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How to Love Exercise (or at least not hate it)

This post was also going to be entitled: “You Don’t Have to be a Runner,” because I’ve had a few conversations with friends lately that have been trying to get into running but can’t. After talking for awhile, I asked, “Why not try something else, instead? Why keep running if you hate it?” Their answer was… “Well, everyone else seems to love running, so I thought I should, too.” Exercise is all about finding what YOU love and have fun with, not what someone else loves. And it’s never too late to do just that.

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5 Tips for How to Love Exercise (or at least not hate it):

#1 Remember that what works for someone else might not be what works for you. I have a ton of friends that love Zumba; I hate it. I feel awkward, I don’t have fun. So I don’t do it. I also have a ton of friends that love Body Pump. I’ve tried it, didn’t love it, so I steer clear of that, too. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try something just because you’re not sure if you’ll like it, or that you should stop doing something immediately if you don’t love it right away. (Remember how I hated yoga at first and now I love it?) Give new things a try (a REAL try, not just one half hearted attempt) but then if after a real effort to get into it you still hate it — try something else.

#2 Change your mindset about exercise in the first place. Exercise should NOT be a chore. Think of it as your happy “me” time to decompress and do something good for yourself. Your time to be free from all other obligations. I always feel a million times calmer after a workout because it’s such a nice way to recharge if you approach it with the right attitude. Next time you have a workout coming up, instead of dreading it, think about how nice it will be to have some time to yourself. Going into a workout with a happy mindset will make a surprising difference in how your workout goes (and whether you stick with it in the long term or not).

#3 Find a form of exercise that incorporates what YOU find fun. Think about what you enjoy and translate that into some sort of activity. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing or what everyone else finds fun. This is just about you. So first, start with what you like. For me, I know that I really love being outside and I love socializing. So these two things mean that I try to combine a lot of my exercise into either a) being outside (hiking, biking, tennis, running, etc.), and/or b) exercising with other people. You may be the complete opposite, and that’s fine. It may also help to think about what you want to get out of exercise (and this may change by the day). Do you want some solo time to think? A relaxing yoga class to calm you down? A pumped up exercise class to energize you? As I mentioned, I usually like socializing while I exercise. I know many people love running solo to clear their minds, but for me, I just really, really love running with friends. And that’s okay! On my run with some friends last week, I was saying how I didn’t think I’d run on my own in months — and that’s totally fine, because it’s what makes me happy. For me, not only is running with others great encouragement to work harder (and to stay accountable — it’s way easier to bail on my 6 a.m. alarm clock when I’m just blowing off myself, not a friend), but it’s also a great way to keep up with friends when you’re busy. I seriously become good friends with people so much more quickly if they are a workout buddy vs. just a dinner and drinks buddy!

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#4 Be realistic.

Again, just because someone else gets up before work to exercise or works out 7 days a week doesn’t mean you have to. Look at your schedule realistically and determine what will really work for you. For me, I know that the longer the day goes on, the less chance there is that I will actually get in a workout, so I always (with the exception of yoga, which I love at night) try to get in my workouts in the morning. This way, no matter what comes up or how much work I have to get done, I know that I’ve already started my day off right. Waking up at 6 a.m. (or earlier) to work out really sucks, but often once I get my workout started it becomes the best part of my day. I just have to remind myself of that when I’m in my warm and comfy bed. :) On the weekends, I love working out in the late morning or early afternoon to get in some sunshine — biking and hiking are my favorite “exercise that doesn’t really seem like exercise because it’s so fun” workouts. But it’s important to figure out what works for your schedule. Can’t get out of bed no matter what you do and have trouble going to the gym once you’re home? Try packing gym clothes and going straight to exercise from work instead of coming home first. That was the ONLY way that I could get in an evening workout when I was working full time. Crazy busy before AND after work? Try fitting in a nice long walk (or a gym class) over your lunch break. When I was working full time, I’d often take walks during my lunch break. It was a nice way to squeeze in some exercise and to take a breather from my computer, too. I used to just keep walking shoes under my desk in case.

#5 Mix it up — but figure out a routine.

Again, this is what works for me and it may not work for you, but I find that mixing up my kinds of workouts really helps to keep me excited about them and having fun. Plus, mixing it up is good for your body, too! I try to mix it up between running, biking, hiking, walking, swimming, yoga, tennis, kickboxing, etc. That said, I do have a set routine with what I do each week, because that’s what helps me to make sure I make time for exercise. So, for example, I’ll write in my calendar that Tuesday and Thursday morning I will run, Monday morning I will swim, Wednesday evening I will do yoga, etc. Weekends are usually more up in the air unless a training run or race is planned. Once you start being consistent with workouts I think it makes it a lot easier to keep doing them, because it just becomes a part of your normal schedule, rather than something you are trying to cram in randomly each day. Planning ahead can definitely be your friend, again, if that’s what works for you.

