Finding Your Bliss: Help for the Exercise Hater

11052011-267 I meet too many people who say they really hate exercise, but feel they “should” or “have to” or “need to” do it. They start on a routine and inevitably drop it and go back to doing other things they don’t hate, like sleeping in, taking their lunch break, or going out to dinner with friends. Or life just easily fills in the gap. I totally understand that sometimes exercise can be boring, or painful or just not pleasant. I also know it can be fun, energizing and exhilarating. What makes the difference?
I have a client who plays in a recreational sports team but she’s living abroad so she can’t participate right now. She’s trying lose weight and get healthier and although she knows exercise plays an important role, she wasn’t feeling too excited about it – and the word “hate” even surfaced! When we explored times when she enjoyed exercise, we found that she loved doing it when it had a purpose larger than herself, and when she was part of a community. She loved helping her team with the game, not letting them down, holding up her end of the deal. And if that meant hard training and practice, fine, it didn’t feel like work in those circumstances. So the challenge now is finding an exercise routine that brings her some of those fundamental things, community, competition, purpose, and accountability.

What do you love? What makes exercise fun for you? Some thoughts on how you can turn your hate into love . . . . or at least “like”!

1) Get on the couch (the therapist’s): Have you always felt this way – or did some incident in your life create a negative association with exercise? Do you get laughed at for having two left feet? Did you feel awkward in gym class? I was horrible at team sports and always got picked last, so as an adult I’ve always avoided team activities like the plague. Reflect on your history, and decide if the story is really relevant now, or if it is simply a story — old news. Rewrite the story.
2) Explore what you enjoy: Like my client, think about a time when you were doing something active and you enjoyed it, what was happening, who was there, what were the conditions? What made it fun? Figure out how you can incorporate elements of that into your current exercise and activity plans. Do you like being part of a team? Join a sports league. Enjoy dancing? Take salsa lessons with your partner. Enjoy the outdoors? Play in the snow, leaves or grass (and you can multitask too).
3) Set a goal: It’s amazing how having a specific goal with a little competition involved can really get you focused on doing your daily workouts. Try out a Triathlon, or a 5k for your favorite charity. Get together with some co-workers and a pedometer and create your own walking challenge.
4) Distract yourself: Yes, I sometimes dread my cardio workout, but when I have a great book to read on my iPad, or a favorite TV show to watch, I get excited about having that hour available to do it, and the time goes by much faster. If you love music make sure to get your favorite tunes set up and rock it out!
5) Make it fun: Find something that doesn’t feel like exercise – walking outdoors, biking, hiking, rock climbing, dancing are all good alternatives to the big box gym. Any kind of physical activity will yield benefits.
6) Consider it “me time”: For the busy Mom, entrepreneur, or career woman , “me time” is limited. So why not combine your exercise time with “me time”? Read your favorite book while on the bike or elliptical, meet friends at the Zumba class and dance your heart out, spend some quality time with the dog and go for a walk/run in nature, or watch your favorite TV program while on the treadmill at home or the gym.

Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be miserable or never ending to be effective. There are all sorts of ways to make it fun if you take the time to be creative. So get a move on and don’t be a hater!