How To Enjoy Exercising

While I don’t claim to be a fitness guru and I don’t have an extreme weight loss story fit for TLC, I have learned something very valuable in the past two years: how to enjoy exercising.

Two years ago, my definition of exercise was taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator- that was the extent of my day’s “workout.” I felt too exhausted to do much else. Friends talked about playing soccer, lifting weights, or running 5K’s for fun (gasp!), and I just couldn’t understand the draw. Sometimes they asked me to join in, and I would just sit there covered in Cheez-It wrappers and Dorito dust all like

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I knew exercise was important. Doctors, TV, our moms, everyone tells us it’s important, but unless I can find a way to make something fun, count me out.

So what I taught myself was how to make exercise fun. And it worked! Two years later I am one of those people who sits at work daydreaming about the squats I’ll do when I get off, and wondering how many different types of exercise I can squeeze into my busy week. So here is what worked for me, maybe it will help you learn to love exercising too:

1. Ditch the treadmill. Running/walking on a treadmill has to be one of the worst things ever. You’re moving, yet going nowhere. You’re not running to a finish line where people are cheering for you, you’re not walking to the nearest doughnut shop, you’re just pointlessly moving. But not really moving. It sucks. You’re exhausted, shaking, sweating like a pregnant nun, and are so happy when the workout is finally over. But wait, WHAT?! I’VE ONLY BEEN ON THIS THING FOR 10 MINUTES? 30 CALORIES BURNT? This is the point I say “screw it” and jump off the treadmill, hoping none of the people on their 8th mile will notice that my “workout” ended at .50 miles.

If you’re like me, the treadmill is not going to make you enjoy exercising. Stop trying to trick yourself into thinking “it will get better, if I do it enough I’ll like it.” It doesn’t get better so stop trying and find something else. There is no law that says “skinny/fit people run on treadmills.”

2. Join a class. There seems to be a trend in my life, one I’m not particularly proud of. Sometimes I’ll make fun of things I have never done. When I actually stop acting like a jackass and try them out for myself, I love them. Gym classes are no exception. I have gone so many years without trying a gym class and hate that it took me this long to see what the hype was all about. I would watch them happening from my torture device treadmill and think “man, that’s lame. What, do they think they’re in an 80’s exercise music video or something?”

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The truth? My gym classes work me harder than any workout I’ve ever done on my own. In gym classes I have come close to fainting, puking, killing the instructor, and quitting. But I don’t quit, because they are really freaking fun. The music is blaring, you are in pure misery with those around you, and there is a fun competitive energy in the room. When I think about quitting, I look at the 65-year old woman doing squats in front of me and keep going. When I think “this is too much for me”, I look at the morbidly obese man sticking with it, pushing through it. I keep going.

Find a class you like. If you think all gym classes are aerobics based, think again. Right now I am in a cycle of doing kickboxing twice a week, weight lifting class twice a week, and something called Metabolic Effect/Core Strengthening in between. It’s basically like sports conditioning/crossfit type training. There are so many different types of classes and each one has people who are just beginning and can barely lift the bar, to muscle builders who are benching 100 pounds. People don’t judge, they are just happy to see you there.

Also, most gyms include these classes for FREE with membership. I pay $30 a month and can go to as many classes as I want. Since many of the people who teach these classes are also personal trainers, it’s a really good deal. Normal personal training sessions are about $50-$75/hour.

3. Support from friends. It really helps to have friends to workout with. If you don’t, then create or join an exercise support group online. My sister started a private group on Facebook that me and 15 other people are in and it really helps me stay motivated. We talk about weight lifting, our different exercise classes, share healthy recipes, and encourage each other.

4. Weight lifting. Okay I know I keep mentioning weight lifting, so I’m just going to give it its own number. I am the biggest advocate for weight training after I’ve seen what it can do. I’ve spent my whole life trying different exercise to tone and lose fat, but nothing worked the way weight training did. It was fast, effective, and turned out to be really fun. Have no idea how to use free weights? Neither did I. That’s where the weight training class come in handy! I have never seen the inches fly off as fast as they did when I started lifting weights.

Here is a before and after pic of me. Thanks to weight training, I saw my collar bone, shoulder muscles, and arm definition for the first time ever.

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5. Log your exercise. Even if you aren’t counting your calories or tracking your food, try logging your exercise. It makes working out a lot more satisfying when you can log into your phone and enter your workout after sweating it out.

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6.Β Stand in front of a mirror while working out. There is a reason people pumping iron or working out in general like to stand in front of mirrors. Yes, it is to ensure you are keeping proper form, but also to check yourself out. There aint nothing wrong with that! If you are working out and can see your muscles exploding through your shirt or see your booty doing it’s thing during squats, it will motivate you to keep going. On the other hand, sometimes I’m motivated by the sight of my fat rolls creeping over the sides of my pants, giving me a really delicious looking muffin top. Or my thighs looking like straight up Jello, jiggling in a way that would make Bill Cosby proud. That keeps me going, too.

