How to find an exercise you love when you hate exercise

Contrary to what you may have been taught, exercising isn’t supposed to be a chore. Sure, some days you need a little more motivation than others to put on your sneakers or get out of bed, but the time you spend on physical activity should include something that stimulates you or you like it once you’re full. . It’s also a safer way to build a routine that’s sustainable and doesn’t lead to burnout.

If your goal is to get 150 minutes of moderate activity a week to improve heart health, for example, you’ll be more likely to reach your goal if you enjoy the activity you’re doing. What matters is that your heart rate is up, you’re sweating a little, and you’re moving your body.

Haley Perlus is a sports and exercise psychologist, fitness coach, and author. He told CNET in 2022 that to find exercise you love, you should first ask yourself what you already love.

“It’s much more, what do you like to do? And what already gives you energy?” said Perlus. “There are hundreds of different exercise regimens. We can find one that already satisfies your existing love.”

For example, if you are a social person who enjoys or needs the company of others to exercise, look for classes where you can feel the energy of other people or find a partner to exercise with. If you’re someone who’s motivated by a healthy dose of competition, sign up for a 5K or other race, she said, giving you a goal to work towards.

And if you like learning new things, Perlus said, “Don’t get on a treadmill, because you already know how to walk right-left, right-left.”

Similarly, if you like to be outdoors, don’t exercise inside she added. Whatever floats your boat, chances are there’s an exercise for it, and through a little trial and error you can find a routine you’re proud (and happy) to call your own.

To help you get started on creating a new routine, here’s a roundup of alternatives and tips for more “traditional” types of exercise.

Resistance exercises for people who don’t like lifting weights

Resistance or strength training and keeping the body strong is an important part of our physical health, especially as we age. It’s often associated with bulky weight racks in the gym, but when it comes to strength training or weight training, you don’t need anything in your hands.

“Body resistance is the best,” Perlus said, noting that he prefers body resistance to actual weightlifting. For a strength workout using just your body (which sounds pretty powerful, by the way), add resistance by positioning your body at different angles, according to Perlus. For example, do wall push-ups if you don’t need a lot of resistance and change the angle for more. Squats, lunges, planks, and yoga are great ways to stay strong without the intimidating feeling of gym weights. Just make sure you use good form, he said.

Personally, I never liked lifting weights, so I stopped trying to make it happen in the gym. Instead, I’ve fallen in love with Pilates (the mat kind, not reformer) and yoga as forms of exercise that improve my strength and endurance, which are now part of my weekly routine.

Find cardio if you hate running

Perlus calls our bluff on the narrative “Hate.”

“We need to really address the ‘hate,'” Perlus said. “Why do you say you hate? What is the story behind it? Because sometimes we can reframe that story.”

Maybe you hate it because you’re under the impression that it’s the only way to do cardio, which is far from the truth. Other cardio exercises include cycling, swimming, rowing, skipping, jumping rope, and dancing—anything that gets your heart rate up.

Circuit training can also be more fun if you choose the exercises to rotate. Don’t want to jump rope? Choose a different exercise.

Importantly, Perlus said, you don’t need to do cardio for a long time. “It’s actually more quality than quantity,” he said.

Two women in workout clothes dancing side by side and smiling

By incorporating something you love into your workout routine, like music, you can create lifelong habits.

FatCamera/Getty Images

Still don’t love it?

So you’ve taken inventory of what you love to do in life and found a workout routine that reflects that. If you’ve given it a “good old college try” and still aren’t having a good time, Perlus said, the next step is to figure out what you don’t like about the routine you’re doing and find another one that specifically addresses it. this problem

Another tip from Perlus: Don’t wait until you’re in the gym (or ready for your living room) to start cheering. A good way to motivate yourself is through music. (Here’s one workout playlist hack that’s backed by science.)

Make your routine sustainable

We’ve heard of “yo-yo diet“, but “yo-yo exercise” should also be avoided,” Perlus said.

“One way to get away from that is to not yo-yo in your schedule, to do something every day.” For this reason, she encourages people who are just starting their exercise journey go out there seven days a week, taking advantage of a little time each day. Although it looks intimidating, it doesn’t mean “high intensity” every day, he said. Rather, it’s just a way to form a routine. If walking is your exercise of choicetake a leisurely stroll one day and a brisk walk the next, but make time for it in your schedule.

If you have decided that you want to add exercise to your routine and change your life in this way, it is important that you are where you are. (Being ashamed of yourself or your body is not an effective motivator to exercise.) To do this, Perlus said to ask yourself two questions: What have I accomplished with my health today, and what can I do next?

This could mean getting up from your desk every hour to move around or walking your dog. It could also mean you lay down for 5 minutes while watching TV.

Perlus said the focus of your effort should be on what you are achieving and what you are doing achieve do next, versus what you have to do next.”

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