Ways to make working out less boring and torturous?
April 15, 2009 12:16 PM   Subscribe

I hate working out. It's incredibly boring. I've tried music, and it does help to a degree, but it's not enough. I don't have anyone to work out with. Last time, I put my towel over my head and drowned out outside sensory input as much as possible and was able to perform better. But that makes the boredom much worse.

My gym ( I can't afford to switch nor do I have the discipline to drag myself outside to run or something) plays loud, crappy radio. They have a few flat screen TVs for everyone to watch, but there's no sound, only captions. I do bring my own music, but as I don't want to damage my hearing, it's sometimes drowned out a bit by the gym's radio. The crowds kind of bug me too, especially when people are yakking away on the phone or chatting very loudly.

Enter putting my towel over my head. I found that killing a lot of the outside sensory input helped me focus more. But it also took away the distractions I like, like the TV.

So how do I beat the boredom and get through my workouts, especially long stretches of cardio (yes, I know about HITT, but it seems rather dizzying, and I have lowish blood pressure, so jerking from one thing to the next can make me feel sick). I've searched and found this, but I prefer mental stimulation to true zoning out. I think that's why I find working out so boring - it's not mentally stimulating.

I enjoy playing sports. There's a mental component and a kind of battle going on there along with the physical. Can't afford to join a league at the moment.

And the whole trying to focus on how your body feels thing doesn't work, because I hate how I feel when exercising - sweaty, in pain, breathing heavy, struggling against something.

Yes, I'm aware that in time, it would feel like less of a struggle (my health will improve, etc), but that doesn't help NOW. I need suggestions for now not for how good I'll hypothetically feel in the future.

I have tried a couple of the gym's classes. They're more fun than a piece of cardio equipment, but I find myself unable to really keep up a lot of times, except with yoga.

My current player is music only, so can't bring along my own video yet. I generally dislike audiobooks, and possibly wouldn't be able to really hear them over the background radio. Podcasts may help if they are entertaining and not people rambling. I am considering trying some Pimsleur lessons, but once again, the radio may be an issue.

Generally, some music does help make me feel better. I sometimes break it into "okay, just one more song" , or "two more songs", or "you've done it for 10 minutes already, only 20 more to go".

What can I try? What has worked for you to be less bored, more mentally stimulated, or make time feel like it's not dragging while working out?
posted by cmgonzalez to Health & Fitness (54 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
What do you like to do? Do you like to walk, or hike, or ride a bike, or play soccer?

The best way to get cardio exercise is to find something (semi-)athletic you enjoy doing and just do it. Play basketball. Take up Ultimate Frisbee. You'll do it more often than the gym because you actually like it.
posted by bobot at 12:19 PM on April 15, 2009

Martial arts classes. Like you, I find gyms and treadmills to be interminably boring. But I can work out for hours in a martial arts class and never get bored. There are other ways to work out besides the gym, don't feel chained to it.
posted by gnutron at 12:24 PM on April 15, 2009

I have found that creating playlists with songs with BPMs that directly correlate with the heart rates I'm looking for helps. That way the music isn't just a distraction, it's something I can focus on to guide my workout.
posted by crickets at 12:24 PM on April 15, 2009

I listen to a lot of poetry readings at the gym. Pennsound's supply is basically undending. Use a plugin like this one to make them bookmarkable, like audiobooks.

If that's not your thing, what is your thing? Search around iTunes U for some interesting lectures in subjects that you like.

The loud music is a bummer, I agree. I always max the volume on spoken things before exporting them onto my iPod. If it's really an issue, you could invest in some noise-canceling headphones. But sometimes these things aren't actually as big of issues as we think they are.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:25 PM on April 15, 2009

Response by poster: I like tennis, paddleball, basketball. But there aren't really any free opportunities to do those, especially on a regular basis. I don't like running.

I could take a ball and go shoot hoops by myself I suppose, but that would be just as boring. Most of those who play at the park are teen boys, and that would be semi-weird. Not to mention I'm not exactly very good nor athletic. And when it's cold or raining, I'm not exactly going outside to work out.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:28 PM on April 15, 2009

What kind of headphones do you have? Try rubber earbuds; you don't have to turn them up very loud for them to effectively block other noise.

