I hate working out -- how to fix this?
March 4, 2011 4:29 PM   Subscribe

How do I stop HATING working out?

I've looked through several years of questions about going to the gym and working out. I've also read discussions of similar topics elsewhere in the past. But I haven't yet figured out the solution to this problem, so I'm giving it one last-ditch effort here...

I need to work out. But I really and truly hate it. Most of the discussions I've read have said things like "after you get into the habit you'll get addicted" or "once you get there and changed, it's ok" or "you need to do weights instead of cardio because it's more interesting." The thing is, I haven't found that to be true for me. I have seen physical results, but I don't actually *feel* any better like everyone swears I will.

Several years ago, I lived in an apartment building with a gym. For nearly a year, I forced myself to go, most of the time about 4 days a week though for a while I did 6 (I found it easier to keep up the habit if I did it every day than alternating). During that time I mostly did cardio, with some weights. I hated every minute of it, dreaded it every day, and never got anywhere remotely addicted. Eventually I stopped when I ran into a stretch of time where scheduling it was hard and never went back.

Fast forward a few years, I get a new job and it comes with a free membership to a VERY nice local gym. Again, I try going on a pretty regular basis, probably for about a year and a half. This time for a few months I just do weights because I figure it's really the cardio I hate. The rest of the time, I do a combination of cardio and weights. Still, I hate it all. Get no joy from it whatsoever.

Maybe 9 months to a year after that, we bought a really nice (high end Precor) elliptical trainer, mostly for my wife (who does use it), but I also thought I'd give it a go. You know what happened -- 9 months or so of agony, I gave up.

Playing sports has been a solution that's been proposed, but ever since grade school PE, I've greatly disliked playing sports (if I had to choose between sports and the gym, I'd choose the gym any day of the week. If you threw the dentist in as an option I'd rather go to the dentist than either...). Similarly, I don't like running or bicycling (and I don't live in a place very conducive to it anyway).

But the thing is, I do want to be in shape. I want to find a solution to this. But it's so hard to force myself to do something I truly hate, and I've kept at it long enough multiple times that I know it's not going to magically get better unless I do something different.

Am I totally alone in this? It sometimes feels like I am... Any thoughts?
posted by sharding to Health & Fitness (60 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Gyms don't have a monopoly on exercise or fitness. Find a sport or activity that you actually enjoy doing that gets you moving. Join a softball/soccer/basketball league, pick up fencing, or a martial art, or take dance classes.

If you don't enjoy it, you're not going to make it a habit. Find something that you find fun, and it will be a lot easier to keep it up.
posted by ambrosia at 4:33 PM on March 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I hate exercising too. I have started doing 20 minutes a day (on the elliptical ). It's not much, but it's a hell of a lot better than nothing. My aim in doing this was to just get into a routine. I hope to do more than 20 minutes a day eventually but I'm not rushing, I don' t care if it takes 5 years to work up to 30 minutes a day.

I still don't want to go but it's getting easier to go because I know it will be over fast. So far so good, I'm losing weight and sleeping better and feeling more energetic. I listen to a podcast as I go to keep entertained. I have been doing this for two months now and it feels like something that I can stick with.
posted by sadtomato at 4:40 PM on March 4, 2011

I watch TV on my iPhone while I'm on the treadmill, which works as a bribe. Could you do that? I allow myself to buy good shows on iTunes, so I'm not watching any old crap like I'd get if I were watching the gym's TVs.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:40 PM on March 4, 2011

Distract yourself. Find some exercise you don't loathe, and get music, podcasts, magazines, books, TV or movies to focus on while you exercise. Make exercising about doing that other thing, and hey, you happen to be working out while you're listening to that podcast series you never had the time to enjoy. Some gyms even have "theater rooms" full of treadmills, elliptical machines and stationary bikes, where you can select the movie if you're the only one in there.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:42 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't actually say what it is about exercising (or playing sports) that you hate. Can you be more specific about what you don't like about it?

For me, I need a sense of accomplishment after I'm done. If I do 30 minutes on the treadmill (or whatever) it doesn't feel like I've accomplished anything past getting a sweat on, and I resent the time I spent doing that. But if I scramble up a hill hiking so's I'm out of breath at the top, I'm on top of a mountain. I've attained that. When I go out cycling I keep track of the miles, and when I'm done I have something to show for my efforts. Picking things to do that reward you with some sense of accomplishment might help you hate doing them less.

Maybe you can do non-standard exercising things to keep you interested. Swing kettlebells around. Do body-mass exercises like pull-ups so you can keep track of how well you manipulate your own body. Spend some time in front of the mirror after you work out, and appreciate the results of your effort.

Also, it sounds like you may need to find yourself a gym you think you could enjoy. Having access to a nice gym on the cheap is good, but if you can't appreciate it on those merits alone it's worth finding a space you can be completely comfortable in.
posted by carsonb at 4:51 PM on March 4, 2011

Because you say you've hated sports since "grade school PE" that makes me think you hate sports because of some embarrassment/shame factor about being uncoordinated or unathletic, being judged, and being out-competed?

