One reason people give for not exercising is that they don’t “enjoy it.” Yes, sometimes we have to force ourselves to get off the couch or drive to the gym after a long day at work, but exercise CAN be enjoyable if you find the right “happiness mix.” Research has shown that happy people have common characteristics, and many are under our own control. Here are some ideas on how to make an exercise program enjoyable and even fun!
1. When you start a new exercise program, aim low.
In other words, most people try to do too much, too soon, too fast and for too long. They end up fatigued and sore which is definitely not fun. Eventually, they give up. If you joined a gym to start weight training, limit your first session to 30 min and use weights that seem extremely easy. You should be able to perform the exercise for 15 repetitions (reps) before muscle fatigue sets in. As you get stronger, you can increase the weight and lower the reps. If you’ve decided to begin jogging, start slowly! You shouldn’t hear yourself panting or feel seriously out of breath. Go easy and limit yourself to no more than 10 minutes if you haven’t jogged since, well, forever. Walk for another 10 minutes or so. Then add a couple more minutes of jogging every session or two and soon you will be jogging for 20 minutes or more. Make the initial workouts feel a little too easy and you’ll be back for more next time.
2. Make exercise a party!
Or at least make it a social activity. Joining an exercise class, sports team, or training group means meeting new people and getting inspired by the instructor, coaches, and athletes more advanced than you. However, you still need to follow tip 1: make sure the workout is a little too easy the first few days. Don’t kill yourself to complete all the bootcamp exercises like the advanced students, and don’t try to keep up with those goat-footed hikers racing ahead of you on the trail.
3. Have fun with technology.
There are many different types of fitness trackers, GPS watches, phone apps, websites, etc. that provide more data than you will probably know what to do with. You can track your daily steps, your average heart rate, your max heart rate, your stress level, your sleep quality, calories burned, pace, distance, and more. You can generate maps of your runs, hikes, swims, bikes etc., to share with friends. You can compare your workout efforts over the weeks and months to see how much you’ve improved. Be careful though, that you don’t become overly obsessed with collecting data and miss the actual experience of the workout.
4. Make it meaningful to yourself.
Why are you exercising, to look good and improve your health? Those are great reasons, but they may not be enough to keep you motivated over the long run. One way to stay focused is to have a larger goal. Are you trying to overcome an injury? Don’t let where you are now, limit your potential, dream big! Perhaps you’d like to complete a marathon, sky dive, or snorkel the great barrier reef? Is there a mountain you always wanted to climb, a wave you wanted to surf, or a sport you always wanted to try? If you don’t know how to achieve your goal, consult with a personal trainer who can set up a customized plan to get you where you want to go and keep it fun along the way. When you’ve accomplished one goal, enjoy your success and then pick something new to work towards. You will have achieved a fitness-based lifestyle!
5. Make it meaningful for others.
Many charities sponsor awareness and fund-raising runs, walks, races, and so on. Staying fit while helping others can be very rewarding. Even without a charity, you can dedicate your efforts to someone or something you care about. Create your own team, design your own t-shirts, medals, events, and so on to proudly accomplish your goals in honor of a greater cause.
6. Use music.
It’s great to listen to your tunes while exercising on your own or feel the beat in a group class. But you can also use music to get yourself pumped prior to your workout. Listen to inspirational music when you first get up in the morning or in the car while you drive to your workout and you’ll be less likely to talk yourself out of exercising. Not a big music fan? Try listening to positive affirmations, freely available on YouTube and other sites to get your motivational juices flowing.
7. Get outdoors.
It may seem obvious but staring at the same four walls for every workout is not conducive to calling it “fun.” If you usually swim in a pool, learn how to swim in the ocean, it’s really quite different! Instead of an indoor rowing machine, try joining a recreational paddling club or rent a kayak. Attend an outdoor Taichi or Yoga class. Go for a full moon walk. Play a new outdoor sport like Frisbee (Disc) golf or lawn bowling. Use your creativity and don’t let the weather keep you indoors. With the right attire, you can enjoy just about any sport in most conditions.
The key to achieving a lifestyle where exercise is consistent and productive is to make it fun. After a year of fun, you may be surprised how fit and healthy you have become and possibly made new friends along the way.