I like to watch cooking shows at the gym, even with the sound off. It's a more entertaining picture than many other shows.

Can you switch cardio machines? I can't stick to one for 30+ minutes either. Why not do 10 minutes on the stairclimber, 10 minutes on the treadmill, 10 minutes on the rowing machine, etc.? Throw a little strength training in there to mix it up or make a really exciting playlist.

Could you listen to comedy routines on your audio player? That might distract you.

Classes are fun, but you have to stick to a level that suits you. Ask the instructor to demonstrate a lower level of stretch than what he or she is currently doing. I remember taking an exercise class with some older members who requested low-impact alternatives to the step routine and the instructor was happy to oblige.
posted by cranberrymonger at 12:28 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Noise canceling headphones + podcasts might help...since unlike music the earphones arent competing with the radio. Search askme for podcast questions, lots of hilarious radioshow like stuff out there.

Spinning is goofy but really does work, and the right kind of yoga can be plenty of cardio if you push yourself actually.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:30 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: - Can't afford martial arts classes right now. I've considered it though. Must figure out how to be less bored with what I've currently got access to.

- I don't have access to iTunes. As far as BPM goes, I've found that the music that gets me going most doesn't really follow any particular pattern. Which stumps me.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:30 PM on April 15, 2009

For earbud options you'll want to include the term "etymotic." They may be more expensive on average, but a key feature for you is that they are also earplugs. This means you can shut out the outside sound while also being able to keep your music volume down so that you don't damage your hearing.
posted by rhizome at 12:35 PM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

I rip DVDs and put them on my iPod Touch. 2 Battlestar Galactica episodes are perfect for a night's exercise. Doing this is rather technical due to the grey area of fair use here but not that burdensome, at least on my Mac.
posted by mrt at 12:35 PM on April 15, 2009

I know you can't afford to join a league, but there have got to be pickup basketball games in New York. It might take a bit of googling and searching.

The only exercise I was ever able to go to regularly and actually not be bored by was roller derby, and that's because the game sucked me in.
posted by mollymayhem at 12:37 PM on April 15, 2009

Instead of music, try audiobooks, something that makes you pay attention and focus on the words so that you forget you're exercising. Even better, language learning courses that make you repeat things out loud every 10 seconds.

Your brain won't be idle long enough to notice the exercise.
posted by rokusan at 12:39 PM on April 15, 2009

Honestly, and I think that you know this already, but you need to find some sort of exercise that you enjoy. Working out is already painful; it shouldn't be boring on top of that. Here are some suggestions...

1) Try the classes again. I might be biased because I was an enthusiastic stepper for a couple of years, but they really are fun! The learning curve can be a little steep, depending on your gym, but it's worth going regularly for 5-6 weeks until you can follow along without too much mental effort.

2) Pickup sports. Is there a bulletin board at your gym/workplace/school? Put up a poster and try to organise a regular game of whatever you most enjoy. It might not be regular enough to cover all your needed workouts, but it could be a pleasant weekly break from the treadmill.

3) Quit the gym and use the money you're saving to pay for some intro classes to different activities. You could try dancing, rock climbing, about a million types of martial arts...

4) Noise-cancelling headphones.

5) Get a crush on someone at your gym. Sneak glances at them while you're working out.
More seriously, be friendly to the people who go to the gym at the same time as you. Over time, you might become workout buddies.

6) Just try running. It took me about 3 serious attempts over a couple of years before I settled in to a nice running routing that I actually enjoyed. Perseverance might just be the key here! After a point, you don't need self-discipline anymore, you just look forward to being outside and enjoying your body's abilities to the max.
posted by snoogles at 12:41 PM on April 15, 2009

If you can't afford martial arts classes, this may not be that helpful an idea... but have you considered going rock climbing? If there is an indoor gym near-ish to you, that might something to consider. In my experience there is rarely loud music, and even so, the exercise is not of the monotonous variety that I recall from going to a regular gym.