If I'm not totally off base with that, maybe you could try a sport that's not at all competitive. Honestly, can you think of ANY physical activity you might find fun? Rock climbing? Surfing? Swimming? Yoga? Bouncing on a trampoline? Do you have any kid you can use as an excuse to go to a playground with a rad jungle gym and chase each other around? Might be worthwhile to give something like that a shot.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:52 PM on March 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I used to share an office with an ultramarathoner. That's 100 miles over the course of one long grueling day. That's training runs that are as long as multiples of regular marathons.

I once asked him why he does it, considering the pain and general discomfort of the actual act. His answer was it sucked while doing it worse than just about anything else he had ever done to himself. The payoff was afterwords. The sense of accomplishment and deep satisfaction at a job well done.

Most people find something that gives them both the afterglow satisfaction and pleasure during the act. I see it as an investment in how I want to perform in my day to day life and in the kind of life I want to have when I'm older (seen far too many relatives just wither away or unable to cope with the physical demands of regular life).

It will only get harder as you get older. Might as well start today. If that's not enough motivation for you, there's nothing any of us can do or say to change that.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 4:56 PM on March 4, 2011

Can you be any more specific about why you hate it? What makes it unpleasant? Is it boring to you? Does it hurt or feel bad while you're doing it? Do you feel lousy afterwards?

To answer your question: no, you're not totally alone. I, too, would rather have a root canal than exercise. I eventually found out that my particular medical issues include physiological responses to exercise which make me feel miserable. These reactions were subtle enough in the early stages that I thought it was just lack of determination. Finally it became clear that exercise consistently and incontrovertibly makes me feel worse, not better. Could you have any medical issues affecting your response to exercise?

Are there types of exercise that you haven't tried? I can get away with slow yoga-type stuff, which actually can do quite a lot for muscle strength and in-shape-ness. Maybe Dancing? jumping rope? fencing? Walking instead of running?
posted by Corvid at 4:59 PM on March 4, 2011

Exercise is hard.
posted by tiburon at 5:01 PM on March 4, 2011 [6 favorites]

A lot of people find gyms to be excruciatingly boring and depressing places. Unless I have a really good book to read, I pretty much hate any kind of stationary cardio machine. Similarly, i find the pacing of weights makes the workout feel ENDLESS and I can never keep a routine going. My point is that hating the gym does not mean you are strange, and it doesn't mean you can't find a way to exercise and be in shape. Many people here are going to tell you that you need to find the kind of exercise you enjoy and do that. They are right. Here are some suggestions for things to try:

1. Exercise outside. I gather from your other posts that you're about to move. What better way to get to know your new neighborhood than to take walks? Really, walking is very very good for you, especially for your joints. Try to walk fast some, and occasionally up a hill to get your heart rate up a bit. Try to use good posture while you walk. If you walk a lot, you'll start to meet your neighbors and make friends too.

2. Give running another shot. I HATED running too when I started. It made my body hurt, I always felt winded, even when I was in ok shape from other kinds of exercise, and I had trouble staying motivated to keep going if nobody was watching me. It took running very very regularly for about a year and started running races. I am not a competitive person when it comes to athletics and I too hate hate hate sports (for reasons that are perhaps similar to your grade school PE issues) but i find that I really like the social aspect of running. Most runners I know are really nice and surprisingly nonjudgmental about people's fitness levels, and running with people is a good way to get the team-ish group exercise feeling without the jockiness of sports.

3. Swimming is the only exercise that reliably gives me a "runner's" high. Could be for you too. And you're moving to southern california. you can swim outside year round! Wow!

3. Do some of the nonstandard exercises people have mentioned above. Yoga has done a lot for making me feel more comfortable and in control of my body during all physical activities. If you can find a climbing gym, rock climbing is a terrific alternative to weights, and to me it really feels like exercise disguised as hanging out with a friend. Try other things too! A dance class? Martial arts? Vigorous daily gardening?
posted by juliapangolin at 5:05 PM on March 4, 2011

Do you like dancing? Do you have a Wii? Apparently (some) Wii dancing game is a serious work-out. Co-workers have talked about how they sweat during it like nothing else they generally do, but they don't realize because it's fun.

Personally, I like the sports pack with boxing, and Wii Sports Resort sword-fighting is ridiculous but so much fun. Then you can relax and fly over the island.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:12 PM on March 4, 2011

This is going to sound counter-intuitive, but is the problem maybe that you're not working out hard enough?

I was having a very similar problem recently, especially with cardio, where exercising at the machine's recommended intensity for someone my age left me feeling just kind of achy but not at all good.

Now I'm working out harder, and oddly, enjoying it more. It's not just that I'm improving my fitness (which is satisfying) but I physically feel really good after a hard workout and for quite some time afterwards. It seems to take a pretty high level of effort to get that "runner's high" thing going, but when it happens, it's pretty nice.
posted by FishBike at 5:15 PM on March 4, 2011 [10 favorites]

I don't like gym exercise either. One thing that made it tolerable and even somewhat enjoyable was music. I'd get fun eurotrash dance music that had a beat at the speed I wanted to... ellipticate? and that would help me keep going. Plus I'd daydream while listening to music I like. So if you can find something like that to distract you, that might help. If not music, perhaps that could be your time to listen to audiobooks.

