Learning to Love Exercise

Yes, working out can be fun! Here are ideas to help you move beyond "having" to exercise to actually enjoying it.
Published October 8, 2018

We've all made an early dash to the grocery store and witnessed that woman jogging. She looks graceful as she bounds through the neighbourhood, and we wonder what on earth made her get up so early on a Saturday and strap on her running shoes. The answer, of course, is that she moved beyond the "need" to exercise and entered that mysterious land where she "wants" to.

We all possess the ability to tap into that place. It's kind of like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz— you've always had the power. Exercise professionals like to refer to it as "the fun factor." The theory goes that if something is enjoyable, then you won't consider it a chore, and you'll actually want to do it.

Tapping into your enthusiasm
There are two ways to increase the fun in your workout: minimize monotony and maximize enjoyment. You may notice this doesn't involve checking your heart rate or concerning yourself with aerobic thresholds.

"Explore doing things you loved to do as a kid, things that were naturally athletic," says Ingrid Bacci, author of The Art of Effortless Living (Vision Works). "Rolling on the floor or down a hill, wrestling, running, rollerblading...it's all about feeling your body and feeling the elements — water, wind, earth — against your body."

Researchers say that engaging in fun physical activities seems to have a stress-reducing component that goes beyond ordinary exercise. But only you can define fun for you. If you're a social animal, maybe try out group activities such as team volleyball, square dancing, a running club or soccer.

If the wild calls, consider mountain biking or trekking. For those who crave singular, intense tasks, try rock-climbing or marathons. The key is to investigate, experiment and try a variety of activities.

Experiment with your inner athlete
Remember, even athletes get the blues — or at least get bored. "I've always enjoyed exercise, but like anyone, I can get in a rut, especially when I'm not improving," says Bacci. For her, the rut arrived when she felt her tennis game stalled. "So I did something a lot of people might consider odd," she says. "Instead of focusing on my game, I started focusing on my body while I played."

Bacci thought about her feet when she was running on the court, the feeling of the racquet in her hand, and her shoulders and face. And her game improved by leaps and bounds. "I was getting more in touch with myself, instead of trying to perform or achieve some goal."

The moral of the story: stop trying so hard and focus instead on being curious about the sensation of your body as you play. Let yourself be interested in how you feel and you'll be able to do whatever you are doing with less effort and tension. Have fun!