I’M NOT A FAN OF EXERCISE – in fact, it would probably be fair to say that keeping fit is always going to be a chore to me.
I’d love to be one of those people who actually enjoys working out: I have a friend who’s like this, and I really envy her ability to take multiple gym classes every week, and still want to go for a run on the weekend. And, I mean, she actually WANTS to go for that run: it’s not that she feels she HAS to do it to stay fit, it’s her hobby, in the same way that reading books or, well, buying shoes, is mine.
For those of us who don’t work out for fun, however, starting a new fitness routine is one thing, but sticking to it is another thing altogether. I’m the first to admit that I’m not always great at this, but here are some tips to help you start a fitness routine you’ll actually stick to: for a while, at least!
01. FIND A FORM OF EXERCISE YOU ENJOY – OR AT LEAST DON’T HATE
If you’re anything like me, this might fall into the “easier said than done” category, but one of the things that’s helped me most when it comes to fitness is to zero in on the things I like most – or dislike least. There have been countless times in the past, for instance, where I’ve tried to force myself to do yoga or pilates, even although they bore me rigid: I know they’d be good for me, and that they work really well for lots of people, but, realistically, I know I’m never going to be able to motivate myself to keep on doing something I don’t enjoy, am I? Rather than promising myself I’ll do yoga 3x/week, and then ending up not doing any exercise AT ALL, then, I focus on finding things I DO like instead. It might mean I end up getting a slightly less rounded workout than is ideal, but at least I’m doing SOMETHING – and that has to be better than the absolutely nothing I’d end up doing if I tried to force myself to do something I hate.
What if you really can’t find ANYTHING you like, though? Well, you can keep on trying new things, until you finally find the exercise that works for you, or you can try my next tip:
02. START USING AN EXERCISE TRACKER
Last year, I got myself a Fitbit Flex, which I quickly became obsessed with – probably a little bit TOO obsessed, if I’m completely honest. My Fitbit is basically a glorified pedometer, which tracks how many steps I take each day: there are lots of different alternatives available, and I’ve found mine to be a big help in motivating me to exercise more. For one thing, getting served as a real wakeup call: I was pretty shocked to find out just how little I move around during the day, and it really made me want to start looking after myself a bit better. It also helps me actually DO that, though, by allowing me to set a target, and try to meet it: since having it, I’ve found that I’ll take any excuse to get up and walk (or sometimes even run, if I’m feeling particularly motivated!) around during the day. This is the type of exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise , and which you don’t necessarily have to take time out of your day fro: I’m talking about little changes, like taking the longer route to work, getting off the bus one stop earlier – that kind of thing.
Of course, this might not work for everyone, but it worked for me for well over a year, so if you’re the kind of person who’s quite goal-orientated, it might just work for you, too.
03. PLAN YOUR WORKOUTS CAREFULLY
For those of us who sit at a desk all day, the little changes I mentioned enough might not be enough to make up for the overall lack of exercise you’re getting – which means you have to set aside time to work out. For many people, this can be an even bigger challenge than anything you’ll encounter in your gym classes: most of us are so busy that finding time for fitness can feel like an impossible task. For me, the key here has been to make working out fit into my existing schedule, rather than changing my schedule to fit my new workout plans. This might sound like a small detail, but it’s a pretty important one, because if I have to make major changes (or even relatively small ones) to my lifestyle, purely to accommodate a workout that I don’t really want to do anyway, I know I’m going to find any excuse I can to avoid it.
For years, I tried to convince myself that the best thing I could do would be to get up early every morning and fit in a workout before breakfast. Ha! I don’t think I EVER managed to do that – not even once. The fact is, I’m just not a morning person, and that’s probably never going to change, so deciding to go for a run every morning didn’t just require me to start a new workout routine – it required me to basically change my personality: which just isn’t going to happen, is it?
These days, I’ve learned to accept that I’m never going to be one of those people who leaps out of bed every morning and hits the gym, so I don’t even try to pretend to myself that it’s going to happen: instead, I plan to work out at times that are harder for me to worm my way out of, because they don’t require me to get up early in order to do something I don’t enjoy. Finding your ideal workout time might be hard, because it’s all too easy to convince ourselves that there’s NEVER a good time to exercise, but keep at it until you find something that works for you – whatever it may be.
04. FIND SOMETHING THAT’S CONVENIENT
I once joined a gym that was a 30 minute drive from my house, just because I liked their pool: it might not sound like much, but can you guess how many times I convinced myself to make the hour-long round trip? Yeah, not too many, that’s for sure. When you don’t particularly enjoy exercise, you’ll take any excuse not to do it, and in my case, the fact that driving to the gym added an extra hour to the time I had to spend on fitness was a complete deal-breaker. For me, I’d be more likely to actually use a slightly less-well equipped gym that was right on my doorstep, than an awesome one I had to travel to – because even if that drive is a short one, you better believe I’ll find an excuse not to do it!
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These are just four of my tips for people who don’t enjoy exercise, but want to do it anyway. Got any others?