If you're concerned about a lack of equipment, or partner, etc., then consider going bouldering. Most gyms should have at least a bit of a bouldering area, and all you need for that are shoes and chalk.
posted by vernondalhart at 12:41 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think given your particular restraints, I would recommend finding podcasts that you are deeply interested in. I think you'd find language lessons perhaps too involving. Check if your library has any of the Portable Professor CDs in stock. The ones I listened to have been awesome. Even if the loud gym music bleeds over, hopefully you can still concentrate on the podcast. (There was a post on the blue recently about a podcast on the history of Rome which would do it for me, but there's free podcasts on everything under the sun.

Also, I know you said that you can barely keep up in classes, but I'd encourage you to keep going. If you could keep up right away, there wouldn't be much point to them.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:42 PM on April 15, 2009

Like you, I need mental stimulation. If the podast solution doesn't work for you, have you thought about craigslist to find an exercise partner to talk to and provide some sort of mental stimulation/interaction?

I've found a couple cyling/running buddies by placing an ad in the "activities" section of craigslist. Running is torture for me, too, but it isn't as bad if your running buddy is talking about something interesting. The last time I put a running buddy listing on craigslist, I had quite a few replies - you can specify where you live, what you prefer to talk about, blah blah blah. Maybe you can run one to see if anyone would work out wiht you at your gym - may not work, but it's free to place it.

Good luck
posted by Wolfster at 12:43 PM on April 15, 2009

Have you tried using work out videos? Once I get to know the video well, I turn off the sound and put on some music of my own.
posted by orange swan at 12:43 PM on April 15, 2009

n-thing the noise cancelling headphones and podcasts. I can't imagine working out without them.
posted by purephase at 12:44 PM on April 15, 2009

Some in-ear-canal headphones will cancel out the gym's loud radio. I got some for a similar reason, though not that model, and they do the job very well.

HOWEVER. I still find working out boring. What has really helped me is trying to find things that have actual physical results--landscaping, volunteering to help friends move, etc. Then I can see the results of working out in terms of real, physical accomplishments, and in terms of how much easier it is to do things.

Swimming exercises, when I have the time to actually do them, also work well for me--it seems like something more immediate and engaging. The same goes for competitive sports.
posted by Benjy at 12:45 PM on April 15, 2009

Gah. Sounds like your gym features some of the worst breaches of etiquette ever documented. You have my condolences.

You say that you're in pain when exercising. Are you in correct form? Perhaps you're overdoing it, or doing too much at one time. Check out some of the symptoms at this stumptuous.com page, and see if any apply to you. If so, perhaps a change in the manner you exercise will make things feel better and serve to motivate you further.

I personally use a schedule for my workouts, based not on the number of minutes, but on the specific exercise routines. For example, before I start my workout, I know that I will do 3 sets of bench presses, 3 sets of flies, and 3 sets of military presses. Then I follow with ab crunches and a number of shovelglove swings. I finish with cardio, and this is the only part where I pay attention to how long I do it. The next time I workout, I'll schedule three different exercises, focused on a different body area.

This actually makes my workout seem simpler, I find that I look forward to each set, and because I'm focusing on such a small number of routines, I find that I can tune out other people and their music/chatter. I also somehow manage to keep doing this for anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour, given my rest breaks and moments of stretching.
posted by CancerMan at 12:45 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

And the whole trying to focus on how your body feels thing doesn't work, because I hate how I feel when exercising - sweaty, in pain, breathing heavy, struggling against something.

You shouldn't be in pain when working out.

(yes, I know about HITT, but it seems rather dizzying, and I have lowish blood pressure, so jerking from one thing to the next can make me feel sick)

Not sure what you mean by "jerking from one thing to the next." HIIT training involves rapid changes in speed, not jumping from one machine to another.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 12:45 PM on April 15, 2009

I work out on the treadmill an hour each day. I hated it. It was miserable . . . UNTIL, I started watching tv (with sound!) and movies while I was torturing myself. I know you say you don't have video right now, MAKE IT A PRIORITY. It has seriously saved me. Without it I would have given up on day two, but here I am 4 1/2 weeks in! I tried radio and it did nothing for me. I was still miserable.

My tv and movie selections, however, have to be new to me - not reruns or movies I've seen before. I need new material for me not to focus on the misery I'm going through. And they have to be stuff I'm interested in - I couldn't tolerate watching whatever was on tv - I had to be interested! So, rig yourself a little video station or something that you can control on your treadmill or elliptical or whatever piece of equipment you're on.

