I have a secret for you. Exercise shouldn’t make you miserable. If you hate exercise, if even the thought of it makes you cringe, you’re doing it wrong. Do you really think so many exercise fanatics would exist if they were doing things that they hate?
Kids have this figured out. Just watch any school yard playground. You see kids jumping, running, swinging, hanging, climbing, spinning and laughing! Yes, laughing. When they tire of one game they move on to something else. All of this activity improves their strength, flexibility and endurance. They don’t call it exercise, they call it play. What a novel concept.
We grow up and those same activities are now called a ‘workout’. What a fun word. We attach work to it and suddenly the name is enough to incite dread.
It’s time to put this nonsense to rest. If you’re guilty of any of these ‘workout’ sins leaving you to hate exercise here are some ways to rethink your game plan and put a little more play back into your life.
I Hate Exercise: Stop Doing Things you Hate
I see you, walking into the gym hopping up on the treadmill mashing those buttons trudging through another two miles of not really going anywhere. Yeah, you look thrilled. Stop it! What is wrong with you?
You do not need to do activities that you hate to get or stay in shape. I have good news for you friend, that cardio section of contraptions at the gym isn’t even the best way to lose weight. If you hate those machines, don’t use them.
There are so many options available to meet your strength, flexibility and cardio-vascular needs. There is no excuse for doing things you hate.
What do you do instead? Try everything. Change it up. You need strength and cardio-vascular building activities built into your routine (I also recommend that a focus on flexibility be incorporated to one or both) 1 . Some exercises focus on one at a time, some will combine all three. How you accomplish this is up to you, the options and combinations are endless.
If long-term sustainable weight loss is your goal make sure strength training is at the top of your list. Building lean muscle mass is a better way to boost your metabolism and get your body more effective at burning calories 2. Most people enjoy strength training far more than cardio. While you need some cardio in your routine you don’t have to endure endless boredom. Head outside and take a walk, learn to jog, join an intramural team or play on the playground with your kids.
YouTube is a fantastic resource for searching new options and learning new techniques. Do a little research and start building up a library of things to try.
I Hate Exercise: Don’t Let Yourself Get Bored
What happened to that class you were taking that you stopped going to? The workout video you scroll right past and never play? Why didn’t you stick with it?
I can tell you exactly what happened. Results tapered off and you got bored. It isn’t just you, this is true for all of us. We all get bored. The difference between those that stick with it is they accept the boredom and move on to something else.
Transitioning to new activities works in your favor. When you start a new exercise you challenge your body. Your body doesn’t like activity to feel challenging and will adapt to gain efficiency. This adaptation is what you see physically in terms of results. Once adaptation occurs you no longer need to change to perform and results taper off 3. When you switch up your activities you force your body to go back into adaptation and new results kick in.
Your activity routine is your personal play time and should include variety. If you feel bored after four to six weeks of one activity switch it up and do something else.
I Hate Exercise: You Dread Having to Give Up a Full Hour
Don’t give up just because you don’t have a full hour to devote to exercise. If the time commitment is overwhelming I have more good news for you. You can split it up. There is ideal and there is what is possible and we all have to find the balance between the two. Splitting up three 10 minute sessions in a day is better than not doing anything at all.
My workouts are always split. A typical day might include 20 minutes for a run or walking the dog in the morning, a few flexibility stretches or planks during lunch and 30 minutes for weights in the evening. It changes all the time. Get in what you can when you can.
You are sure to start hating exercise if you feel like it is robbing too much time from your already busy day. Exercise is the one activity where you still get credit even if you only make it halfway through. Break it up, squeeze it in and just put in the time that you have. Aim for consistently moving and the habit will build up over time.
I Hate Exercise: You’re Trying to Steal Time From Your Sleep
I see friends posting on social media that they started a new program. They are now waking up and heading to the gym at 5 am for their new workout plan. I give you six weeks max and your done.
Why? Because if you weren’t already getting up at 5 am to start your day your natural body rhythm won’t allow for this change to last long-term. A sure-fire way to hate exercise is to rob yourself from lovely sleep!
Our bodies will always try to float towards a natural body rhythm. We can alter it slightly to accommodate our responsibilities but we will always have a natural inclination to try to get back to our natural rhythm. Don’t fight it, work with it.
So what do you do? This is the case where you rob Peter to pay Paul and have it work in your favor. At the beginning of the week take a look at your schedule. If you are honest with yourself you will find activities where you have time that could be reduced (put your hair up in a bun and steal 20 minutes from getting ready in the morning), that could be delegated (ask the kids to do the dishes or get groceries delivered) or be reallocated (block an hour on your work calendar for gym time instead of lunch out).
At the beginning of each week block out the times that you are going to reallocate to ‘me’ time. Those belong to you. Don’t allow anyone to steal them. This leaves your current routine mostly intact and your natural body rhythm undisturbed.
It’s a lot easier to stay committed to pre-scheduled time that doesn’t rob you of sleep or force you to squeeze more into your already packed day.
