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.
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. 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!
#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.
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.
- 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?