I also once did a stint of swimming and found I really enjoyed that. If you have that option and haven't tried it, give it a go. I'd get lost in the rhythm of the slow, repetitive strokes and daydream away. And then I'd feel excellent afterwards. Plus the pool is just naturally fun for me since childhood summers were all about the pool.

If you can somehow incorporate exercise into something else you have to do anyway, that's almost a gimme. I'm rarely particularly interested in taking my bike out just to exercise, but riding it to work is a way to get to work and get exercise at the same time. And then I don't have to worry about trying to block off time in my evening routine to exercise since I've already done it. Plus, since it has a purpose and a destination, it feels less like exercise. I know you don't like riding as an exercise, but maybe you could tolerate it as a commute.

You've covered that you don't care for sports, so the "do something you otherwise like" angle would seem to be out. But what about nontraditional sports? We used to do pick-up frisbee golf in college. That was fun and easy going yet took you all over the neighborhood and gave you some moderate exertion on hard throws. Rock climbing isn't quite a sport and it's not competitive yet it's neat and challenging. There are indoor rock climbing places.

What about just some exercises at home that don't involve any gym equipment? Ever seen that couch-to-100-pushups or whatever that is? There's lots of stuff to do at home if you are more comfortable at home. My uncle jumps rope on his back porch, just enjoying looking out into the trees and zoning out while he get's awesome cardio.

Yoga isn't exactly weights and cardio, but it's physical activity and stretching, which would at least be something. And it's a calm and peaceful environment. Maybe your gym has it.

If you've got all this grrrr built up in you, how about something like a kickboxing class? Take out your frustrations on the bag. Kick the crap out of it punch it. Pretend it's the gym membership guy. Spar in the ring. My brother took a boxing class for a long time just for the exercise and really liked it.

You've got a free gym membership, so you lose nothing if you don't use it. If you can find something tolerable somewhere else, do that instead.

"Good luck," he said from his couch.
posted by Askr at 5:16 PM on March 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

it's so hard to force myself to do something I truly hate, and I've kept at it long enough multiple times that I know it's not going to magically get better

I'm sure you'll see lots of different suggestions that worked for the people advocating them, and they may or may not work for you. I'm going to assume they don't work for you, in that you try everything and still end up hating exercise. That's OK. The reason that's OK is because being a fat, ugly, out-of-shape piece of shit feels a whole lot worse. So maybe you slack for a year. Go ahead if you hate it so much. Keep doing no exercise until you can't stand to look at yourself in the mirror.

It's like with smoking. You can't quit smoking unless you want to quit smoking. If that desire isn't there, it doesn't matter what tricks you try and pull.

I would suggest that the problem is self-solving and not to worry about it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:21 PM on March 4, 2011

I try to integrate exercise into stuff I like. For instance, I park far away from the gate and then walk around the zoo for a few hours, taking photos. Same with parks - I can get a 10-mile hike in, get some good photos, and enjoy myself.
posted by SMPA at 5:22 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you sociable? Workout buddy?

I found myself constantly texting while working out because I get bored and lonely.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:22 PM on March 4, 2011

Like NoRelationToLea and fishbike have said, sometimes working out harder actually makes you feel better than if you just get to the point of a light sweat. There's a certain sense of resolution one gets when you get through the point at which it's hard to breathe and your legs are hard to move. Not everyone reacts the same way, but I feel engaged when I'm approaching a limit, and after the workout, I feel a bit euphoric.
posted by ignignokt at 5:29 PM on March 4, 2011

Is there an activity you really enjoyed doing as a kid?

I loved roller skating, did it every chance I got for years and years and years, and was OVERJOYED when I discovered there was a roller derby league in my area. I have no problem whatsoever about playing/practicing/working HARD 2 hours a day, three days a week, and it's been two and a half years now.

(I still hate the practices where we only do strength training and jogging and plyometrics and other such exercises, and I still will not drag myself to a gym on non-practice days, though.)
posted by Lucinda at 5:30 PM on March 4, 2011

This sounds wacky, but I work while I'm on the elliptical or the treadmill. I go over patient charts and do some dictation (my medical transcriptionist must think i'm insane). Because I know I'm being productive and my mind is engaged, the miles fly by.

I second the idea that you might just not be working hard enough. It should be work.

Last idea, set some sort of finite fitness goal. Pick a 10k to run, aim to do as many pull ups as years old you are, something like that. Having a sense of achievement is pretty great.

