How to actually enjoy exercise
Exercise isn’t always an activity we file under ‘fun.’ (The treadmill is nicknamed the ‘dreadmill’ for a reason, right?)
Fortunately, there’s a bright side: small, easy steps that you can take to transform your sweat dates from something you dread into something you look forward to — and, dare we say it, have a blast doing it. Start with these six.
1. Pick an activity you enjoy
If you don’t like exercise and your idea of exercise is jogging on a treadmill, flip your perspective, says Heather Milton, a Senior Exercise Physiologist at NYU Langone’s Sports Performance Center. "You don't have to do things that are mainstream or what your friend told you to do." There's an outlet for you—you just need to find it.
To start, think about what kind of movement you liked as a kid — maybe it was swimming or walking wooded trails on Saturday afternoons. Picking an activity you truly enjoy — and not putting too many expectations on yourself — can help increase satisfaction and decrease any disappointment of not being able to stick to unrealistic schedules or goals, says Matt Delaney, C.S.C.S., a New York-based trainer.
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2. Mix things up
Even after you find something you enjoy, switch up your routine from time to time. Not only will your muscles benefit, but diversity helps stave off boredom. "If your workout becomes redundant, you’ll be less likely to stick with it," says Delaney. Think about how to best complement your go-to form of movement. For example, if you enjoy jogging your neighborhood, balance all of that pavement pounding by stretching out your leg muscles at a weekend yoga class. It’ll help alleviate soreness and diversify your routine.
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3. Crank up the beats
"You can enjoy movement by pairing exercise with music that you love," says clinical psychologist Michael Brustein, Psy.D. "Running while listening to songs that touch your soul can make moving enjoyable, freeing, and can feel like dancing.” Turning up the jams while you work out can also help you stick to your exercise routine, according to a University Health Network study.
4. Move outside of the gym
“Thinking about going to the gym for an hour can be daunting,” says Brustein. If you make a more manageable goal, it will feel less burdensome, he says. A few ideas: take an extra 10 minutes to walk and pick up lunch with a colleague instead of ordering delivery; or if you live in a city, enjoy a beautiful morning by walking to work instead of hopping in a cab. Small changes can make all the difference.
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5. Sweat with a friend
Catch up with friends at the gym. One University of Aberdeen study revealed that working out with a partner can make you exercise more often. That’s especially true if your partner is supportive. "Surrounding yourself with people who are similar and have similar goals is super important," says Milton. "You get a good support system, not just a trainer who is saying 'ra ra ra, keep going!' A lot of the time, this person understands it's not a walk in the park. They're on your team.”
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6. Focus on the small victories
"There are a lot of different ways to measure your success when it comes to activity," says Milton. The scale isn’t the only indicator of progress. Milton suggests recording things like how you feel after exercise or how much weight you’re lifting. This way, you’ll be able to see progress the longer you keep to your fit routine. And as for those days when nothing seems to be working out, remember: simply establishing exercise as a habit is a victory within itself.