There are some people who are naturally athletic and genuinely love to exercise. They regularly work out or run; maybe they play on recreational sports teams, or spend their free time playing tennis or hiking. Then there are others who view exercise as a chore, just one more thing to check off their to-do list, but they don’t enjoy working out and will often find any excuse to avoid it.
We know that an active lifestyle is one of the many tenets to wellness and longevity, and getting some form of regular exercise is important to your overall health. But making exercise a priority and sticking to it long term, especially if you are not a fan, can be a challenge. The key to learning to enjoy exercise is to change your mindset.
Define your “why.”
If you are in the mindset of exercising because you ate too much or overindulged on cocktails on the weekend, then you’ve gotten into the habit of negative motivation. This type of negative motivation will make you view exercise as a punishment, and you’ll be less likely to stick with it because it’s not enjoyable for you. Workouts become less about feeling good and gaining health than about looking good, losing weight, or building muscle.
Images and messages on social media and television can exacerbate these feelings. Comparing yourself to others on social media only worsens these negative feelings around working out. While it is definitely acceptable to want to lose a healthy amount of weight or tone your body, there’s a fine line between exercise to reach a health goal and exercise as punishment.
To change your approach to exercise, redefine your “why” or your reasons for exercising to promote healthy movement and thinking. For example, reframe your thinking from “I overate this weekend, so I need to work out in the gym for at least an hour every day this week,” to “I want to work out because I want to feel more confident and have more energy for work and my family.” Reminding yourself of these mental goals and how good exercise makes you feel after you’ve worked out will keep you on the right track to positive instead of negative motivation.
Reframe your personal definition of exercise.
When you think about exercising, you may picture trudging along on the treadmill for an hour or doing countless push-ups, and that may seem like a chore or sound boring to you. Exercise can take many forms, but it is essentially just moving your body. You don’t have to be chained to the gym every day to get fit—exercise can be as simple as dancing around to your favorite music at home, taking an outdoor yoga class at the park, or swimming with your kids.
Focus on moving your body.
The goal of exercise is to get your body moving and to do something active; how you accomplish that is less important. If you can focus on opening your mind to a different idea of what exercise involves, you’ll start to see more possibilities for moving your body. For example, you could start taking the stairs instead of the elevator at your office building, or park farther away so you have to walk more. Even getting outside and running around the yard with your kids can count as exercise because you’re getting your body moving!
If you hate exercising but know you need to be more active for your health, it will help to start off with small goals. If you’ve been inactive for a long time, you may even want to set a goal of moving your body just 10 minutes per day to start. Then, as you get into the habit of moving every day, gradually increase your time increments with a goal of doing something active for 30 minutes most days of the week.
Most people who fail at sticking to a regular exercise routine try to do too much too soon, and jump in too fast when they’re not physically ready or mentally ready to commit. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
Create a habit and stick with it.
You’ve heard of “weekend warriors,” those folks who tend to do intense workouts only on weekends. Maybe they work out for two hours on a Saturday or Sunday but are sedentary most of the rest of the week. This type of exercise mindset is also not healthy, and exercising sporadically can make you more prone to injuries. It’s better to incorporate exercise into your life on a regular basis, several times a week rather than being a weekend warrior.
Consistency is how you will make exercise a new habit and how you will reap the mental and physical benefits of exercise. And once exercise becomes a regular habit, you’ll actually look forward to that time and finish feeling refreshed and energized.