If all else fails, pick the treadmill behind the hot guy (or girl) and at least enjoy the view!
posted by Nickel Pickle at 5:30 PM on March 4, 2011

i vote for a class. but you'll have to be picky. i know what you mean about hating pe and probably, as other posters have mentioned, the class thing will skeeve you out as a reminder of that. but if you find the right class, i promise it will be nothing like pe. i got back into the go-to-the-gym thing by joining a running class. the very lowest level. it was so low-pressure and doable, i never felt awkward. and by doing what the class directed, i got to tune out....which is what i hate about the gym: figuring out what to do, when to go, how much to do. the class had it all outlined and when class was over, i was done. so i liked the running class-- i think fleet feet runs this sort of class all over the country and in cities, you'll find groups like the new york road runners doing them. i also have enjoyed water aerobics, which previously i would have stereotyped as being way too easy and not worth the time. i have avoided aerobics and 'boot camp' type classes based on my own prejudices, but maybe others will argue against me with real experience. i hopeyou find something; i hate it all too but i have really recognized the benefits as i've gotten a little older these past few years....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 5:40 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm with the OP on this one. Gyms instill a fundamental sense of self-loathing in me that I really don't care to pay 7,000 yen a month for. I can hate myself at home for free. I went to the gym almost daily, and I never felt better about myself, never felt that "renewed energy" people claim you're supposed to get, and would usually walk out asking myself what I had done to want to punish myself like this.

Working out at home is a futile pursuit as well, in that there are a thousand other things I would rather do at home than exercise. And, of course, the whole host of psychological hurdles - I hated gym class as a kid, I feel immensely uncomfortable working out with other people, and I am convinced the entire "get in shape" industry is a moneymaking scheme designed to draw in suckers like me with body image issues.

There is only one thing that ever made me want to go out and do something physical: when I moved to Osaka, I started doing morning walks, about an hour or so before work. The purpose of these walks was to explore my new city. I would go out, choose a new route, come home and map it on Google Earth. It was great fun.

The nanosecond I had pretty much mapped out the area within walking distance, I stopped wanting to go out. The lesson learned: I will not exercise simply for the sake of exercising. I need another motivation, one which has nothing to do with this meat puppet I've been saddled with [1] by birth and evolution. Now, of course, I have a new job with four hours of commuting time, so even if I wanted to resume my walks it just isn't possible.

So maybe you can learn from my failure: find an ulterior motive that has an immediate payoff completely unrelated to the exercise you're doing, which at the same time can best be accomplished by doing something physical. Good luck.


[1] As an off-topic note - the sooner the Singularity comes, the happier I will be. Pure information intelligence is the way to go!
posted by MShades at 5:42 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to think outside the gym, consider trying out a martial arts class. I happened to start taking karate classes and it's turned out to be the one form of exercise I've ever been able to enjoy. I used to go for stretches of time when I'd force myself to go slog away on the elliptical for an hour or so. I'd try listening to music or reading, but I was still miserable. I'd come home just... tired. Karate has been different--I go to class and have a ton of fun, and then I come home in a great mood. I finally understand that endorphins thing!

One other thing that helps is that I go with a friend. I used to think that having an exercise buddy would be weird (I just felt sweaty and gross when I went to the gym and used the elliptical, not really in the mood to hang out with anyone). However, taking classes with someone I know has been really fun and motivating--we encourage each other during class (and guilt each other into going when we're tired/busy).
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:51 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you tried hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, gardening, orienteering, bird watching, home renovation? Something that has a purpose to it and that engages your mind might be more interesting to you than the gym. I find the gym really boring but I do all of the above and stay in pretty good shape.
posted by fshgrl at 5:59 PM on March 4, 2011

I like working out, but I would not like if if I didn't have good music to listen to. Are you listening to music?

You could also just try walking outside- being outside is more invigorating and exciting than working out in a gym.
posted by bearette at 6:12 PM on March 4, 2011

I think you need to explore WHY you want to be fit. What, specifically do you want out of it? You obviously feel that it is something you "need" to do for some reason. What is the cause of the compulsion to do this thing you really don't want to do. Because you want to be healthy? Because you want to live a long life? Because you want other people to know you work out? Or maybe you feel you need to workout because you want to have a nice body...you want to have a nice physique. These are all fine reasons...but whatever the reason behind it...you need to figure out. Not just some vague "fitness" reason. Here are examples:

1) I want to gain 15 pounds of muscle
2) I want to be able to do 3 sets of 10 pullups
3) I want to be able to pass an Army Ranger Fitness Test (google it)
4) I want to be able to run a mile in 7 minutes
5) I want to lose 15 pounds of mid section weight
6) I want to see a 6-pack


Once you've figured out just what you want out of "fitness" - then really focus on getting there. Go FULL TILT into it. Pay the money and get a trainer or join a fitness challenge. Go overboard. Once you have someone who is there to guide you towards your goal...skipping out won't be so easy. A) You're paying for it. B) You're accountable to someone for your goals, and its likely you will be worked out in ways you haven't before.