Best o' luck to you!
posted by Sassyfras at 12:46 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have these same sorts of problems with gyms. My fix is riding my bike as my primary transportation. I have trouble getting myself to bike just to bike, but if I need to do it to get things like groceries or a beer I don't even think of it as exercise.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:47 PM on April 15, 2009

Finding a few good podcasts, combined with ear buds seems like a good call. I find listening to a podcast while at the gym makes the time go by easily, as it keeps my mind occupied with content I'm interested in. The ear buds generally block out pretty much all outside noise with ease, and I have no issues hearing spoken word, despite generally being lower volume.

There are a few good ask me's out there for podcasts to listen to, such as this one, which got me on a few new ones.
posted by nerhael at 12:49 PM on April 15, 2009

Response by poster: I have Philips ear buds similar to these. They fit over my ear so they won't fall out if I walk too fast/run (I have small ear holes) and most earbuds are loose. I will look into the noise-canceling stuff if I can find something that won't fall out/off.

If you could keep up right away, there wouldn't be much point to them.

Well, what's the point of them for those who can keep up then?

I feel like I should at least be able to do the basic moves. It's embarrassing when you're the only one going left when everyone else is going right.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:49 PM on April 15, 2009

Is commuting by bike an option? When I do this, my workout is three time as long as I can tolerate in the gym, and also probably more intense. Plus I feel good all day.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:49 PM on April 15, 2009

Response by poster: Not sure what you mean by "jerking from one thing to the next." HIIT training involves rapid changes in speed, not jumping from one machine to another.

I know, and rapid changes in speed (or position) can make me lightheaded. Heck, just standing up can sometimes make me momentarily lightheaded, especially if I've been exerting myself (such as when using resistance machines).

It's not so much pain, it's more of the struggle part. When I'm on the stationary bike, for example, my muscles sort of ache as I pedal. I don't like that feeling.

I can't swim and I don't know how to ride a bike either. Learning isn't in the budget at the moment.

I should have a video Zen soon, Sassyfras. I do think it will help, but I was curious what other ideas helped others out there.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:00 PM on April 15, 2009

I don't know what your cost limitations are, but I played basketball at the 14th Street Y last year (http://www.14streety.org/) for $110 for the season (it's less if you belong to the gym). It was once a week for 9 or 10 games I think, full court, fairly competitive basketball. There are two divisions, and most of the women that play are in their 20s, which some in their 30s.

I believe the spring season is starting next week. When I played last year I didn't come in with a team, just joined a group that needed another body. If you're interested you should give the Y a call. (I'd still be doing it but for a more intense work schedule this year). Feel free to mefi-mail me if you have any questions.
posted by Caz721 at 1:00 PM on April 15, 2009

If video is out for now, I'd really encourage you to get a workout buddy. For awhile a friend and I were walking every night - and the walks were the brisk, sweat-inducing kind - the time went by quickly. We chatted the entire time. It was a lot of fun and we both looked forward to our walks each night.

When that ended due to schedule conflicts for us, I moved to the treadmill where the same brisk walk would take me twice as long to complete and I was miserable the entire time. Someone to talk to really does work wonders.
posted by Sassyfras at 1:08 PM on April 15, 2009

I have a couple of techniques to try to make the time pass. At the beginning of the workout I throw a towel over the display and ignore the time for as long as I can - I listen to the music or watch the TVs for distraction for as long as I can ignore the grind. If I find I can't ignore it anymore, I actually concentrate on the time more - I'll literally count down the seconds / minutes, usually by marking a minute and then counting footsteps or elliptical cycles or whatever. I'll figure out how many steps to a minute and then start to do the math in my head - OK, 10 minutes left, 80 steps per minute, 800 steps left, etc. Or I'll try to figure out exactly what the distance will be when I hit 30 minutes or some other calculation. Helps to distract from the time passing and since my pace is never super constant I have to keep updating it.