I Hate Exercise: Don’t Put So Much Demand On Yourself
Speaking of reallocating time now you must commit. Commitment can feel overwhelming, especially if the last few workouts were a doozy. You are already drained from the day and now you dread getting your body to move. That dread is enough to get the excuses flowing. It starts to pop up again, I hate exercise.
Why are you putting so much pressure on yourself? Take it easy. Give yourself permission to not do anything. That’s right, go to the gym with the mindset that you don’t have to do anything. The only requirement you have is that you must go.
Here’s why this works. Removing the burden of having to do something when you get there eliminates the dread of any planned exercise. You only have to focus on getting yourself there, which is an easier mental task. It’s easier to meet the commitment.
Chances are that you will get there and you’ll decide to do a little something. Doing that little something will more than likely lead to something else. Once you get started chances are you won’t stop. I’ve had the best workouts of my life when I decided I was going to go but I wasn’t going to do anything.
I Hate Exercise: Stop Doing Too Much
In the beginning when motivation is high it’s easy to go full steam ahead. You read all of these great articles, have new ideas and are highly motivated so you push hard every time you hit the gym.
Two weeks later exhaustion consumes your body, the newness wears off and there isn’t enough improvement to maintain motivation. You quit.
Newsflash folks, getting in great shape doesn’t require going full-out all the time. Those that are active and fit know and respect the need for active recovery. Whenever you subject your body to an intense workout you cause small micro-tears. Once the workout is over your body goes to work repairing the damage which is what you see in terms of muscle growth and strength gains. If you go all out again you cause damage over damage limiting your ability to heal 4.
For some people a hard workout once or twice is a week is sufficient, for others they can do more and others less. Add in some active recovery days where you go for a walk, do bodyweight or easier strength training or an easy jog. It’s also a good idea to plan a day where you don’t do anything every once in a while. Listen to your body for clues on how much is too much. If you are feeling cranky, tired and irritable you are doing too much.
I Hate Exercise: You Aren’t Doing Enough
The antithesis to going all out all of the time is not going out enough. Lets face it we keep exercise in our lives so that we can feel better (and yes, look better). If you don’t have intensity built-in somewhere you just won’t feel or see the change that you need to keep you going.
I love those articles you see on magazines promoting, “Walk Your Way to Losing 50 Pounds.” I call bullshit. I don’t want you going full tilt all of the time, but I want you going there sometimes.
If you are looking for real change you have to challenge the adaptation we mentioned earlier. Walking will work for a bit but you will quickly adapt. You have to put in some intensity to kick adaptation back into gear to get new results and renew your motivation.
I Hate Exercise: Stop Beating Yourself Up
You didn’t go to the gym yesterday. So what? Didn’t make it for two days? So what? Last week was a bad workout. So what? Ate a whole burger and fries with a chocolate shake and downed two beers. I’ve been there. Move on, put it past you and pick it up from where you are. You haven’t lost all of your progress because you were human.
We all have bad days. We all have crappy workouts, fail to meet expectations, fail to lift the weight, fail to run as fast or as far as we had hoped. I’ve had weeks where I just couldn’t do it. Those that succeed at making exercise a habit recognize that is going to happen. You let it go.
If you beat yourself up over a bad day you become your own nag. None of us want to commit to an activity where we are constantly nagged. Stop nagging yourself!
Give yourself a break. Getting in shape doesn’t require perfection, just consistency. Get in the practice of giving yourself positive affirmation that you are doing fine and don’t beat yourself up for a bad day.
I Hate Exercise: Stop Doing What Everyone Else is Doing
My workout plan won’t work for you. You and I are different in so many ways. Our fitness level, interests, goals, strengths and weaknesses are all unique to us. If you are doing someone else’s plan you’re doing a great job at developing in their goals and interests but could be completely ignoring your own.
When I started working out I hated weighted donkey kicks. They made my heart race and were extremely painful. All plans mentioned how great they were for achieving my goal but I just couldn’t tolerate doing them. These days I don’t mind them. I didn’t get better at doing donkey kicks by doing more donkey kicks. Instead I found other moves that built strength in my legs, hips and back. Once my strength grew doing donkey kicks wasn’t as hard.
Regardless of your goals there is always more than one way to achieve them. There is no reason to stick with a prescribed plan that doesn’t interest you or has you doing an activity that you just can’t stand. There are always several alternatives you could choose from that accomplish the same thing in a way you find more interesting.
The internet is full of workout plans and ideas that add new life to your routine. Feel free to tailor those plans to your needs and keep things interesting.
I Hate Exercise: Remember Why You Wanted This In the First Place
Whatever activities you choose pick ones that work for you, your lifestyle, your goals, fit into your schedule and make you feel great. Take time to play and enjoy the new abilities that your ‘play’ time adds to your life. When you get bored with an activity move on to something else. We fit exercise into our lives so that we have the energy, strength and agility to enjoy experiences in life, not the other way around.
Now get out there, stop doing things you hate and start building your extraordinary life!