Make it a goal oriented thing and make yourself accountable to someone. You might hate every minute of it...but you will be working towards something that you do want to get out of it. Once you finally get there...you can reassess if its not for you.
posted by jnnla at 6:13 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Try the elliptical again, at the maximum intensity you can possibly take, with whatever your favorite beat-heavy music is on your iPod. Start short but intense - whatever you can take before you just have to stop - ten minutes, twelve, whatever. You'll get better results with short intense workouts than long mild ones, and they're a lot less discouraging because they're shorter and show results faster. If you can build up to 25 minutes on the thing most days, you'll find your body is grateful and you won't be wasting a bunch of time.

I personally swore off gyms and classes years ago. In order for workouts to have any results for me I need to be at sweaty-grunty intensity and that is not something I can do in public. Plus I hate it so much, I just can't keep at it for long. But 25 minutes of maximal intensity on the Stairmaster has kept me in reasonable shape for years (and when I don't do it for a few months both my mood and my figure are noticeably worse.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:14 PM on March 4, 2011

I hate the gym, and I hate sports. I don't know if your school gym experience was like mine, but everything we did was a team sport like baseball or volleyball. Everyone in my class was on a varsity team and I completely sucked. It was a humiliating experience.

I have tried everything to stay in shape. Cardio (ugh), weight lifting (also ugh), rock climbing (too expensive), yoga (booooring), fencing (eh), Wii Fit (dumb), the list goes on and on. What's finally been working for me is taekwondo. The people in my class are kind and patient, and it's actually fun. We work out and stretch during every class, only now I'm not doing push-ups to lose weight or make my arms look better, I'm doing push-ups so I can punch through a freakin' board. I'm not stretching so, I don't know, I can feel better when I'm old, I'm stretching so that someday I can kick high enough to score points on tall people when I'm sparring.

Maybe martial arts won't be your thing, but it's been much easier for me to be fit when I have a reason to be fit. And "looking prettier" or "feeling better" have never really done it for me. I only kind of care how I look, and feeling (a little bit) better is not enough to motivate me to do something I hate for hours every week.

So, my suggestion is to keep trying new things. Maybe you'll fall in love with curling or maybe water polo, but you'll have something to work towards and the fitness will be sort of a side-effect rather than the end goal.
posted by Kicky at 6:20 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Agony" suggests you're either overdoing it or have mental hangups. If it physically hurts to exercise (joint pain, chest pain or muscle cramps), take it easier. If it's frustrating trying something new, well, Feynman said "why do you care what other people think?"

I've only had success losing weight with dieting and exercise at the same time. I love the high of eating a lot, but food tastes better when I'm hungrier. I also like the high of really using my full strength (sprinting, heavy lifting) since I can't usually do that.
posted by sninctown at 6:24 PM on March 4, 2011

Seconding the idea of listening to podcasts, etc. I like to listen to audiobooks. My husband is currently playing a movie he's always wanted to see on his smartphone. He's ONLY permitted to watch it when he works out--right there's his motivation.
posted by tully_monster at 6:24 PM on March 4, 2011

Oh, I so identify. Hate it all. But. I nonetheless hike a few times a week for my cardio. I can't tell you I ever look forward to it - the best part is always when I get back into my car for the way back (or my bike). A few things I do to make it a bit better. One, do it with someone else - I do it with my wife; she points out I have to stay in shape, because if I croak of a heart-attack and leave her a widow, I'll be an asshole; I find that helpful. We work out together most of the time. Second and most important. THINK. This is the best distraction - better than music for me. When I'm deeply involved in thought, the workout goes much faster. There are so few occasions in the day for sustained thought - showers are too short. Hiking workouts are my time to ponder the big questions, formulate plans, get inspiration on cracking a problem and so forth. This is precious. And - to me - even more valuable than any health benefits. That is the very best advice I can give you - use it for time to THINK. Good luck!
posted by VikingSword at 6:28 PM on March 4, 2011

I don't like most forms of exercise because they're boring. But I got a Wii and (don't laugh) Dance Dance Revolution 3, and find that tolerable, because it's mentally as well as physically challenging. Although I'd like it more if there were a wider selection of music; the ~50 songs on it get old faster than you might think. I also enjoy hiking when the weather's good.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:36 PM on March 4, 2011

I put my exercise bike in front of my XBox.
posted by GilloD at 7:31 PM on March 4, 2011

Excuse me, but if typical condo amenities represent what cardio is for you, it's no wonder you're bored!

Digression. I too had a deep and vital hatred of gym class. (In 2nd grade, actually, my PE teacher gave me HOMEWORK. 'Try to run around the block just once, ok?' And in high school, I only got the 51% required to pass - and graduate - by bribing the gym teacher with coffees. Horrible, angular, permed women, all.)

Vanity forced me into working out. Like you, I found running on the dreadmill awful. Submitting to cheery instructors was awful. Showers, however posh, were usually made awful by errant globs of other people's hair.

For whatever reason, I found myself interested in basic gym science (though I'm probably wrong about most of it). Got into planning workouts, measuring goals. Then I took a dance class, because music was the only thing that could organize my feet, when I was a kid; there, I was so focussed on being graceful, I forgot I was working. And then I met some great people who were outdoorsy and forgiving about my shiteness on a canoe. (Sociability + the awesomeness of nature were the pulls there.)