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By the way, if you’re like me and love working out with others or want to join some sort of group but aren’t sure where to start, here are some tips:

  • Join a running or biking group at your local running shoe/bike gear store. They almost always have free social running/biking groups that go out in the evenings, usually once per week. And if you love yoga, Lululemon stores usually offer free classes once per week, too.
  • Join a community or intramural team sport group. Matt belongs to a couple different community soccer teams (a weekend one here in NC and a weekday one up in DC) and he loves it. I do a bunch of intramural sports here at school and they are a total blast (remember sand volleyball and the hilarity that was walleyball)? Speaking of — I just signed up for an inner tube water polo team. So excited. 

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  • Find exercise/fitness-related groups online. For example — Meet Up is a great way to find all sorts of exercise groups. I’m really lucky that being in a health-related graduate program right now means I have a million friends to work out with, but when I was living in D.C. I was part of a hiking group and a running group from Meet Up. It was good motivation and a fun way to meet some new friends, too! Also, if you’re looking to play tennis but don’t know anyone that plays, the United States Tennis Association has a “find a partner” section on their website that I used to use in D.C., too.

I hope you guys found this post helpful. I’d love to hear from you guys now, too — what do you do to help yourself to really love exercise? Any tips?

Comments

  1. 1
    Johanna B says:

    Love this post. I’ve happily found a routine that works well for me. I still change things up sometimes to keep it interesting but for the most part I get up early and do my stuff in the morning before work. I ride a recumbent exercycle, do yoga every morning, and I walk when/where ever I can. I also do desk stretches and yoga poses several times a day at work and I volunteer to deliver stuff to outlying buildings so I can get a walk in midday. I love my exercise.

  2. 3

    Fifteen months ago I was 52 pounds heavier than I am today. Today, I weigh in at 120 pounds at 5 ft. 6in. tall. I was involved with my 5 children and 8 then 9 now, grandchildren. I thought and was content in just running around town with them and doing housework. By reading Anne’s blog every day, I became inspired to do something more for myself. I sought a diabetic RD, got my diet under control, started walking, 1 mile, then 2 miles then 3 miles and now 4 miles per day. Lost 52 pounds at 61 and feel terrific. Diabetes under control and all is well with Renie. Thank you Anne for your encouragement.

    • 4

      Renie, I am so, so proud of how far you have come. Your dedication to health is inspiring and I’m so honored to hear that I had a small part in motivating you to start your health journey. Keep it up and enjoy those walks – the weather has been so perfect for walking lately. :)

  3. 5

    I love exercise I just need to get the people around me to be more enthusiastic! Great tips. Good luck in the exam today :)

  4. 6

    This may be my favorite post! I tend to beat myself up when I get bored with a training program! Most of my friends are not into long runs and I enjoy working out for the social aspect! Group work out classes are my all time favorite! I do DVDs to accommodate the busy times in my life with school and work but when I can I go to classes like body flow (a tai chi, yoga and pilates combo that is amazing!), interval classes, Zumba and spin classes! Running with friends is a favorite of mine after work. You just have to find something you love to do! There are days that I just take walks with my dog to get some exercise in.

    • 7

      Ooo Body Flow sounds fun! I love group work out classes for the social aspect, too – that’s why I love kickboxing and boot camps! High energy and fun to interact with everyone. :) And never underestimate the calming power of a nice, long walk. On a really nice day, it’s my favorite thing to do. :)

  5. 8

    Changing it up works well for me. If I do the same thing for too long, I fall into a rut and lose dedication. Also, signing up for a race/event of some kind is really motivating! You can’t stop training, because you have a goal in sight.

  6. 10

    Gahh this post makes me miss running with you guys SO much :( I ran twice this week and the foot is doing okay… I’ll be back soon!

  7. 12

    This is a great post, Anne!

    I’ve found that what works best for me is routine, routine, routine! I try to work out at the same time everyday, and there comes a point where I really look forward to that “me” time! Then you’re in the habit, and you just become autopilot about it instead of making excuses or saying, “I’ll do it later!”

  8. 14

    Great post – the encouragement is always helpful!

    I always remind myself how I’ll feel after I’m finished with my workout and all the great things that it does for my health. I also put my workouts in my planner/calendar, and view it as an appointment with myself. It’s my “me time”!

  9. 15

    Great post! WHen the weather is nice I really don’t need any encouragment to go outside and excerise! Plus it makes me feel 1000x’s better. :D

  10. 16
    Jennifer L says:

    I signed up for the turkey trot this year to give me a goal to work for (beginner runner here, and I love it!). It’s hard for me to get started, even though I love working out once I’ve started, so setting goals keeps me getting out there. I know if I skip runs I won’t be ready for my race!

