Exercise is the best medicine there is. Combine it with a healthy diet and you build a foundation for better health. Yet, not enough adults follow the recommended guidelines of getting either 150-minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise in a week’s time. If you ask these folks why they don’t work out, they might say they lack the time to do it. Lack of time tops the list of reasons people don’t exercise.
But, yet another factor is simply not enjoying the process of exercising. It’s true that if you push your body hard, it doesn’t always feel good, but there is satisfaction in knowing you’re challenging yourself and doing something good for your health. If you’re in it for the long haul, it’s important to make your workouts challenging but still add an element of fun. Not every workout will be a barrel of laughs but there are ways to make working out more enjoyable. Let’s look at a few.
Vary What You Do
The “same old, same old” DOES become boring. That’s why it’s important to vary the type of workouts you do. An example is cardio training. With so many ways to do cardio, why would you do only one? Choose three forms of cardio that you enjoy and alternate between them. For example, tackle a spin workout during one session, kickboxing in another, and circuit training during the third session. It’s hard to get bored with so much variety – and think outside the cardio box. Plyometric drills and boot camp routines also offer cardiovascular benefits.
Vary the intensity of your cardio workouts too. Moderate-intensity exercise, like running, can get boring, so shake things up with high-intensity interval training. You can vary the exercises you do during the active intervals to make things even more interesting and challenging. Even if the type of cardio you enjoy is an activity like running, vary the intensity by walking for 30 seconds and then sprinting during the next 30.
For strength training, try variations of exercises you currently do. Think of all the ways you can do planks! Don’t get stuck doing only standard planks and side planks. Try one of the fifty plus variations. Try different variations of squats and lunges too. Not only will this keep you motivated, it will work your muscles in a different way.
Listen to Music
There’s some evidence that music improves exercise performance, but science also suggests it makes it more enjoyable as well. Researchers at McMaster University asked a group of healthy, young women to participate in two sessions of high-intensity interval training. During one session, they listened to music while in the other they didn’t. During the sessions, the women did sprints during the active intervals, a challenging activity that few would find enjoyable. Yet, the women who listened to music while during this kick-butt workout felt more positive and about the sessions relative to those who didn’t. They also expressed greater interest in continuing the workouts in the future.
Some studies have also found that music reduces the rate of perceived exertion, how hard a workout feels. It seems to act as a distractor – but be careful! Don’t get so engrossed in the music that you don’t monitor your form.
Exercise at YOUR Best Time of Day
When you exercise can make a big difference in how much you enjoy a workout. For some people, first thing in the morning works best because it gives them an energy boost and it frees up the rest of the day. But, if you’re not a morning person and try to force yourself to work out at the crack of dawn, you probably won’t enjoy it. Experiment with different workout times and find the one that works best for you. If the thought of exercising after work makes you dread the prospect, a morning workout might be ideal. We’re all a little different.
Remember Why You’re Doing It in the First Place
It’s easier to stay focused and find satisfaction from your workouts if you know why you’re doing it. Make a list of all the health benefits, both mental and physical, that exercise offers you. Keep the list handy and remind yourself of why you started. Think about how far you’ve come and the changes you’ve already made. Reminding yourself of these things can help supercharge your motivation when you don’t feel like working out.
Also, think back to some of your previous positive exercise experiences. A study conducted in 2014 found that participants who vocalized about a past, positive exercise experience were more motivated to work out over the following week. Also, make sure your motivation to exercise runs deeper than getting six-pack abs or tighter thighs. Studies show that people who focus on the superficial aspects of exercise, like changing body composition or appearance, enjoy exercise less than those who do it because it gives them energy or makes them feel better in some way.
Give Yourself Challenges
Challenges can help you stay motivated too. Give yourself small challenges to work towards each week. For example, this week try to do two more push-ups than you’ve done in the past. Find a new way to challenge yourself each week.
Give Yourself Rest Days
The fastest way for exercise to lose its fun factor is to push yourself hard without taking time to rest. Give yourself at least one or two full days off per week. Off days help your body recover and help you jumpstart your motivation. Rest is important for keeping a positive attitude and seeing exercise as fun rather than another form of work.
The Bottom Line
Working out isn’t always a piece of cake but you can make it more enjoyable by changing the exercises you do, the intensity at which you do them, and even the time of day you work out. Add some tunes too! You’re in it for the long haul, so make it as enjoyable as possible.
Journal of Sports Sciences. “Listening to music during sprint interval exercise: The impact on exercise attitudes and intentions” October 15, 2016.
Percept Mot Skills. 2000 Dec;91(3 Pt 1):848-54.