDowell had fallen into the habit of eating take-out food, especially after a long day of work. Swank asked her to set aside time on Sundays to make meals for the week, such as lentil soup, turkey chili, and grilled chicken breasts and chopped vegetables for salads.

THE PAYOFF: After 12 weeks, McDowell had lost 11 pounds, felt more energetic, and had toned her body from head to toe. “Everybody’s commented that I look slimmer; my mind feels clearer, and I’ve stopped drinking coffee during the day,” she says. But her mindset may have undergone the biggest change. “I now try to schedule my meetings around workouts,” McDowell says. “Instead of ‘Oh, I hate working out,’ I remember how good I feel when I’m finished.”

Next: Personal Training at Equinox

MAIN: Reboot Your Workout

Photography: Jeff Sciortino; Stylist: Theresa DeMaria/Factor; Hair and Makeup: Chrisondra Boyd/Ford