Too lazy to think of title...
August 14, 2006 7:52 AM   Subscribe

How do I make myself LOVE (that's right, all capitals) exercise?

All of my professional and academic work is done at a desk, and most of my hobbies are stationary. I am not a very healthy person, so exercise is crucial. I've made some improvements recently and upped my gym attendance, but at the end of the day the only real joy I derive right after exercise is the knowledge that I am now at the furthest point from the next session of exercise. With this attitude, I fear it's only a matter of time before I lose my resolve.

So how do I make myself want to hit that gym so badly that nothing can stop me? Cerebrally, I realize full well that I need to do it, but can you recommend any specific techniques to train myself to love it?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Doing exercise for its own sake is not fun and it's nearly impossible to make it so. We didn't evolve to go to the gym every day.

What is more sustainable is finding an activity you like for some other reason that just happens to involve lots of physical activity (say, shooting hoops with the guys, hiking, etc.). Then you may want to work out in order to improve your performance in this activity.
posted by kindall at 7:59 AM on August 14, 2006

Well, if you're willing to try something slightly different.... I had about the same problem, but I started going to a climbing gym a few months back. It's actually something that I can enjoy both as an exercise and as an activity. The only donwside, arguably, is that you tend to have to spend a bit more time at a climbing gym than a regular gym to get any real exercise, and you generally have to go with at least one other person.
posted by vernondalhart at 8:00 AM on August 14, 2006

It sounds like you pretty much hate your current excercise routine, but that doesn't necessarily mean you hate excercise in itself. Try something else.
Try running, seriously. It seems really intimidating, but I have found it to be strangely addictive. It's hard at first, no doubt, but it also burns more calories and works more of your body at once than many other forms of excercise. If it's not for you, try biking. I HATE gyms, you seem to share that sentiment. Get outside.

I also found that combining excercise with something else you enjoy works well. For me, I got an iPod nano and recently, the nike+ pedometer. Its a nice combination of 2 loves of mine, music and technology, with a love/hate - excercise. Like to read? Get a stationary bike with a book holder. Spend some money if you have to, it will pay off (and it's surely cheaper than a gym membership.)
posted by bradn at 8:07 AM on August 14, 2006

First of all, find something at the gym you at least enjoy. If you hate running on a treadmill, don't do that. If you enjoy working out with other people, try step/aerobic/whatever classes. If you enjoy being alone and "in the zone", get an ipod and hit the free weights. If you are competitive, try racquetball or basketball if you gym has the courts.

Beyond that, I've found I reach the point where I really 'love' excercising only after sticking with it awhile. When I'm just starting it pretty much sucks - I'm out of shape, always sore, and it just feels like work. Once I'm seeing improvements on a regular basis, and can really push myself and my body, it really becomes enjoyable. So I would say you should really strive to get awesome at running/tennis/whatever - if you are just going thru the motions it will always suck.

Set specific goals, and make them happen. So "I will deadlift 315 and bench 225 by January 1st" is much better then "I will be stronger a few months". Setting purely physical goals is fine ("15% bodyfat by september"), but having performance oriented goals first will help elevate exercise from something you have to do to something you want to do.

Also, I've found taking an interest in exercise physiology, body recomposition, and related fields enhances my appreciation for the body and exercise. The number of things that happen to enable you to life a dumbbell or hit a ball are just amazing. I am a pretty curious person and tend to learn everything I can about stuff I'm interested in, so YMMV.
posted by rsanheim at 8:09 AM on August 14, 2006

Try rewarding yourself by going to the gym. Join Netflix and rent TV DVDs; only watch episodes while working out. (This will only work if you have access to changing the DVDs - if not, do the same thing with music.)
posted by Meagan at 8:16 AM on August 14, 2006

My only answer is take up a sport you enjoy, preferably one where you can be on a team. That's what made the difference to me.
posted by dame at 8:17 AM on August 14, 2006

Take music-an Ipod or something.

Start slow-don't kill yourself. Walk, don't run on the treadmill to begin with, and don't get out of breath while you do it. Low intensity!

Try different exercise classes. For me the social aspect is important and I now have friends in all my Spin classes.

Once you start feeling better and start seeing results, motivation definitely gets stronger and stronger.

(former couch potato here.)
posted by konolia at 8:20 AM on August 14, 2006

no matter what you decide to do.. once you start feeling better exercise becomes more of a craving.
posted by trishthedish at 8:38 AM on August 14, 2006

Play sport. It's entertainment and exercise in one easy package!

Seriously, if you find a sport that you enjoy enough, you will end up wanting to play it often, and the exercise will become a nice side-effect that you barely think about.