Somewhere in the midst of all that, I found myself enjoying movement for its own sake. Finally got into being young and bodied.

Saying all that to provide an example of how exploring different activities, or investing them with your own interests can make things bearable. Work yourself into the workout.
posted by nelljie at 7:35 PM on March 4, 2011


Great exercise which works most of your body. It also feels badass to lift really heavy weight off the ground. It's also perfect for making small incremental goals for adding weight to the bar. Take it easy to start, you've be sore the day after your first try (DOMS), but it is addictive.

Just make sure you don't use poor form and hurt yourself.
posted by Homo economicus at 7:47 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is there anyway you can take many different types of lessons/classes? Karate/martial arts on Monday, horseback riding lessons on Tuesdays, diving lessons on Wednesday, tennis on Thursdays, and a mountain biking trek on Fridays.

Learning a skill and progressing - having some skill to show for your efforts may just make exercise not only tolerable but fun. I really don't like exercise for the sake of exercise. Ok, I hate it. But knowing that you're getting better at horseback riding and progressing, knowing that by attending karate classes you'll be rank promoting is really a great incentive and makes it fun and interesting and oh yeah - I'm exercising! The variety as well makes you look forward to each day of exercise. It's not the same old every day.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:50 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Walking is definitely exercise.

Anyway, editorial comments aside, the point is that your question can only be answered by you. I exercise about 5 times a week, hard, and the only reason I do so is because I found a couple of things that I really like doing. I mean, without having to convince myself that I like doing them. I'm not even going to say what they are, it doesn't matter.

Go find something you actually like doing. It might be something you don't think you're supposed to like.
posted by facetious at 7:55 PM on March 4, 2011

The late Jack LaLanne, who died last month aged 96, said that he disliked working out but he did it because he loved the results.

If you dislike working out, you have two options: (1) find something you like doing, or (2) do it anyway because the results are worth the effort. Without knowing why you "need" to work out, it's hard to give more specific advice about what to do. You might find that an active hobby like geocaching, glassblowing, gardening, etc. will give you the physical activity you need while allowing you to focus on the purpose, not the workout.

But you might just need to bite the bullet and decide that you'll do it, even though you hate it, because you like the results.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:11 PM on March 4, 2011

Response by poster: Hi all. Sorry for letting this go so long without answering your questions back to me -- I didn't expect so many replies so quickly! Thank you all for your input.

What do I dislike about it? There are various things I dislike about different types of exercise, but the main one that is common across all forms is that I don't like the physical feeling. I don't like being sweaty, I find the feeling of muscle exertion to be very unpleasant, and I don't like feeling "jostled around." I know that all probably sounds silly, but it's the best way I can describe it. When exercising, I'm not in pain, but I'm supremely uncomfortable. I feel like crap afterward, usually for at least an hour or two. After that hour or two is up, I'm back to feeling "normal." I never get the more energy, better sleep, etc. others claim to have. My average feeling through the day is the same (again, this is after sometimes keeping up with it for a year) and my feeling after the workout is dramatically worse.

I don't like most sports because I'm not very competitive (odd because I am competitive in business). I like watching sports, but the only sport of MANY I've tried that I've actually liked is golf. Golf is fine, and it provides a nice long walk (spoiled, some might say), but a round of golf takes a long time so it's not a realistic 3-4 times a week workout. Once or twice a month would probably be the limit (and right now I'm at less than once a year).

I'm positive that it's not that I'm not working out hard enough. Over the years that I have tried this, I have gone through periods of working out very intensely, and it's not any better than doing it lightly (actually, it's worse, because it magnifies most of the things I don't like).

The gym itself isn't the problem. For one thing, I actually like my current gym, and sometimes I go there for pleasure. Yes! But what do I do? I hang out in the hot tubs and sauna, and then go home :-) Also, I have the elliptical at home, which is a nice pleasant environment with a huge HDTV, nice stereo, ipod and kindle available, etc. The environment isn't the problem.

It doesn't have anything to do with being embarrassed, etc. -- I can easily workout by myself at home when no one else is around, and the problem is exactly the same.

I think those of you who are saying I will do it because I won't like being fat, or that I'll do it because I'll like the results are giving me too much credit ;-) I haven't worked out for over a year and a half. Maybe two years now. I'm not fat, but obviously I'm not in great shape. While I don't want to look like crap, I'm not convinced that this is the ultimate motivator -- otherwise, there would be no fat people in the world besides those with medical conditions, and I think we all know that's not the case...
posted by sharding at 8:33 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, and to address why I "need" to work out...

