Here are five tips to consider when looking for an enjoyable form of exercise:
1. Choose a “just right” activity. Be selective about which program you choose. When you observe or try a class, how do you feel? Intimidated? Insecure? Made to push beyond what you feel is safe? Bored? Excited? Invigorated? Trust your inner voice. If your gut is saying “no,” then listen. First impressions matter. There are plenty of choices out there. Give yourself permission to walk away if it is not the right fit. Don’t force yourself to start the wrong regimen because you think you must. That will only create negative momentum when you inevitably quit.
2. Know thyself. It was true for the ancient Greeks, and it is true today. Knowing what type of person you are will help you choose an activity that lasts. Personality should match activity. Are you an introvert? Well, then it is no wonder you don’t enjoy a team sport, or a noisy spin class. Are you an extrovert? Perhaps a quiet yoga class is not for you. Do you prefer to compete with yourself or others? Do you like the challenge of a steep learning curve, or do you like to “get it” right way? Are you looking for a lifelong practice (a martial art, yoga) or do you like to try new things? Do you get bored easily? Do you like the outdoors? Hate the outdoors? And so on. Many people quit an exercise regimen because it wasn’t a good fit for their personality. Factoring this in at the beginning improves your chances of finding something you will stick with.
3. Choose realistic activities. Take an honest look at your whole life. If you suddenly decide that swimming will be your exercise of choice, can you realistically say that you can get to the indoor pool on a regular basis? Schedule time to change, shower, commute? Can you afford the gear or fees required for the activity you choose? Can your work schedule accommodate the exercise class schedule? Are you relying on a partner to work out with? Is that partner reliable? Do you have any physical limitations that will interfere with this type of exercise ? For example, if you have bad knees, running might not be realistic. Many exercise intentions fail because they were unrealistic choices given a person’s lifestyle, budget, work schedule, or body type. Improve your chances of success by getting real in the beginning.
4. Look for built-in accountability. This is most important in the beginning stages of forming a habit. Seasoned exercisers don’t need this as much, as working out becomes second nature. The morning run is as habituated as the morning coffee.
Beginners need built-in accountability—the training wheels of habit formation. An activity that relies entirely on your own will power is not likely to succeed. The force of habit is too strong. Vowing to do the 30-minute You Tube kettle bell workout 3 times a week is not likely to stick. Sure, you may say, “it is free, easy, and convenient.” However, it is also unlikely become your new habit.
Rather, look for activities that have some kind of built-in accountability. Work with a trainer for the first couple months of your gym membership, join a yoga school and become part of the community, take up a martial art and get to know your training partners, join a running or walking club, pair up with a friend, hire a coach, sign up for a block of classes, etc. You can do that free You Tube workout, but do it with a group or friend.
Additionally, to increase accountability, share your exercise goals with your weight loss group, coach, or partners. Let the group know that you plan to go to a Zumba class 2 times this week, and ask someone to check in by text to keep you honest.
Use the power of relationship to aid in your accountability.
5. And finally, have fun! Exercise should be fun. No pain, no gain is outdated.
Yes, sometimes exercise pushes you, is uncomfortable, and you are sore the next day. We’re not gonna lie. But fun is found in context, not in the particulars. Overall, do you feel better or worse? Did you smile at all?
Exercise should be an overall positive experience, even if you have sore hamstrings the next day.
If you keep this five things in mind, you should be able to find the right fit when it comes to working out.