7. Buy cute and comfortable gym clothes. You know how when you buy new work clothes, you are more motivated to get out of bed and get dressed for work in the morning? Same thing happens with new workout clothes. I think my workout wardrobe has just about matched my work clothes wardrobe in size. I’m not sad about this.

8. Take progress pictures. Working out is a lot more fun when you can see your results. You see yourself in the mirror every day so you may not be noticing the change. Take pictures and see how you’re changing, it will keep you motivated!

9. Outdoor exercise. Don’t have the money to join a gym? First off, do some serious gym research in your area. Planet Fitness gyms have membership deals for $10 a month. YMCA’s offer financial assistance, and so do plenty of other gyms. Or maybe working out at a gym isn’t your thing, take it outside! Do lunges down your driveway, go hiking, mountain biking, or buy a dog if it will motivate you to go on more walks.

Yesterday Isaac and I drove to a mountain near our house where we spent an hour climbing to the top and enjoying the view once up there. If you’re like me, it can be really hard to get motivated to do outdoor activities like hiking. But once there, it’s always fun and worth it. So stop thinking about it so much. Just DO it. Oh- is that what the Nike motto means? haha, I literally just got that. But seriously, stop living so much in your head and just give it a try. I have to remember this in all aspects of my life, not just for exercising.

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thighs were burning, but so worth it

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10. Pretend you’re Mulan. Okay this one may sound ridiculous, but it has worked in the past and is still working for me. It takes using some imagination, but it makes working out A LOT more fun. And I can’t be the only one who does this, right guys?? When I’m working out, I will pretend I’m in a make believe situation depending on the exercise I’m doing. Soooo when I’m doing my martial arts based kickboxing class, I pretend I’m in an Asian army preparing for the attack of the Huns (may have watched a little too much Mulan as a kid).

I know, it’s 100% ridiculous, but it works. I punch harder, kick faster, and thoroughly enjoy my “battle training.” Also, envisioning faces to punch really helps. If you have pissed me off, you can bet you’ve been one of the faces I’ve been pretend-punching in class. You’re welcome.

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When I’m weight lifting, I pretend I’m in jail and have to stay jacked. Or I pretend I have an abusive husband who is trying to kill me and I have to train hard so I can kill him first. I know for a fact I stole that fantasy from a movie, I believe it was the 2002 JLo thriller Enough.

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When I’m doing my athletic conditioning class, I pretend I’m training for the Olympics. When I’m doing a core strengthening/abs class, I pretend I’m working towards a bikini bathing suit competition.

Sounds silly, but it does something to my mind. It pushes me further and makes me feel like I’m working towards a more important goal than just stop looking like a marshmallow in a bathing suit.

Those are my tips. They may not work for you, but they have turned this 26-year old lazy bum into a gym rat who can’t wait to hit the gym at 5:30am on a Monday morning. Try out some different methods and figure out what works for you!

Are you an exercise freak? What tips do you have to make it fun and keep it interesting?

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30 thoughts on “How To Enjoy Exercising

  1. Thanks – this was inspirational. I go through ups and downs with exercise; sometimes things I find “fun” I get bored of, etc.

    If I want to run (or, for me, power-walk because of joint issues), I do need to use a treadmill, because it is too hot where I live and a little bit unsafe during darkness, so I can’t go alone outside. My trick with it is to cover all the “stats” with a towel or magazine or whatever, and just set my watch timer. When my watch goes off, I’m done, and I can see what I accomplished – but not a second before.

    No counting down!

  2. You aren’t the only one who imagines they are Mulan. I also imagine I am Sarah Conner in Terminator. I have to stay fit. It’s fun, I also like making things a game. Can I get one more rep in? Etc. I joined a new site called Fitocracy that means you get points for every bit of exercise you (as long as you log it) and you level up! You level up in REAL LIFE! This was huge for me. It’s crazy addictive, I can’t go to bed if I have less than 100 points to level up!

    Thank you for the awesome post!

    • I love that you have your little workout fantasy too!! So awesome! It totally works. I also like making it into a game- seeing what my limitations are. Sometimes it can be really hard to fight your brain telling you “I can’t do this”…when really…you physically can.

      Fitocracy, that sounds really fun. Thank you for telling me about it!! I’m going to go check it out now!

  3. And once again, I’ve totally had this revelation lately and it’s turned my life around to re-think about the role that exercise plays in my life (http://leanerbythelake.com/pounding-the-pavement/). I like your suggestion about progress pictures. I track my weight but I never really take the same photo to help track the change in what I look like. Gotta try that one out!

    Have you tried Fit Bit? I have one coming in the mail this week. So excited to have more information about my movement and more motivation because of it!

