I know that it’s always drummed into us that diet is the main component for a successful fitness journey *insert shocking statistic of how many squats you need to do, to burn off a bar of chocolate here*, but let’s be real – we should all still be exercising to some extent.
The problem is, I think everyone associates exercise with running until you feel like your lungs are going to explode, or lifting weights while grunting aggressively (we’ve all been there). Don’t get me wrong, you’re going to need to exert yourself a little to have the desired effect, but it doesn’t have to be doing something that makes you instantly want to retreat to being a duvet burrito and never break a sweat again.
Sometimes, gyms can be intimidating, and let’s be honest – going out for a run is probably the last thing on your mind when Netflix is beckoning you with its devilish charm. It’s easy to bail before you’ve even started, but binge watching Brooklyn 99 can wait until those rest days.
Finding the motivation to work out is hard enough without having to force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy. The lucky thing about living in the 21st century is that we have a million options for everything. There’s a whole aisle for breakfast cereals alone (what a time to be alive), and the same goes for exercise.
I’ve put together a list of things that may well just help you learn to enjoy exercising. I can’t promise you’ll become the next Usain Bolt overnight, but it’s a start, right?
1. Try out everything at least once.
I never in a million years would have seen myself enjoying boxing. I remember my sister practicing with my dad in the garage, and it was a firm no from me. Why would anyone want to flail their arms around hitting stuff? And was that even exercise? It wasn’t until a few years later I gave it a real go. To my surprise, I loved it. And, by the way – hell yes, it’s exercise.
Make the most out of free trials. Most gyms, whether it be boxing gyms, corporate gyms, or dance studios, will all have either a free trial or day pass for this exact reason. Give them all a go, you might find something that you love, and suddenly it won’t feel like such a chore.
If you’re feeling nervous, take a friend along. If you don’t like an activity, at least you have company to make it fun.
2. Pick two or three things you enjoy.
I say two or three, because no matter how much you enjoy something, sometimes you need a break. It’s like when you find a song that you can’t stop listening to, and you have it on repeat until you can’t stand it. It’s hard enough finding an exercise you enjoy, don’t burn yourself out by overdoing it.
Cycling a few things you do like keeps things interesting.
3. Revisit the things you’ve tried before.
*Disclaimer: the following information may be shocking to read*
I used to hate avocado.
I know. I’m a terrible millennial. I love it now, though, and I’ve probably eaten more than the average person, so I’ve made up for it (and probably ruined any chance at ever being able to afford a mortgage, apparently).
The point to take away from this revelation is that, things change. The same goes for exercising.
The biggest reason that people don’t enjoy doing something is if they feel they’re not good at it. It’s the main reason people give up learning to play an instrument, for example (I can feel my guitar looking at me from across the room, gathering dust). If you’re not good at something naturally, it takes even more motivation to push yourself to do it. It becomes less of a priority. You make excuses to avoid it.
So start with something that does come a little more naturally for you.
You might try CrossFit, for example, but you might feel frustrated because you get out of breath easily or you’re not as strong as you’d like to be. So, you start boxing instead. Your cardio improves, so does your coordination. Your upper body strength increases. You try CrossFit again, and suddenly you’re not so bad after all.
Most exercise types have transferable skills, and just because you weren’t good at something once, it doesn’t mean you’ll always be that way.
4. Do something that makes you feel invincible.
We’ve all had this: you’re listening to a certain song and it makes you feel super-empowered, as if you can conquer anything. Find yourself an exercise that does this for you. And yes, there will be one – I promise you. For me, it’s when I run and I feel like I’m flying. My head is clear and I just zone out. I get home and my legs are like jelly (knees weak, arms are heavy…), and I feel like I’ve just completed the impossible.
You will need to do step one, because I can tell you now that not every exercise will make you feel like that, but the ones that do are worth finding.
There’s a gym on every corner. There are hundreds of different fitness classes and bootcamps. There are studios, pools and pavements. You are not limited to doing an activity that you don’t love. When you do find something that you have a passion for, even then, on some days, you’ll still need to push through and harness that motivation, but it’ll feel a little less like a chore.
Take Home Message
Don’t necessarily follow trends and don’t feel like you have to do what everyone else is doing. Be open-minded when it comes to exercise and trying new activities. At the risk of sounding like your mother, you’ll never know unless you try. The main thing to remember is that no matter what you’re doing, you’re getting out there and doing something – anything – and that’s a brilliant step in the right direction.