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
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?”
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.
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.
6. 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.
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.
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.
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?