Is staying in shape always something that gets bumped to the bottom of your list? I know many people that complain about not having enough time to exercise. I think they are lying to themselves. The real problem is that they hate exercising, so it will never be a priority.
I used to hate exercising too. Going to the gym, running and most forms of physical activity seemed dull and painful compared to most other ways I could spend my time. But by not giving up and looking for a way I could enjoy working out, I reversed this pattern. Now I exercise 5-6 times per week and I hate not being able to go.
Here’s some tips to make exercise something you actually want to do:
- Make it a Habit – Remove the thinking element. If you can make exercise a habit, then it becomes that much easier to go. Here’s some tips on making habits stick if you aren’t sure where to start.
- Get a Partner – Get someone else to go to the gym with you. Pick someone who is committed to their health. Not only can you socialize with someone while you’re there, but you’ll have a backup in case your motivation alone isn’t enough to drag yourself out there.
- Tune Your Challenge Level – Here are two bad ways to start exercising. Go out and run until your winded and dry-heaving into a ditch. Show up to the gym, walk around, don’t do anything strenuous and go back home. In one case you put the challenge level to high, the other wasn’t challenging at all. Your goal is to set a workout routine that is challenging, but not overwhelming. Challenge is key to enjoyment.
- Set Goals – Not weight-loss or muscle gain goals, but fitness goals. Set goals to beat your past records in distance ran, push-ups or chin-ups you can do, weight you can lift or degree you can stretch. Fitness goals make the gym a game where you strive to beat your previous high-score.
- Get Past Your Comfort Zone – So what if you aren’t the most svelte or muscular person in the gym? Self-consciousness can be a big obstacle to enjoying your workout. The key is to get used to it. When you continue to show up, you’ll pay less attention to the people around you and more to your workout.
- Experiment – Don’t stick with the same routine. Mix it up and try different activities. There are many different exercise routines you can follow or activities to try. If you don’t like lifting weights or running, try sports, martial arts or dancing. Assuming that exercise needs to be pumping iron or jogging may limit you from finding something you would truly enjoy.
- Music – This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but music can enhance a workout. I find running almost twice as enjoyable with music than without it.
- Short Workouts – Don’t have time or enthusiasm to last an hour? Just go for twenty or thirty minutes. Shorter workouts can be better than longer ones if the intensity is higher and you become more focused as a result. After an hour or two of exercise your body starts to go into a state where more exercise can actually reduce physical improvements.
- Daily Challenges – Make your workout into a game. Sticking with the same type of exercises can get boring, so mix it up by introducing an unusual workout challenge. My gym partner and I have played a game that involves sit-ups and a deck of cards or one workout day that involves different types of push-ups. If you aren’t sure where to get ideas, look through a magazine like Mens Fitness which usually features a variety of different workouts.
- Reward Showing Up, Not Weight Loss - Some people have gotten the idea that they should reward themselves for losing weight or gaining muscle. I disagree. Instead, I think you should reward showing up to the gym and exercising regularly. There are many ways you can lose or gain weight in unhealthy fashions. Rewarding exercise is rewarding your commitment to health.
- Make Exercise Your Stress Relief - I know many people that swear by using the gym to relieve stress. Some of them will head to the gym because of a frustrating day even if it isn’t on their schedule. Exercising can be cathartic and release negative feelings if you get used to using it that way. Then instead of avoiding the gym because of a stressful day, it will be your reason to go.
- Record Improvements – Again I recommend recording fitness over body improvements. Recording weight loss or muscle gain is a good idea, but because of the way your metabolism functions it becomes increasingly harder to make weight changes as you go to the gym more regularly. But fitness improvements can, if you work on it, continue to rise. Keep a record of your strength, endurance and flexibility so you can get pride in your accomplishments.
- Make Time – You can’t say you don’t have time to exercise. Exercise improves your energy levels and mood which makes you more productive than any time lost. Find your forty minutes somewhere in the day and make it a commitment. Get up a bit earlier and go in the morning. Or schedule it right after work before you settle down for the day. Once you make time and make it a habit, you’ll actually want to exercise instead of just feeling you should.