    -Eileen
    http://www.leanerbythelake.com

    • How funny- we must be on the same wave length, even from so many miles away πŸ™‚ I wrote a post a year ago about running, too. Suddenly I became obsessed with it!! I’m not anymore, but I hope to work myself back there. Right now I’m too obsessed with my kickboxing! I guess as long as I’m obsessed with something active all is good πŸ™‚

      I don’t have a Fit Bit but I’m SO jealous!!! I’ve been talking about getting a heart rate meter/calorie burn tracker for a long time, there are so many options out there. Right now I have my eye on this one:

      http://www.amazon.com/Polar-Womens-Heart-Monitor-Watch/dp/B0035XOYH4/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=1NJS02QLQ7TK0&coliid=I2GWDX55Q1207E

      I’ve heard the Fit Bit is awesome though. You’ll have to write a post on it, give the scoop on how it works and if you like it! I track my food/exercise on loseit.com so it would be nice to have more accurate calorie burns for my favorite classes.

      • I know, right! So funny that we’ve been hitting a lot of the same topics.

        That guy looks awesome! My boyfriend uses a Garmin watch and heart rate monitor and really loves it. I think they run around $200 or something like that, but seems worth it if you’re going to make use of the data. It really helps me to see behind the scenes of my workouts and start digging into the stats. Total nerd move πŸ™‚

        Will absolutely write a review of Fit Bit. It came in the mail last night so today is my first official day wearing it! And it woke me up this morning free and easy, no buzzing alarm clock for this girl anymore.

        What kickboxing do you do?Any videos you can recommend? I used to do it a while back and loved it but have since gotten away and would be up for checking it out again.

        • Oh awesome, I didn’t know Garmin made one! I would probably nerd out on mine too haha! I ❀ electronics.

          Good luck with your new baby (Fit Bit)! I'm sure it will encourage you to run harder and faster to push that calorie count/fat burn up!

          I do the Les Mills Bodycombat class at my local YMCA, but I know you can now order videos of the class which is awesome!! I am completely obsessed with the class, and the release they are doing now has great music and moves. Easy to catch onto and works you hard!

  4. This is all so true! For me my soccer team always goes to fitness training together and that’s what makes it bearable and even fun sometimes! We cheer eachother on during sprints and then we turn weight lifting into a gossip session.
    Oh, and I definitely do the Mulan thing too πŸ™‚

    • That’s awesome, you’re so lucky you have a team to workout with! That makes it MUCH easier. Do you guys work out together in the off season too? I really wish I had done soccer of SOME sport in high school to force me to stay in shape! I think I would have been a much happier teenager!

      • We work out together in the off season, but we also eat and party together so I feel like it cancels itself out haha. It’s not to late for you to be on some kind of team! It’s pretty great.

        • awesome! Must be nice having them! I know I have looked into adult leagues in the area, buuuuut it’s just kind of different. There are no team practices, you just get together once a week to play a game against another team. It’d definitely be fun, but I’m afraid the whole “team experience” is out of reach at this point haha! It’s cool though, that’s why I’m liking my kickboxing- it feels similar to a team mentality in there!

  5. I love this! Exercising was always a chore and I could never self-motivate, so I joined a bootcamp class and I’m so glad I did! You never know what to expect which keeps me from getting bored and there’s an entire class for support! So glad you’re enjoying your varied work-outs!

    • I LOVE the idea of bootcamp classes. In fact I’ve been wanting to join one at my gym. How often do you do it? They definitely keep you interested, and with a trainer screaming at you to keep going it’s kind of hard to quit πŸ™‚

  6. Awesome advice! I have been using the excuse that it’s too cold and icy to go running and now that the weather is nicer (for 2 days here), I have no excuses! Thanks for all the advice, I will try to put it to work!

    • Thanks! Oooh boy, you just now got rid of the ice and freezing weather?! Poor thing! Bad weather makes it especially hard to work out, even if you’re going to an indoor gym. It’s so much easier to just stay inside by the fire and eat a box of girl scout cookies πŸ˜€ Good luck getting back into it!

  7. My secret to going to the gym at all is reading Harry Potter on the elliptical/bike… I try to only read it at the gym, so it gives me something to look forward to! (This might only work if you have a Kindle/Nook and can enlarge the font, though. Reading regular books while bouncing around is pretty difficult!)

    • That is a really smart idea!! I may have to use that, actually. When I get really into a book I can’t wait to read it, so if going to the gym was my stipulation I totally would.

      Thanks for the idea!

  8. Great article! This is all really useful advice!

    I know for me exercising for exercise-sake is never that fun for me, but if I go hiking, play a game, take a class with my friends, or (my favorite) go swing dancing every week I can’t get enough of it!

    • Thanks, glad you liked it!!

      Swing danging? That sounds really fun, and I know it’s supposed to be a good workout too! Was it easy to get into when you started? I agree, it’s so much easier to exercise when just exercise is not the sole purpose of it.

      • No, I am uber shy. I have a membership to planet fitness with my mom and I haven’t been in a couple months because of my social anxiety. I’m a mess. lol I’d like to bite the bullet and just do it. If only.

        • Gotcha, I know how you feel- I’ve been there before. And when you’re really shy and anxious, going to a place where people naturally stare at you for no good reason is not a good feeling!! Althouuuuugh once I got into shape, I didn’t mind people staring haha! I just tell myself they are staring b/c they are admiring, whether it’s true or not doesn’t really matter. Makes me feel good! πŸ˜‰ Good luck getting back into it!

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