So you’ve committed to a “new year, new you” plan to kick your butt into gear at the gym this year (seriously, this time!) — now what? First off, good for you. Getting to the point where working out becomes second nature takes work and willpower. Luckily, you’ll start seeing changes right away that will help keep you motivated. Here are 11 surprises waiting for you on the other side of a good sweat.
1. YOU MIGHT ACTUALLY BECOME A MORNING PERSON
The first time your alarm goes off an hour earlier than usual, you’ll probably be tempted to throw it across the room. But catching a sunrise on your morning run is a surprisingly strong incentive to keep you from hitting the snooze — studies show getting exposure to daylight first thing in the morning helps you sleep better and improves your mood. You may not believe it yet, but as you get into a workout routine, you might actually like being the early bird.
2. YOU’LL LOOK YOUNGER
As you continue your new workout routine, you might notice your skin looking better — and younger. That’s because studies show the fountain of youth is located right at the end of workout. Researchers found that working out just twice a week for three months can help you regain the skin of a 20-something, according to a study of men and women over 40.
3. YOU’LL FIND BEING SORE IS GOOD THING
All that pain in muscles you didn’t even know you had? Yeah, that’s a good thing — it means you’re working hard and your body is stepping up its game. The soreness comes from micro tears in your muscles, which heal even stronger. So when walking up stairs after a spin class burns as if you were still on the bike, just imagine each muscle fiber building your quads stronger and better than before.
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4. YOU’LL MAKE NEW FRIENDS — AND POSSIBLY LOSE OTHERS
Once you start prioritizing gym time, you may have to drop some dead weight in the form of friends who aren’t supportive of your budding health goals. And, that’s OK. If your coworker is constantly trying to derail your post-work workout plans in favor of happy hour, you’re better off without her. The good news is, establishing a regular workout routine is a great way to make new friends — your new yoga buddy will understand your frustrations with pigeon pose and help keep you accountable.
5. YOU’LL DO BETTER AT THE OFFICE
You may have committed to the gym to better your bod, but you might notice your brain feeling more flexible, too. Studies show regular exercise — especially cardio — helps improve your memory and cognitive capabilities, making it a major brain booster.
6. YOU’LL BECOME BEST FRIENDS WITH A FITNESS BRAND
When you get into a killer new workout routine, there’s one relationship that’s even more important than the one you have with your trainer, coach or favorite workout app: the relationship you have with your gym gear. When you start working out, you may discover a surprisingly intense loyalty to one brand of leggings or running shoes, over another. Once you find your perfect fit, they’ll give you the confidence to reach new heights and become your workout partner for life.
7. YOU’LL ACTUALLY WANT A SIDE SALAD INSTEAD OF FRIES
Starting a new workout routine comes with a surprisingly healthy benefit: You might actually want to order the healthier dinner entree. Researchers call it the “transfer effect.” Once your body starts feeling the benefits of your new workout routine, you’ll be even more motivated to treat it as best you can. You might even find yourself picking up a post-Pilates green juice as a treat for crushing another workout.
8. YOU’LL BECOME A TECH NERD
Even with the best intentions, sometimes getting yourself to the gym just isn’t going to happen. Luckily, there’s tons of fitness apps and digital resources that help you work up a sweat anywhere, anytime. As you start to get into your workout groove, you might notice your phone screen slowly filling up with more and more of these virtual trainers as you geek out over new features. Prepare to embrace your inner workout nerd.
9. YOU’LL BEAT THE WINTER BLUES
Winter can be depressing (So dark. So cold.) — but according to a huge body of research, your new workout routine actually helps you stave off the winter blues. A good sweat raises feel-good endorphins, builds confidence and helps take your mind off any nagging anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic.
10. YOU’LL INADVERTENTLY UPGRADE YOUR TRAVEL KIT
Running from the gym locker room to the office (and back!) means you’ll start collecting an entire gym bag’s worth of mini-shampoos, face wipes and on-the go moisturizers to make your quick change a breeze. Your pro on-the-go kit will also benefit your suitcase — next time you head to the airport, you’ll have the essentials already in the bag.
11. YOU’LL REALIZE THE REWARDS OF STAYING MOTIVATED
Going to the gym even when you really don’t want to does more than just give you a physical boost. While you’re staying committed to the treadmill, you’re proving to yourself that you can do hard things, you can make healthy changes in your life and you can accomplish your goals. That newfound confidence will trickle down to the goals you’ve set in every aspect of your life. Go get ‘em!
Written by Macaela Mackenzie, a writer based in New York City with a passion for all things active. When she’s not writing about the weirdest fitness trends or nutrition news, you can find her conquering her fear of heights at the rock climbing gym, hitting the pavement in Central Park or trying to become a yogi. To see Macaela’s latest work, visit macaelamackenzie.com.