Having played competitive volleyball for seven years (maybe more), I’ve always been an extremely active person. Once I decided to call it quits about a year ago, staying motivated to work out has become more important than ever. Without the daily volleyball practices and weekly tournaments, I have to take it upon myself to get off my butt and move.
I’ve experienced both ends of the exercise spectrum. There have been several phases where I’ve gone gung-ho and attempted to follow intense workout plans to a T, even if I didn’t actually enjoy them. As a result, I dreaded the workouts…which ultimately led to me abandoning them altogether.
But exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. After lots of trial and error, I have reached a place where I truly love to exercise! My day feels incomplete without some form of movement, and I look forward to working out. Here’s how I’ve done it and how you can too!
1. Establish Your “Why”
A lack of purpose will lead you to a lack of motivation. It’s important to establish why you should work out, or why you are doing so already in order to remain driven.
If your reason is simply to lose weight or look a certain way, I can tell you right now that putting all the pressure on physical appearance will only get you so far. Yes, you may be motivated at first…but if the physical results aren’t coming fast enough, you’re likely to give up.
Determining your reasons behind staying active should go beyond the mirror or scale.
How does exercise make you feel? How will your overall health benefit? In what ways may your life be improved from regular exercise a month, year, or 5 years from now?
I exercise because I love to strengthen and challenge my body. I love the the mood and energy boost that comes with a good sweat. I love feeling in control of my health, knowing that everything I do now gives me a better chance to thrive in the future.
I never want to take advantage of the fact that God blessed me with a body capable of jumping, running, walking, lifting…I want to use all of these abilities! It may sound cheesy, but it’s true. Not everyone can do these things, so use what you’ve been given!
2. Listen to Your Body
One change that has made all the difference in how I feel towards exercise is listening to my body. Here’s the thing: you’re not going to feel like running 8 miles or squatting 200 pounds every day (not that I was able to do either of these things to begin with…lol).
And that’s okay! You shouldn’t force yourself into doing something that your body is clearly saying “no” to. Work with your body, not against it.
Obviously, there’s a difference between listening to your body and totally slacking off out of laziness. Lounging around eating Oreos probably sounds more appealing than hitting the gym. The last rep of that exercise may feel “too hard” to complete.
In situations like these, you should still push yourself to some extent. But pushing yourself to the point where you’ve lost all joy for what you’re doing or you’re in pain is not a good thing.
One day, I may have the energy to complete a super sweaty HIIT workout; another, I may just want to take my dogs for a leisurely walk. Sometimes, I’m in the mood to pump out some weighted exercises; other times, all my muscles are craving is a hot yoga class.
The point here: You shouldn’t be afraid to challenge yourself, but don’t forget to act upon what your body is telling you it needs.
3. Take it Outside
A change of location could be all it takes to re-spark your love for exercise. Constantly working out at the gym or a room in your house can get a bit dull at times…why not take it outside?
One study concluded that exercising outdoors results in greater levels of well-being than exercising indoors, as working out in natural environments increases enjoyment, energy and revitalization. A little fresh air and open space may be exactly what you need!
I enjoy taking my workouts to a nearby park and using things around me (like benches) to perform functional exercises. Incorporating elements from my environment into my workout forces me to get a bit inventive, which can be a lot of fun! I also love walking or running the stairs at the beach- you can’t beat the sound of crashing waves and the sight of a beautiful sunset.
Even if you don’t live in sunny So-Cal, you can still find ways to liven up your workout routine by transferring it outside. A walk through the city, a jog in your neighborhood, a hike on a local trail, a bodyweight workout at a playground…the options are endless!
4. Get Creative
Finding joy in exercise doesn’t have to come from doing pushups or running on the treadmill. There are so many fun and exciting alternatives that don’t even feel like you’re working out, but they’re surprisingly great forms of exercise.
From bike riding and paddle-boarding and kayaking under the sun to ice skating and snowboarding and skiing in the snow…there are plenty of activities that will get your heart pumping more than you’d expect.
Join a pick-up game of a sport, learn how to surf, try rock-climbing, take a martial-arts class or aerial lesson, jump on a trampoline…I could keep going, but I think you get the point.
If any of these ideas sparked your interest, you probably enjoy physical activity more than you realize. Exercise doesn’t have to be the same old, boring stuff. Think outside of the box and try something new!
5. Grab a Workout Buddy
I would consider myself to be pretty self-motivated for the most part, so I typically don’t feel the need for another person to hold me accountable. However, working out can be much more fun when you have someone by your side.
Not only will exercising with others push you to work harder, but it can also act as your social activity and sweat session for the day all wrapped into one!
Next time you hang out with a friend, suggest doing something like rollerblading (refer back to tip #4 for several other ideas) instead of the typical lunch or movie. I’m sure they’d appreciate an activity different from what you’re used to doing together.
You could also take workout classes with a friend, but the beauty of classes is that you really don’t need one- you’re already surrounded by a room full of people anyway! Consider them your workout buddies for the hour.
Being accompanied by a friend or two can shift your focus from the challenge of the workout to the good company. A small warning, though: if your friends are anything like mine, a “workout” may turn into a dance party instead. Just roll with it.
6. Listen to Something You Enjoy
You know how a TV show sometimes doesn’t feel complete without something to snack on? A workout and music kind of go hand-in-hand like that.
Okay, that was a terrible analogy (especially since we’re talking about exercise here- not trying to put the image of chips and chocolate into your mind!)…but hopefully you understand what I’m getting at here.
Good music can totally change the mood of your workout. Exercising in silence makes that plank seem about three times as long, and listening to something that doesn’t motivate you can have a similar effect. Put together a playlist of songs that get you energized and excited and those feelings will transfer into your workout.
Besides music, I absolutely love listening to podcasts when I’m doing something that doesn’t require much thought, like walking. I’ve been going on walks way more recently and I can thank podcasts for that. I get excited to go walking so I can listen to some new ones!
7. Take Note of How You Feel
For me, one of the biggest reasons behind why I exercise is because it makes me feel good.
Getting through a workout can be be a struggle sometimes, but the feeling I experience afterwards is so worth it. The sense of accomplishment after completing a challenging workout puts me on a high the rest of the day. If I’m stressed or anxious about something, sweating it out usually does me good. The burst of energy that comes with exercise helps clear my brain fog and leads me to be more productive the rest of the day. I just feel a million times better after getting in some movement.
When you don’t want to exercise, think of how rewarding it will feel once you’re done. Try writing down how you feel after each workout so that you can turn back to these notes when you need a little motivation. Some workouts may leave you feeling better than others, but the overall trend will be positive.
If you say you hate exercise, you’re probably doing it wrong. Exercise doesn’t have to be limited to the typical standards we’re used to, your reasons behind exercising can be expanded, and there are plenty of little changes to make that will refresh your routine!
I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me. What is your favorite way to stay active?