Wednesday, 21 March 2012

5 Steps for Making Exercise Fun

Borrowed from angrytrainerfitness.com
"I should go to the gym...", "I need to lose weight", "I have to work out".
Does any of this sound familiar to you?



I'll be honest with you; I have joined four or five gyms and exercise classes in my time, each time thinking that paying a membership up front would force me to get off my arse and onto the treadmill. Even now, I find myself conveniently mapping out my day to give myself just not enough time to squeeze in an hour of exercise, and yet I know that I should go. 


If this sounds like you, then read on. You know that you want to fit into a smaller dress size, to tone up or just to feel healthier, and yet the thought of exercising is exhausting, scary, boring. Besides, you can always start tomorrow, right? 
Well-meaning, smart people often make a lot of mistakes regarding their relationship with exercise - and I know, because it's still a struggle for me. The good news is I have found some powerful techniques for boosting my own motivation and stopping exercise from feeling like such a chore. Are you ready?


The first step is to change the language you use. If you start the process with sentences full of "should", "have to" and "force", then you're already setting the whole scenario up in your mind as a massive effort. It might seem silly at first, but when you catch yourself using those words (in your mind or to other people), stop yourself and change them. Instead of saying "I have a spare hour so I should go to the gym", say "I have a spare hour, so I can go to the gym!". Instead of "I have to go now", say "I get to go now", and instead of thinking of forcing yourself to move, think of it as letting yourself move. This shift will feel uncomfortable at first, but over time it will help you to think of exercise as a treat rather than a chore. After all, you're treating yourself to all those endorphins and helping yourself to look and feel better.


Secondly, find something that you enjoy. It doesn't have to be a fitness room - there are tons of exercise classes that you can join, from martial arts to aqua aerobics to dance. Most classes let you pay per session, so you can try out a few and see how they feel. You could join a sports team, or start one with friends. Exercise doesn't have to be intense and sweaty, either - 30 minutes of brisk walking five times a week is great for you. Just because it's fun doesn't mean that it's not good for you - you can even play Wii, Xbox Kinect or Dance Revolution at home (with friends for extra fun). 


My favourite technique is to distract yourself - that's right, forget that you're actually exercising at all. When I want to watch some of my favourite TV shows at home, I've started stretching or jogging in front of the screen. After five minutes you won't even notice that you're moving! This is why TV screens in gyms are great - you can cycle or jog and still get absorbed in the storyline. If you can afford it, whack a treadmill or cross-trainer in front of your TV. If you prefer to run, walk or cycle, then choose attractive, new areas to explore - you'll be so busy taking in the sights that you won't notice how far you go. It's pretty easy to spend two or three hours just walking around parts of Prague - so whether you walk around parks, shops or tourist attractions, you'll still be getting exercise.


It can be great to have a collection of great workout songs - anything with a fast, punchy beat, as you'll automatically time your movements to the music. This works especially well for me when running, as I find that I don't want to stop until the song is over - and then the next one comes on, and I think "just one more"! You can even turn your work-out into a funky dance. Nobody will judge you. 


Additionally offer yourself incentives - buying cute workout clothes (make sure you have a well-fitting sports bra, ladies, it can make all the difference!) and good shoes will inspire you to move, especially if you keep them somewhere that's always visible rather than in the back of your drawer. I don't mean treat yourself to a massive fry-up or cake after exercising - it kind of defeats the point! Instead of instant rewards, think about why you want to exercise. If you want to fit into a certain dress, you could stick a picture of the dress to your wall and add a star (or footprint) every time you exercise, to remind yourself that you're one step closer to achieving it.


Finally, change tiny things that will help you exercise without even realising it. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Walk up and down escalators. Get off the bus one stop before yours and walk. Stand up on the tram. Dance when you hear music. Move!


I have a long way to go, too, but I hope that you'll join me in trying to make exercise as fun as possible. When you exercise, you not only look and feel healthier, but you increase your self-esteem, your self-control and your belief in what you can accomplish. I'd love it if you commented with your own fun exercise tips! 





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