Not everyone loves to exercise.
Even those of us whose livelihood depends on working out go through periods when exercise is not our favourite thing to do.
Days when we’d rather hit the snooze button than go to the gym.
Weeks where we have to have a stern chat with ourselves before each and every workout session.
There are lots of reasons why you might not be loving your workouts. Here are the five most common and some suggestions for getting past them.
5 reasons you’re not loving your workouts (and what to do about it)
- You’re new to exercise (or returning from a hiatus). Making change is hard. Especially when that change requires you to move your body in ways it’s not used to. Or carve out time in an already busy schedule.
Newcomers don’t know how good regular exercise feels, so they often give up before they get to the stage of noticing the difference. Remind yourself that change takes time and that often, we might not enjoy the initial stages of developing a new habit.
That’s okay. Try focusing on all the positives that regular exercise brings to your life and trust that it will get easier and more fun if you keep at it.
- You’ve chosen the wrong mode of exercise (for you). Not all types of exercise are equally appealing to all people. Sure, you can learn to like (and even love) a new form of exercise over time, but choosing a mode of exercise that’s in complete opposition to your preferred form of movement (not to mention your personality) is bound to lead to a lack of exercise love.
Need the accountability and energy of others? You’re probably better off choosing a group fitness class than heading into the weight room on your own.
Prefer the forest to the gym? Take your run out-of-doors to avoid the boredom of the treadmill.
And don’t discount the value of cycling to library or doing your errands on foot. Exercise comes in many different forms and as long a you’re moving your body regularly and at an intensity that’s a little higher than your normal mode of locomotion you’re doing something good for your body. Why not create your own weekly women’s hiking group?
- You’re been doing the same thing for too long. Don’t confuse dislike with boredom. If you’ve been going to the same group fitness class forever or haven’t changed up your strength exercises for a month or two, chances are the reason you’re not loving your workouts is pure and simple boredom. Guess what? Your body is probably just as bored as your mind.
Try switching up the exercises in your workout. Or venturing into a different instructor’s class. (Don’t worry; we never take it personally when our regulars decide to try a new class 🙂 ).
It’s possible that a complete change of venue is what you really need to re-kindle your love of working out. Many gyms and boutique fitness studios offer introductory specials to newcomers. Use this as an opportunity try out that new kick-boxing facility or indoor cycling class for a week or two before committing to a longer term membership.
This is what I did in January 2016. It was exactly what I needed to re-discover my love of movement and weight-lifting (and paved the path for me to return to my first exercise love, strength training for muscle growth).
- You’re feeling discomfort. By ‘discomfort’ I don’t mean pain. If exercise is painful, you need to stop immediately and make an appointment with your primary health care provider to figure out what’s up and how to fix it.
Instead, I’m referring to that feeling of doing something far enough outside of what you usually do that your brain tries to convince you to stop.
We all like things that are easy for us. Activities that are within our comfort zone. Things that we’re already good at. It’s the reason we push back when our trainer gives us a challenging workout. Or switches the order of our lifts. Or asks us to start our training session with core activation exercises rather than leaving the floor work until the end…
Exercise should push you slightly beyond your comfort zone. If it doesn’t, you won’t get faster, stronger, leaner or healthier.
Identify what’s causing the discomfort. Is it something you can sit with until it goes away? If not, and you’re actively avoiding it, try placing it higher on your priority list and get it done earlier in the workout, day or week.
This is what I’ve done in my own training. I strength train four days per week. The fourth workout of the week focuses on hamstrings and glutes; my least favourite muscles to exercise. Why? Because they’re the weakest muscles in my body and every exercise in this workout is hard for me.
After about a month on my current program, I realized that I purposefully placed this workout at the end of the week because it’s the one I’m most likely to blow off. I’ve since moved it to the top of the workout week, getting the discomfort out of the way before I move to the more ‘fun’ workouts.
- You aren’t seeing results. I frequently hear from women who are frustrated and discouraged because they’re not seeing the results of their exercise efforts. As a consequence, they begin to loathe their workouts, viewing them as a waste of time and not worth doing.
Often this is because the only measure of progress they’re looking at is the bathroom scale.
Changing your mindset about exercise is crucial to becoming someone who enjoys working out. Finding other ways to measure progress not only increases your enjoyment of exercise, it also helps you sit with discomfort long enough for the work to become less uncomfortable (and to start seeing the results your desire).
Try taking measurements. Or trying on the same pair of ‘thermometer’ jeans (you know, the ones you can just about get in to…) at regular intervals. Keep track of how many good form toe pushups you can do. Or how much weight you’re squatting. Give yourself a ‘star’ on the calendar for every workout you do and reward yourself at the end of the month for sticking with the program.
Remember that it takes longer to build muscle, lose weight and improve flexibility at midlife. We don’t have all those great hormones working in our favour the way we did in our 20’s and 30’s.
That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, just that we need to be realistic about our expectations, consistent with our routines and more patient with our bodies.
And remember that we’re in it for the long haul, not just to fit into a bathing suit next summer 😉