We all know being active is important for our overall health – but many of us just don’t like to exercise.
Or we say “we’re too busy.”
Or our hips hurt or we didn’t sleep well – there are many reasons why we might not exercise on a consistent basis.
Did you know that whether you exercise today or not depends a lot on your experiences with exercise and fitness as a child?
When you were young, were you always picked last for dodgeball teams? Were you usually near the end of the pack when running the 100 yard dash? Did you miss the softball with the bat more times than you hit it?
These past childhood experiences can shape how you view your physical abilities today – they can influence how active you are as an adult.
If you look back on your experiences in gym class and exercise in general with embarrassment – it’s not too late to shift to actually enjoying being active as an adult.
Here are some tips on resetting your relationship with movement that will help you start to achieve your metabolic goals.
TIPS ON HOW TO ACTUALLY START LIKING EXERCISE:
Bring awareness to why you want to be active.
First, write down the reasons why you want to be active.
Do you want to decrease your risk of developing disease?
Do you want to be able to keep up with family and friends while hiking?
Do you want to increase your muscle mass and bone density, which help keep you strong as you age?
What are YOUR reasons?
Next, write down the reasons why you aren’t active.
Maybe you think being active is boring. That it hurts. That it’s too hard. Maybe you think “What’s the point? I’ve gone this long without it – why start now?” Maybe it’s too hot/cold outside?
Now, take a look at what you’ve written about your reasons to be active versus not being active.
What are some of the beliefs you can work on that may be a carryover from your childhood experiences with being active?
How do you want to start thinking differently about exercise?
Can the reasons WHY you WANT to be active start to outweigh the reasons why you AREN’T active?
These questions and your answers start to bring some awareness to your thoughts about being active and they help you start to shift your beliefs from “I can’t…” to “I’m willing to try…”
So next, what ARE you willing to try?
A lot of folks start with walking.
Walk around the block, then walk around it again.
You may be thinking, “Well, I don’t want to walk around the block even once.”
But here’s what I want you to focus on: You are doing something active for yourself and no one else.
You have decided that your personal health and well-being is important enough for you to take at least 15 minutes out of your day (in addition to the other things in your life) in order to improve your life.
And yes, that means starting small — like literally walking around the block or in your cul-de-sac.
Don’t worry about distance or pace at all right now; just commit yourself only as far as this first step will take you: actually getting off the couch and physically moving around while breathing in fresh air.
And if walking isn’t your cup of tea or you want something more exciting, read on.
Find a type of activity you can get excited about.
Whether you’re just starting to exercise or have been stuck in a rut, there are many ways to find something exciting that will make exercise feel like a treat.
- Try new things. There are so many different types of activities, ranging from weight training to cycling to yoga, so why stick with one if it’s not working? You could even give tennis or golf lessons a try. If you want something that helps keep you cool, what about water aerobics at the local YMCA?
- Find something you really enjoy. Maybe swimming is easier on your joints than tennis. Maybe yoga helps clear your head more than a noisy Zumba class.
- Find something that’s challenging but still possible for someone starting out (like walking uphill).
It can be hard sometimes when you see folks out there who look like they’ve never missed a day of exercise. But don’t let that discourage you from showing up for yourself.
Remember: They all started somewhere back in the day too, so don’t feel bad about needing time before getting good at something!
Double-dip with podcasts and audio books.
One of my favorite things to do while I walk is to listen to my favorite podcasts. Time goes by so quickly when I walk while listening to a podcast that I tend to walk a bit longer so I can finish an episode or start another one.
Think about it: Maybe you already spend a lot of time listening to podcasts or audiobooks, so why not make them part of your workout routine?
- During your morning walk, listen to the latest episode of a philosophical or motivational podcast.
- While doing chores around the house or office—washing dishes, folding laundry—play an episode from one of your favorite comedians or talk shows.
- In the bathtub with some Epsom salts, candles or bubbles? Put on an audiobook while you soak away the day’s aches and stresses.
Cut yourself some slack and celebrate small accomplishments.
When you do decide to become more active (because I know you WILL!), it’s important to remember that you’re not going to be perfect at this.