I suppose "need" is a bit strong. I use that in the same sense that "I need to brush my teeth." It's something that doctors and other authorities claim everyone should be doing, and I have no reason to doubt them. If it's not the case that "everyone should work out" I guess I should just forget about it....
posted by sharding at 8:35 PM on March 4, 2011

Have you tried talking this over with your doctor? I think disliking jostling and using muscles is somewhat unusual, and if there's any ideas your doc has that could help make exercise feel better, that would make it much easier for you to do. Does swimming slowly or walking trigger those? Because those could both be ways to stay in decent shape while figuring out whether you're going to make the push to work out harder.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:47 PM on March 4, 2011

I also hate hate hate to exercise but don't mind a little exertion when it's disguised as something useful or fun. But it's sometimes hard to justify spending time on fun, so "useful" is probably your best bet. Have a bicycle? Get some good panniers and use your bike instead of your car as much as possible. Lug your groceries home on your bike, cycle to work, run errands around town. The extra time you spend doing things by bike is offset by the time you no longer have to spend at the gym!
posted by Quietgal at 9:11 PM on March 4, 2011

Given your explanation, I'm gonna chime in with the 'swimming!' chorus. It's fairly incredible the workout you can give yourself in the pool, and it's awfully hard to notice when you're sweating under water. Depending on how you do it, the jostling can be kept very low as well.
posted by carsonb at 9:16 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, there's no law that says you must work out.

Are you healthy? If so, why not just keep doing what you are doing?
posted by bearette at 9:22 PM on March 4, 2011

If you are pushing yourself in cardio and still don't have a good feeling afterward, I think that's atypical.

I'm not an expert, but if you were my friend I would say you do not need to "just keep trying." If you're describing your exercise history accurately, you've given it more than the average amount of effort. You simply haven't found what you like yet.

I'm not the person to help you find what you do like. For me, running 40 minutes three times a week gives me the endorphins I need to come back and do it again the next week. In my humble opinion, you could benefit from a trainer who could help you try out some various exercises to find the thing(s) that do make you excited about exercising.

Once again, kudos to you. I think you have tried harder to get into an exercise routine than about 99% of the people I know.
posted by slmorri at 9:27 PM on March 4, 2011

Sports don't have to be competitive. I enjoy just ice skating by myself. For a while I used a heart rate monitor and made this my "workout." I listened to awesome music, got into excellent shape, and had a great time.

Is there anything that gets your heart rate up that you enjoy? If so, get a heart rate monitor, do the thing, and your workout consists simply of keeping your heart rate in a good zone while doing the thing you like for 20-30 minutes every couple days.

I especially enjoy ice skating because it is cold and I don't get as sweaty and nasty as I would if I was running or bicycling or whatever. If you skate hard enough you will eventually sweat, but it's not as miserable to me as running. Of course, there's a steep learning curve when it comes to ice skating, but I bought my first pair of skates when I was 18 or so, so it's certainly something you could pick up later in life. Surely there are other sports/activities like that.

Reading above, swimming looks like a good candidate for sure.
posted by ZeroDivides at 9:31 PM on March 4, 2011

Yeah, swimming. I know I already said swimming, but if you don't like being jostled and sweaty, swimming is the best. The viscosity of the water means that even when you're swimming fast, you're moving slowly relative to air. If you work hard, you can get a great swim workout in 20-30 min and then spend the next half hour in the sauna. Man, does the sauna feel good after a swim. Dude, you are in for some euphoria here.
posted by juliapangolin at 9:33 PM on March 4, 2011

I don't get any joy from it either but I do it because it relaxes me. All day I spend so much time in my head, at the end of the day it's good to lose myself in my body. When I'm working out I'm not thinking about work or anything else, and that is a much needed reprieve. Granted, I need to be working out hard enough to focus on my body. That's why I like group fitness classes. Not the easy dance classes but the ones that combine weights and cardio (i.e., circuit training) and push me to my limit. Otherwise I get bored. I need someone yelling at me to keep me in the room working out. Try it.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 9:43 PM on March 4, 2011

I hate going to gyms -- makes me feel like a gerbil. I get my exercise in the summer doing heavy yard work and landscaping instead. I like sitting on the deck afterwards with a glass of iced tea and being able to survey what I worked on each day... For the life of me, I never have been able to see how an addiction to exercise is any less harmful than addiction to anything else...
posted by northernlightgardener at 10:26 PM on March 4, 2011

I hate the gym too! The only workout I have ever really been able to tolerate is dance - I mostly do ballet, but I've also also done modern, jazz, and flamenco. I've been doing it for years and I'm still completely terrible at it, but I think keep doing it because there's an element of artistic expression to it, rather than just being boring, repetitive gym exercise.
Swimming sounds like it might be the option that comes closest to what you're looking for - unsweaty and un-jostle-y feeling - I just can't get into it because it bores me.
posted by naoko at 12:04 AM on March 5, 2011

Stop exercising and start training.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 2:04 AM on March 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Try CrossFit. Yeah, I'm sure you've already considered and discarded the idea. Based on what you said about why you hate exercise, CrossFit is everything you don't want - you'll sweat, you'll exert yourself, you'll get "jostled around." But here's the thing ... it's addictive. And that's what you do want.

I used to do the weights/run on alternate days things off and on for years. But mostly off. I'd get fired up for some reason or another and throw myself into a new program only to lose interest after a few weeks or months. But I've been doing CrossFit 5 days a week for a year and a half and I rarely miss a workout. I love it.