    • 17

      Good idea! I should have mentioned setting goals/signing up for races in this post – such great motivation for me, too, especially when running is involved! Good luck and have fun at the Turkey Trot! I LOVE Turkey Trots – perfect for revving up hunger before a big meal. :)

  11. 18

    Great post :) I love #1! For the longest time I tried to be a distance runner because it was the thing to do. This ended with injuries. Now I run on the treadmill with walking intervals because I am able to recover better and stay injury free! Also, it’s nice to see that someone else doesn’t like Body Pump! I felt like I was the only one. To me it is WAY too choreographed and boring.

    • 19

      Agreed! I also have the tightest shoulders and back ever and it’s basically excruciating for me to hold a bar in that position on my shoulders. I can’t get my hands back far enough! So weird.

  12. 21

    I love this post! Why I do yoga and don’t run, just because everyone else loves to run :-)

  13. 22

    I agree with finding what you enjoy. If you don’t like running, but love spin? Go for it. If you prefer the elliptical,that’s great too! My gym has cinema rooms with cardio machines set up in them, and I love to do the elliptical and watch movies.

  14. 24

    Like a lot of others, I remind myself of how good I feel after exercise. If that doesn’t work, I remind myself that I can’t lose any weight if I don’t work out. If that doesn’t work and I still feel lazy, I tell myself that walking is still a really great form of exercise, and I hit the street.
    Another great way to find workout groups – community education programs. The school district in my area has a TON of classes to choose from. I have done yoga/pilates, toning classes, a step aerobics class, and am now enjoying Zumba. I think most send out catalogs, but ours is also online. It’s motivating just to read through the catalog of choices!

  15. 26

    Great post! I really like your main point of finding what works for you! I personally don’t really enjoy running, and I also dislike working out with friends: I prefer either to use exercise as much needed alone time, or if I want the energy of a group class, I go at my gym where I literally know no one! Anonymity :) Oh, and on the realism note, I know I am not a morning person, and I’m always anxious in the morning to get to work and get things accomplished, so I work out best in the evening after I know I’ve gotten the things done I need to do. We’re pretty much exercise opposites (besides the enjoyment of being outside), but all of your principles in this post still apply to me! :)

  16. 28

    Thank you for this post! So needed to be reminded of this today! I have gotten in a workout rut and need to change it up and look forward to going again! I’m down 80 lbs, but still have another 25-30 to go! Thanks for your suggestions/insight!

  17. 30

    Great post, Anne. I think you should submit it to a health/fitness magazine. It’s the same advice I would give someone, and very well written.

  18. 32

    What motivates me is sleeping better and having a lot fewer aches and pains. I interact with people all day long, so I like to do yoga with a DVD by myself in the evening; it calms me and helps me sleep. And I realized the other day that I used to have lots of morning stiffness and various aches and pains that I don’t have now that I do yoga regularly. I also use walks by the river to get in some time with my boyfriend.

    One thing that helped me make exercise a habit was to actually make a list of all the benefits of it. I look at the list when I don’t feel motivated to get up and move. I also joined the Metafilter group on healthmonth.com for a few months and that helped me establish better health habits.

    • 33

      Good call re: thinking about the benefits. That helps me, too – not only will I be happier if I work out, but like you said, I’ll sleep better, too!

  19. 34

    I love this post, it’s really inspirational and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it :-)
    For me, being able to love working out is particularly difficult because of having to add pain to the equation: never a fun thing to deal with!
    But your post has reminded me why I enjoy exercising and that as long as I make it work for me then I can get just as much out of it as everyone else!

  20. 35

    I am just like you in the sense that I LOVE group workouts.. it’s like killing two birds with one stone.. chatting with girlfriends and getting a good sweat in. My roommates and I used to go to early AM spin classes, yoga, runs, etc. But since having moved abroad I’ve had to become more independent with my workouts. My friends are on the other side of the world! Scheduling workouts into my Blackberry commits me better…

  21. 37

    This is such a great post. And I think it offers great advice. I rather run than attend a class on any day. I am not a big fan of Zumba (local classes, I love the DVD) but I like classes like PiYo and yoga where having someone look at your form is important.

  22. 39

    This is such great advice! Thanks!!

  23. 40

    Great advice!! Thank you!!

  24. 41

    Nice job of summing this up. I have to do things that I like in order to exercise. I like Zumba and dancing like movements better than basic sit ups, push ups, etc.

  25. 42

    Excellent article on how to approach exercise, and how best to fit it into a busy schedule. The author understands that what works is often subjective, we are individuals, but encourages us to explore different forms of exercise and give each a fair trial. I loved the blog. Thank you.

  26. 43
    Kristy Griffin says:

    Loved the blog. Will try to remember all the good advice it contained. And I do believe that if your not enjoying yourself while you exercise you are more likely to give it up.

  27. 44

    This is a fun writing of the basics. I belonged to a gym for five years with no results until I got a trainer who shared some other interests with me. Now I am 70 pounds lighter and enjoy lifting weights as often as I can schedule with the trainer.

  28. 46

    Thank-you for the interesting article. Now I just need to find the energy!

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