If you expect perfection, the first time you miss a day of exercise, you will feel like a failure. But what if instead of viewing it as a failure, you viewed it as an opportunity for growth?
When I was first starting out, my goals were all about weight loss, goal weight maintenance and increasing muscle tone.
And while those are still important things for me today, I’ve also had other goals along the way: like finally being able to keep up with my family when we hike local mountains. Or doing more pushups than I could in my 30s.
These small accomplishments help motivate us when we’re having trouble sticking with our exercise routine or giving up on ourselves too soon. So don’t be afraid to celebrate those smaller achievements—and don’t be afraid to take more breaks if needed.
Make your workout a social event.
- Find a buddy. You’ll be more likely to show up for a workout if you have someone you’re going with, so ask around and see who would like to join. You can use each other as accountability partners: if one of you doesn’t make it out regularly, the other person can ask what happened—and encourage them not to let the same thing happen next week.
- Find a class that works for your schedule and personality. If joining an in-person organized class sounds intimidating, consider taking advantage of the many online resources available for beginners. There are beginner, online Barre classes, Zumba, body weight training and yoga classes, for example.
- Perhaps, find some friends who are interested in starting a fitness challenge together—once again, giving each other regular check-ins will help keep everyone motivated!
Plan your day around your workouts, not the other way around.
Exercise doesn’t have to be a big deal. It doesn’t have to be something you dread doing, nor should it be an intimidating proposition that keeps you from working out.
If you can find a way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, it’ll become so much easier for you to enjoy the benefits it has on your body and mind.
I recommend planning ahead and making sure there are times during the day when you can fit in at least 15 minutes for exercise—even if those times are only available once or twice per week.
This will help ensure that at least some of your workouts happen at home, where most people have access to equipment they need for resistance training, a treadmill machine, or just do some simple body weight exercises like push-ups, squats or even jumping jacks.
Some gyms offer free trials so you can try before committing—this is another great way to try different types of classes with minimal commitment time-wise.
Set micro goals.
To stay motivated, set micro goals. These are small accomplishments that help you reach the big fitness goal. For example, if your goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day and you’re not there yet, break it down into smaller chunks: Walk for 1,000 more steps today than you did yesterday. Keep trying and when you reach 10,000 steps, reward yourself with something like a new book or pedicure.
Setting micro goals can include things like doing an extra 10 modified push-ups or walking after dinner as well as at lunch — and don’t forget to reward yourself when you hit your micro goals.
Research shows that when you reward yourself for small accomplishments, it keeps you motivated to keep going and see bigger results.
An easy way to keep track of your accomplishments is by using something like an Applewatch or an app that tracks how many steps you’ve taken each day.
You can also keep track in a notebook or use an old-fashioned pen and paper. It’s important to keep track of your progress so that when things get difficult — like when life gets busy or if something goes wrong — it will encourage you instead of discouraging you from continuing on this journey toward better health.
There are lots of ways to make exercise more fun and rewarding so that you can actually look forward to breaking a sweat
Here are some ideas:
- Go for a walk with your friends or family members. You’ll enjoy the time together, get some fresh air and exercise, and you may even make new friends along the way!
- Create an exercise playlist on Spotify or YouTube—or download one from iTunes or Google Play Music—and listen to it while doing household chores like laundry, vacuuming, or cleaning windows.
- Sign up for dance lessons at the nearest community center; organize a kickball tournament in your own neighborhood; meet up with a friend you haven’t seen in months and walk along a nearby river or lake…the possibilities are endless!
If you really want to start liking exercise, then it’s time to stop focusing on trying to be “perfect” at it and start paying attention to things that make you feel good.
Whatever it is that makes you feel good, take stock of what happens when you do the things that are most enjoyable for you—and then keep doing those things.
Exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery if we make it fun and rewarding by finding activities we truly love doing.
And once again: Don’t fixate on how much exercise you need to do to “lose weight”; just focus on how you feel when you’re done, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a wink in the mirror.
You absolutely CAN have a new, better relationship with exercise and being active.
It doesn’t matter how it was for you when you were younger – you’re no longer living in the past, believing things about yourself that aren’t true anymore.
You’re here now – and it’s time to step up and take care of yourself.
Because you’re amazing and YOU CAN DO IT!
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