I love to exercise and I think it is a lot of fun! If you think that “make exercise fun” sounds like a ridiculous lie then today’s post is for you.
As of today, I have gone for a run every single day for the past 3 years! Since I run every day, the topic of running comes up in conversations on a pretty dependable basis. It’s always interesting to me how many people will hear about how often I run and say something along the lines of “I wish I ran on a regular basis.” I usually respond to this by asking, “Do you like running?” and without fail, the response is always, “Oh no! I hate running! I just know its good for me, so I should do it.”
Can I set the record straight on this one? In case you’ve had similar thoughts in the past about feeling like you should run but you hate to run, let me assure you, if you hate running, you don’t ever have to run. Seriously.
Running is actually not this extraordinary form of exercise that will magically make your extra pounds melt off. Running is not the only way to improve your cardiovascular fitness. And running is not in any way a requirement for being healthy, athletic, sexy, strong, or anything similar. The only thing running can do that other forms of exercise can’t do is make you a runner. You don’t have to be a runner to be happy in life, so let’s all just collectively let go of the guilt and if you hate running, don’t run.
The same goes for every other form of exercise. If you hate it, don’t do it. But there are hundreds (maybe even thousands of forms of exercise) so don’t let your hatred of some things keep you from doing anything.
If you struggle to enjoy exercise though, I do have a few suggestions that can help you find some type of exercise that you do enjoy so that you can actually have fun while you improve your health and fitness. I truly believe that enjoying the exercise you do is one of the most important parts of being successful and consistent.
1. Don’t Give Up Too Soon
Somewhere around 15 years ago I woke up to a gorgeous Spring morning and went out for a run. The birds were singing, the sun was shining, and I got the chance to explore my home city in ways I never had before. I ran when I wanted to and I walked when I wanted to. It was amazing!
Several months later I got a postcard in the mail from Team in Training advertising their program that allows you the opportunity to train (with a team) for a major running event in exchange for raising funds for cancer research. They provide the race entry fee, the hotel stay, and other support in helping you run the race. What I read from the postcard was a free weekend hotel stay in exchange for fundraising for a good cause. Sign me up!
I convinced my then boyfriend, now husband to sign up with me. We signed up for the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon. I had only gone on a small handful of short runs in my entire life and neither of us had ever run a race, but we decided that signing up for our first race to be a 13.1 mile race with around 30,000 other runners was no big deal.
The race was in early May. We did our best to train, but we were pretty lazy about it. I was in college full-time, working almost full-time, he worked a job that was well beyond full-time hours and we were still fairly new to our relationship with each other. Running long distances didn’t exactly top our to do lists on a regular basis. Especially because training for an early May race in Indiana means training in the winter. It’s too cold to run is a very easy excuse!
After our terrible training in cold temperatures, we showed up on race day to find summer weather. Both the temperatures and the humidity levels got into the 90’s. It was sweltering and miserable. We had no idea how to cope. We did manage to both finish the race, I crossed the finish line just minutes after they decided to black flag the race due to the high heat and humidity so my finish time wasn’t even listed in the official results. But I did it! Bucket list accomplished and we both proclaimed we were never, ever running again. Running is stupid.
Except that’s not how our story ends. Eventually, we did give running a try again. We ran quite a number of 5k races and realized that we do enjoy running, at least a little. After a long hiatus from long-distance running, I decided that maybe I could run a half marathon again. I have now run 17 races that were at least half marathon distance or longer (including one full marathon). And earlier this month we went back to that original mini marathon and had a great time.
There is a chance that you will hate all forms of exercise at first. It requires that you push yourself, your muscles will likely get sore, you won’t know what your doing, and all kinds of other things that happen when you try something new. So I encourage you, don’t give up too soon. If you think there could be something to enjoy, keep at it and give yourself the chance to really find out what you like.
2. Get Outside
We live in a culture and a time where nearly everything is done indoors. We sit at our desks at work staring out the window struggling to concentrate on a beautiful day. It looks so pretty out there, but we’re stuck in here. And once work is over we’re running from here to there for all kinds of other activities. It tends to be pretty rare that we actually get a chance to get outside on a regular basis.
This doesn’t feel like a great way to live. God has blessed us with a beautiful planet with amazing things to enjoy and explore outside of all these buildings we’ve constructed.
There is no need to spend hundreds of dollars on a gym membership in order to be fit and healthy. You can do a huge variety of exercises without any equipment at all. And you can do it all outside. If you are a fan of being outside, skip the gym and go outside to move. As someone who runs outside nearly every day, rain, snow, or shine, I promise, it really is wonderful to get outside every day.
3. Challenge Yourself
I enjoy going for long walks. I’m moving slow enough to really notice the world around me and enjoy my time. However, I tend to get bored when I’m just walking around. It’s just not challenging enough. That is why I run but nearly always take walking breaks during my runs. I get a chance to push myself and see what my body can do, but I also take the time to slow it down and enjoy the world around me.
For any exercise you do, you’ll come to a point where you can basically go on auto-pilot and check out. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can definitely lead to boredom. If your workouts are feeling a little monotonous or you’re just not excited to get moving, you might need to find a way to challenge yourself and put in a little more effort.
4. Get Social
I prefer working out alone, but I know many people who really need other people around them to keep them going. Even though I love working out alone, I enjoy having friendships with other runners. We can share our stories, our struggles, and form a community that cheers each other on. The community aspect of exercise can be very important.