The other thing I'll do is sorta HIIT but not really. I'll just speed up for a minute, then slow down for a minute - not killing myself but just ratcheting it up a notch and then taking it easy on the 'recovery'. I find that having those built in cycles helps me concentrate more on the short term 'goal' which prevents me from concentrating on 'will this workout never end'.

Also, I have a pretty big Ipod so there's tons of music on there that I don't listen to that much so sometimes I'll put it on shuffle and make the rule that I have to listen to at least 1 minute of each song before I can skip to the next - it keeps me concentrating on the music ("Why do I have Celine Dion on here?" or "Hey, the Real Genius soundtrack, I forgot I had that!") and if I want to I can listen to a whole song (so three or four minutes) and that makes it go even faster.
posted by macfly at 1:11 PM on April 15, 2009

I sometimes break it into "okay, just one more song" , or "two more songs", or "you've done it for 10 minutes already, only 20 more to go".

I set the goal option on the elliptical to x number of calories, rather than y number of minutes. It really helps me push myself because I know that any extra effort I put in will be rewarded with a shorter workout. I think most gym-quality cardio machines have this option, but have only tried it with the elliptical.

It's embarrassing when you're the only one going left when everyone else is going right.

Yeah, it is. But, really, most everyone else is too focused on getting it right themselves to bother laughing at the newbie. You should give a class at least three tries before you decide you will never get it, because, for most part, you *will* get it soon enough.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 1:12 PM on April 15, 2009

Hmmm - rewording your original questions based on it and your responses, it would go something like this: "I hate working out at my gym, but am not willing to change what I do or try a different gym, so what should I do?" The 2 obvious possibilities are: 1) Suck it up and just do it, like everyone else at your gym; or 2) Quit.

As a third option, I recommend building a workout area in your house. You can get a good bench from Craigslist for next to nothing, and a good weight set from your local big box store (Sport Chalet and the like) for $140, and a heavy bag for $100. Between that and some body weight exercises, you can accomplish nearly everything you can do in the gym -- especially as a beginner. You'll also be able to watch TV or whatever it is you like to do at home while working out, which might help.

Well, what's the point of them for those who can keep up then?

I work out 3-4 times per week. It sucks. I'd much rather be doing something else with that time. However, looking good, feeling good, and being healthy are worth the effort to me. My life is infinitely better since I started working out. Maybe the benefits just aren't worth it to you -- and there's nothing wrong with that.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:18 PM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Have you tried reading a book on a bike? This is something that I like to do when the opportunity presents itself.

Also yoga is pretty good exercise, so I wouldn't rule it out especially if the gym offers it for free in addition to your membership!
posted by shownomercy at 1:20 PM on April 15, 2009

If you can afford a new video playing mp3 player, you can afford a bike decent enough to learn on.

Your description is me dead on. I never got in shape until I started biking to work. Even only doing 14 miles a day made a huge difference. Not only is it decent workout, it saves you time (you're getting to where you need to be WHILE exercising) and it's FUN. Even in the rain.
posted by toekneebullard at 1:24 PM on April 15, 2009

I'm sure it's been said a few times already, but you are trying to force yourself to enjoy something you don't. You really need to find a physical activity that you enjoy doing, otherwise you are just wasting your money and time. I sense a real negative tone to your posts, which is probably what is stopping you from finding a real solution.
posted by scarello at 1:27 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I second reading a book (or a magazine); I thought an elliptical would be too jerky to allow me to read comfortably, but it's not. (Look for paperback books with slightly larger print.)

The other thing I do is to set myself little mini goals. So I'll work out fairly comfortably for five minutes and then calculate how far I'll go, distance-wise, if I maintain that pace for the full thirty minutes (or whatever). So, say that I see that I've gone 300 steps in five minutes (I'm just making these numbers up). If I keep at the same pace, I'll go 1800 steps over thirty minutes -- so I'll step up the pace and tell myself to aim for 2000 steps over the whole time. Then every couple of minutes, I'll check to see how I'm doing against my goal. If it's too easy, I'll adjust the goal upwards again. The aim is to give yourself a goal that you'll just barely be able to achieve within the allotted time. You're doing calculations in your head, so it's a bit distracting, and the goal-setting keeps you focused.