Actually, that's not true. I hate the workouts. Sucking wind just two rounds into some ten round monster feels like being up at 3am with just an outline of a 20 page paper that's due the next day. Only more physical. Like you're also being hit with a hammer. It's an unholy combination of despair and physical agony that feels like it's never going to end. But then it does. And five minutes later you can breathe again and you're bumping fists and congratulating each other on a great workout and looking forward, I mean really looking forward, to the next one.

There are several elements that fuel CrossFit's addictive nature. Intensity (like FishBike and others said - gets those endorphins flowing). Variety (different workout everyday so you don't anticipate and you don't get bored). Camraderie (if you workout at an affiliate, which I'd recommend - it's a great community). But mostly it's that bizarre retrograde amnesia that kicks in immediately after the workout is over. Yeah, you're going to be sweaty and uncomfortable for 20 minutes a day a couple days a week, but you're not going to dread it like you do going to the gym to workout on your own.
posted by zanni at 3:47 AM on March 5, 2011

I feel like crap afterward, usually for at least an hour or two.

You may want to get your heart checked out -- rule out valve problems or congestive heart failure.
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 8:39 AM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you want to think of it as something that you have to do, like brushing your teeth, then you might look into something like 5BX. It's a set of daily exercises developed by the Royal Canadian Air Force in the 50's, to provide a framework of general fitness. It has its critics, so read about that and about alternate options, but it's 11 minutes a day, you've done your chore, and that's it.
posted by CathyG at 9:56 AM on March 5, 2011

For some people exercise is never enjoyable, but it's a means to an end. You might be one of those people. I think a big part of your problem is that you're not exercising because you want to (for any reason) but rather because you "should". I "should" eat more vegetables and drive the speed limit, but I eat cookies and drive 10 mph over... because I want to. "Should" is not a very strong motivator.

To really get the exercise habit to stick, you're going to need to dig deep and find a reason to want to exercise. It can be a shallow reason - to look awesome at the beach, to have bigger biceps than your brother, to prove not all fit guys are like the d-bags from Jersey Shore - or something more meaningful, like wanting to improve your cardiovascular health and live long enough to meet your grandkids. Whatever your reason is, you need one so that you can think about it when you're mid-workout instead of thinking about how much exercising sucks.
posted by geeky at 10:04 AM on March 5, 2011

Like other people have suggested - you want to find something that you find enjoyable. I personally hate the gym. (Although I think it's ok if I can watch TV while I'm there). For me, the exercise I really love is salsa dance and karate. And I think of those things as fun, not a chore.

1. Think: What do you currently like to do? (It does not have to have anything to do with exercising)

Maybe you like to read or watch TV or hang out with buddies or go on dates with your wife.

2. How can you incorporate the things that you like to do into exercise?

Maybe you'll enjoy dance lessons or long evening walks if you go with your wife. If you like reading, bring a book - I know if you get a kindle or some equivalent, it's easier to read than a physical book because you don't have to worry about holding it open to the right page, and you can make the text size bigger. Maybe the gym will be better if you can bring a buddy.

As another idea, think about the sort of person you are (eg Competitive? Creative? Like playing with kids?) and then if you post that, we can come up with ways you can incorporate that into your exercise routine.

Other ideas:
Have you ever played any of those dance video games, like Dance dance revolution? Those are a lot of fun, and a great workout.

Maybe try thinking of ways to just incorporate exercise into your life so you don't have to make the dreaded trip to the gym. Like walking to places you need to go, taking the stairs, etc.

I find that exercise is really great as a stress reliever to office work. Sometimes I'll work on the computer for a half hour, then stop, do 10 pushups, 10 crunches, and then get back to work. Rinse and repeat. Yeah, those 10 pushups and crunches it might not feel that great for the 5 minutes that you're doing them, but you can get a lot in in a day without feeling like you've had to go "work out". You can also do this in the commercials while watching TV.
posted by Jade_bug at 10:56 AM on March 5, 2011

I despised working out until I found a sport I loved. Now I play 3-8 hours a week and will happily play for 10 hours at a time. Sometimes it even seems worthwhile for me to strengthen the relevant muscles so I do weights and pushups and stuff. Basically, forget the gym- it's boring. Find your sport.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:03 PM on March 5, 2011

(I meant to add, I thought I HATED all sports, too, until I found one I loved just by chance.)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:03 PM on March 5, 2011

I hated being a fatass. I hated being 32 years old and getting winded walking up a gently-inclined hill.

I hated that an awful lot more than I hated the pain and nausea and occasional embarrassment that came with working out.

Hope this helps.
posted by jason's_planet at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

2nd checking out your heart (and other bits). I'm far from an expert, or even an engaged dilettante, but I do know people with strong vasovagal responses to exercise. (Apols for age of article.)

A question best put to a doc, really, but what do you mean when you say you feel 'worse'?
posted by nelljie at 5:15 PM on March 5, 2011

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