Figure out whether you like to workout with people or not to help you determine how to approach your workouts. And then, even if you aren’t actually doing your workouts with others, look to form friendships and relationships with people who enjoy the same types of exercise so you can build a community of friends to uplift and support you in your journey.
5. Bring in Some Entertainment
When I go out for a quick one mile run around the block, I’m usually fine to just head out the door by myself or with the dog. I look around, breath in the fresh air, and just enjoy my 10ish minutes of peace and quiet on my run. However, if I’m going for longer than a mile, I usually prefer to bring along my earbuds for a little extra entertainment.
Good music, a podcast, audiobook, or if you’re inside, a good tv show even, can provide all the entertainment you need to keep going. I know many people who only let themselves watch TV if they are on the treadmill or stationary bike. That can be some pretty good motivation to get your exercise in if you have a favorite TV series going on Netflix.
6. Sign Up for a Race, Fun Walk, or Other Fitness Event
Oftentimes it can be hard to push ourselves when we are trying to exercise. It’s uncomfortable, tiring, and it can even hurt! It is much easier to just take it easy. However, if you are trying to reach that next level of health and fitness, you do need to reach a little further once in a while. Signing up for some kind of event might be just the push you need to stay motivated to go the extra mile.
Last year I made it my goal to stay in half marathon shape all throughout the year. I wanted to have the fitness level to go out at any time and run a half marathon. I ended up running 6 half marathons and none of them were all that difficult. Having all the races on my schedule helped to keep me motivated to keep up with a consistent training plan.
7. Try Something New
I have reached the point in my running where it sometimes does feel monotonous and boring. After running every day for three years I do feel the need to mix things up once in a while. I’m always looking for new places to run, but I also look for things to do besides running.
I don’t just run, I also bike, go on walks with my family, do yoga, strength training, and other exercises. I’m constantly looking for new things to try to keep me interested and challenged in my workouts. Don’t get stuck with just one type of exercise, be flexible and willing to give new things a chance.
8. Reward Yourself and Celebrate
When you achieve a new milestone with your workouts or do something you’ve never done before take the time to celebrate. It takes a lot of work and effort to get in shape, so make sure that you reward your diligence.
When I was in college my sister and I had a membership to the same gym. We would often workout together. To reward ourselves after our gym session we would always grab some Long John Silvers from the drive-thru next door to the gym, thus completely defeating all of the hard work we had just done at the gym. This is not the kind of reward and celebration that I’m recommending here.
While it is just fine to splurge on food once in a while (you better believe I’ll be having a big bowl of ice cream later today to celebrate 3 years of running every day), it is best to keep your rewards non-food related. Maybe you reward yourself with a bubble bath or a pedicure after a challenging race, or you could buy yourself a new workout outfit when you hit a new personal best achievement in your workouts. When I hit 1,000 days of running every day I rewarded myself with a relaxing massage.
Set a goal for yourself in relation to your workouts and then decide on a reward and a way to celebrate your success when you finally achieve your goal. And then, make sure you actually follow through and celebrate.
9. Don’t Go Overboard
Signing up for a half marathon when I had only been on a handful of runs in my life was not exactly my wisest decision. While it definitely did launch me into running head-on, my love and passion for running was delayed by many years because I tried to go too far too fast.
The easiest way to make yourself hate exercise is to jump in too quickly. Take your time and ease into things. You’ll be more likely to avoid the risk of injury, you won’t be so sore and miserable that you can’t even move, and you’ll give yourself the chance to actually fall in love and enjoy the work.
10. Do Something that Actually Sounds Fun to You
I know, this is the most simple and obvious advice, but do you actually follow it? Are you avoiding working out because everything you do makes you miserable?
Hands to heaven, I do solemnly swear that I never wish to do a burpee again in my life. They are not in any way fun to me. So I don’t do them, at all, ever, and I’m totally fine with that.
You don’t have to do things that are miserable just to get in shape.
Instead, take a dance class, go skiing, play golf, or tennis, go for a swim, hike around your local park. You don’t have to follow some strict exercise plan just for it to count as exercise. Go and move your body in a way that is enjoyable to you. It still counts, even if it’s completely fun.
11. Play With Your Kids
Sure, kids, these days love sitting around and staring at screens, but they also like spending time with their parents. Well, pre-teens and teens might need a little more coaxing, but I promise, even if their attitude doesn’t show it, they will love and appreciate it every time you choose to spend some quality time “playing” with them.
Run through the sprinkler, play basketball in the driveway, swing at the park, play catch or kick around a soccer ball in the yard. For Mother’s Day this year I declared that everyone was coming with me on my daily run and we were all going on a family 5k together. My son has asked to go on another “family 5k” every day since then. We didn’t go fast and after a while, we barely ran, but we were together, outside, talking, laughing, and enjoying each other. And bonus, we were all moving our bodies and exercising while we were at it.
Today’s Action Step to Make Exercise Fun
In all of the “olden days” of our history, people didn’t have to take time to workout, they were able to stay fit and healthy just through their everyday activities. That isn’t the case anymore. We can easily sit on our duff all day every day and still provide a great contribution to society. However, in order to perform at our best in our lives, it is helpful to be physically healthy and active. We have to make it a priority. But it doesn’t need to be a priority that we begrudge and grumble about.
Today, pick one physical activity you can do that is enjoyable and go do it. Even if you only have 5 minutes to give, start slow and give yourself the dopamine boost to realize that exercise doesn’t have to be that bad.