(I don't know if that makes sense, but it works for me.)
posted by cider at 1:35 PM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Did I miss someone else giving the incredibly obvious answer of... magazines? It's how I make it through my time on the elliptical. Distracts the brain from the torturous exercising. I vary it from trashy celebrity crap to long articles in The Atlantic Monthly. There's often a pile of magazines at my gym, the contents of which change regularly, so it's even free.
posted by amelioration at 1:35 PM on April 15, 2009

Like you, I find working out to be SO FREAKING BORING. I tried all sorts of things, but ultimately I gave up working out opting instead for NIA fitness/dance classes which are lower cardio, but SO much more enjoyable that I actually go twice a week. It helped me lose 20lbs and keep it off for 3 years -- which is more than I could say for my stupid boring workouts.
posted by arielmeadow at 2:09 PM on April 15, 2009

One thing that makes a BIG difference for me is covering the clock on the machine. It's incredibly depressing to see "I still have 40 minutes of this hell to go through." Instead, I set a random playlist and then only allow myself to look at the clock to see if I'm almost done after about 10 songs.
posted by paultopia at 2:14 PM on April 15, 2009

OP: my muscles sort of ache... I don't like that feeling.

How much of an ache? If you're a beginner, you should start really light so as not to hurt yourself. Try turning down the level on your machine or decreasing resistance. It shouldn't ACHE so much as it should just burn lightly. Read about lactic acid to find out why.
posted by cranberrymonger at 2:34 PM on April 15, 2009

Reading. I read books on an elliptical all the time.
posted by chundo at 2:42 PM on April 15, 2009

I'd agree with the rock climbing. Great workout - and you have to concentrate so it's not boring. As for the rest, just cycle everywhere. That covers your cardio. And if you want good abs, do a 100 situps every night. Boring, but doesn't take long.
posted by rhymer at 2:55 PM on April 15, 2009

What are your fitness goals, long-term and short-term? How are you measuring your progress towards them? Are you making progress? If you can't answer these questions, that's your biggest problem. Goal-less workouts are bound to be boring.

And if you can focus on reading a magazine/watching TV while working out, you're not working hard enough. Effective exercise is difficult.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:33 PM on April 15, 2009

I know how you feel. I've quit gyms in misery before. But I still do cardio. I know a lot of people will consider this goofy, but I love DDR. I go back to it again and again, trying to get better at the challenges. It's so engaging, I don't even notice the sweat.

Dance isn't quite the same, but it's a free alternative.
posted by heatherfl at 5:25 PM on April 15, 2009

I can't think of anything worse than being at the gym. Deadly dull, particularly horrifically boring stuff like running on a treadmill. (I mean, seriously: running in circles on a track is boring enough, but running without going anywhere at all is my personal definition of hell.)

Like others here, rock climbing and bike-commuting are my answers. Rock climbing is great for strength, and unlike stuff like pull-ups or lifting weights or what have you, there's a point: get to the top of a challenging rock wall following a particular path, with all kinds of different paths providing different challenges. Plus, unlike team sports, you only need to coordinate with one person - none at all if you're just bouldering.

I also definitely agree that if you can afford a video Zen, you can find an acceptable and affordable used bike. Learning isn't hard - it's not like you'll need to pay for a class - and once you're using the bike as transportation, you'll be saving money on gas and you'll be getting your exercise _while_ getting wherever you need to go, which saves time too. I do 12 miles a day when going to work (unless the weather's really crappy); it's definitely been a great way to get some exercise.
posted by ubersturm at 5:28 PM on April 15, 2009

Those earphones you have won't cancel out background noise. Nthing getting foam rubber inserts. Prices vary wildly, from the hundreds of dollars to the cheap $10 or so pair I have, but I think they're great.
posted by zardoz at 5:40 PM on April 15, 2009

Can you ask the gym people to turn the music down? If you're not comfortable asking in person, leave a note in the "suggestion" box.
posted by radioamy at 6:13 PM on April 15, 2009

I have these headphones: Koss SPARKPLUG

They fit inside my ears and don't fall out while I exercise.
The best part is how much sound they block out. My mp3 player volume setting goes from 0 (mute) - 30 (loudest). With headphones like yours, when working out I'd pretty much have to have it at 25 in order to hear everything. With the Sparkplug, if my mp3 player is louder than 5 my ears will hurt.
posted by Nerro at 7:20 PM on April 15, 2009

I find that I can happily read a trashy gossip mag during each half-hour of a cardio session, and I barely even notice the time passing by.

There's no particular reason why the mag should be trashy & glossy, except that:

- My housemates buy a few a week, so there's a ready, free supply.
- They have plenty of pics & captions. The more text, the (slightly) harder to read.
- They contain some eyecandy, but of a kind acceptable in a mixed gym.

Other mags that also work OK for me:

- Health & fitness (eg Mens' Health)
- Diet & recipes (inspiration for meals)
- Practical mags (eg home renovations, gardening, Volkswagens - choose whatever floats your boat)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:00 PM on April 15, 2009

I used to be something of a gym rat. Since running in place in a crowded room isn't my favorite thing to do, I am sometimes desperate to find ways to motivate myself. However, I must say that after I "hit the wall" the first time, entering into that painless, euphoric state that makes you actually WANT to keep running, cardio didn't seem quite so tortuous. Still, for those rough patches, the following help me:

1) Cover the digital readout with my towel to prevent myself from counting down the minutes or miles to the end of my workout (why torture myself further?)

2 Vary the speed and the incline to challenge myself with new fitness goals

3) Think about problems I have and imagine myself resolving them through various methods

4) I have DJ'd in the past so I created playlists based on BPM for my warmup, workout, andcooldown speeds. I would choose the list that fit my tolerance for the day. Long and slow, short and fast, etc.

Running with someone else never worked for me. I like to get into the zone and stay in my own head.
posted by Piscean at 8:57 PM on April 15, 2009

Response by poster: The Zen is secondhand, an old model, and was a gift. I have nowhere to even put a bike, let alone afford a bike, safety equipment, helmet, and training wheels.

I used to read there, but read it makes your workouts worse/less efficient, so I stopped. Tonight I found a magazine that I hadn't read yet and that was okay. I covered the display with the magazine also. I don't think that would help without an associated distraction, but in combination with the reading, it did. I'm doing this to lose some weight and get in better shape, but resistance training isn't as boring

I think I am going to read more, watch video once I am able, try those earbuds Nerro suggested and maybe give finding a workout buddy on Craigslist a shot. DDR is something I've also looked into and may try if I can borrow a pad.

Thank you.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:37 PM on April 15, 2009

Your favorite tv show on an ipod or other video playing device. It's the ONLY thing that works for me.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:45 AM on April 16, 2009

I truly feel your pain. Here are some thoughts:

- For music, try Podrunner. The MP3s are set up by BPM, and there is an interval and steady version. They are all downloadable from the site, no iTunes needed.

- try everything you can, once. I find a good aim to be to find something that challenges you a little, then once it challenges you less, move to one you found too challenging before. The suck part of a workout routine is that you have to keep at a point that's challenging if you want to improve. Personally when I am at a level of fitness I like, I stop moving to more challenging workouts and stick at that level.

Consider talking to the instructors before or after class. Most I have found are only too happy to talk about my goals, any adjustments I need, and recommendations they might have for other classes or activities.

Lack of money etc:
Try bodyweight exercises at home! Squats, lunges, pushups, crunches. Set a goal and work towards it. I am a bit of a hypocrite here because I can't push myself (I have to have an instructor telling me to keep going, or I stop).

Cheap weights: pets, children, one-gallon bottles of water.

Can you focus on your breathing? Just that, nothing else? I find it sometimes helps, but I don't know if that is too much like zoning out.
posted by subbes at 9:46 AM on April 16, 2009

I completely solved this problem for myself. It's kinda like the DDR solution. I really like Guitar Hero/Rock Band. Plus, played on a high enough level, it's hard. I have to concentrate to do it well. So I bought myself a mini elliptical machine from amazon for about a hundred bucks. Now I play Rock Band while I'm on the elliptical and it's great. It took a day or two to get my balance right, but now it's second nature. And Rock Band requires enough of my concentration that I really don't have time to think about how bored I am. Play a fast song, and you'll naturally move quickly.
posted by brgale at 2:54 PM on April 16, 2009

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