I was never into sport or exercise before I started playing Ultimate Frisbee at university, but playing the sport was so much fun I will now voluntarily drag my self out of bed at stupidly early times in the morning to run around a field all day throwing a frisbee.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:41 AM on August 14, 2006

I don't think you can train yourself to love the gym if you don't love it already - it's too boring, repetetive and "useless" (in the sense that all your effort is purely to expend effort). I think you can incorporate exercise into other parts of your life, however, so that your efforts seem like they're accomplishing something in addition to burning calories.

I too hate exercising so the only way I'll do it is if I disguise it as something else. Hubby and I cycle to the grocery store on weekends (fairly minimal exercise but better than driving). Also, I often commute by train, then cycle from the train station.

By disguising exercise as errands or commuting, I'll actually do it. These are things I must do anyway, so it doesn't feel like a big disruption of my schedule (like going to the gym would).

Without changing your life or schedule much, you can choose higher-exercise options. Walk or cycle instead of drive. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. When you need to take a break from your work, take a walk around the campus instead of playing a computer game or whatever. Take a walk whenever you need some solitary time for thinking - you'll have fewer interruptions and distractions than as a "sitting duck" in your office.

None of this is particularly vigorous, but if you do it a lot it will amount to a fair bit of modest exercise. Depending on your health and exercise requirements, this may be enough (ask your doctor, of course). Even if it doesn't provide 100% of the exercise you need, you might be able to cut down a little on trips to the gym.
posted by Quietgal at 8:42 AM on August 14, 2006

I second bradn on the running--so long as it’s done outside. The treadmill, elliptical trainer, and even the track seem like drudgery to me, but when I take my show on the road (or the grass, or the hills, or the trails) I get a sense of freedom completely unique in day-to-day experience. Running takes a while to get into, but if you stick with it, you’ll begin to enjoy your ability to exert yourself. Try running with a club or some friends—a little friendly competition lets you gauge your abilities, increases your commitment and motivation, and eases the loneliness of long distance running.

That applies to other sports as well. The best way to get into lifting in the gym is to get into a regular, strenuous athletic pursuit outside the gym. Running fits that bill, as well as roller hockey, a friendly basketball or soccer league, dancing lessons, kayaking, and rock climbing. Once you’re serious and competitive about a sport, weight lifting will be the natural way to take yourself to the next level at the sport. Lifting is easier to stick with when you’re doing it for a direct, tangible purpose rather than nebulous general fitness goals. Similarly, you may find yourself eating more healthily because it’s uncomfortable to perform a sport on a stomach full of junkfood.

After some time, you may get to like weight lifting and healthy eating for their own sakes. Remember that your body is meant to work hard. It’s meant to be active. Once you’ve reminded your body of that fact, it will seem wrong to go to bed without having broken a sweat during the day.
posted by Iridic at 9:20 AM on August 14, 2006

It is hard to see noticeable improvements as 95% of the population won't respond to exercising immediately and get the results they want. It usually takes a year or so to get any appreciable gain (what 7lbs of muscle a year at max?) or loss. What I do is quantitatively measure my progress down to the last detail. That way I can say with assurance that I did gain weight, lifted more weight at more reps, etc. Usually what will happen is you'll think little progress is made then realize that a month ago you were topping out at 10 lbs less per rep and you gained a pound while maintaining your body fat percentage. Incredibly dorky, yes but I like working out for results and it works for me.

I was too competitive to play sports and not be the best at it, so that never really worked for me. If I wasn't the top couple of players on a team it just wasn't worth it.
posted by geoff. at 10:12 AM on August 14, 2006

I think you should get out of the gym! I love exercise, and I hate the gym. Go outside! THere's like a whole world out there! Walk to the store, walk to the bar, walk the dog! Just walk! Race your dog to the bar! He will win but give it a shot.
posted by Mister_A at 10:15 AM on August 14, 2006

What worked for me when I first started running was setting a ridiculously low goal. Something like going for a walk and running only 100 yards during it. It always left me feeling like I could have done more rather than being exhausted and waiting to hit my goal so I could quit.

Eventually I worked myself up to 9 miles and I would still say that after about half my runs I still feel like I could be doing more. I think the most important part about enjoying exercise is not pushing yourself too hard.
posted by 517 at 10:22 AM on August 14, 2006

I splurged the hired a personal trainer twice a week for a year. I hated, HATED (all caps) exercise in a gym. With a passion. But, in Chicago, there aren't many outdoor sports that I like to do that get me the exercise that I need.

The trainer kept the routines varied and interesting. She bantered with me and kept me motivated past that initial feeling of "forget it! I quit!" Once I had been working out with her for 3-4 months (12-16 sessions), I really began to notice a difference in my fitness, health and overall feeling of well-being. I began to enjoy going to the gym because I felt that I was getting good at working out and my workout was becoming more efficient. Plus, if I missed a workout (and I only went 2-3 times a week), I really felt it.

We get education for SO many other things, but are hesitant to spend money on health and wellness. Prioritize it. It's great.
posted by jeanmari at 10:31 AM on August 14, 2006

Definitely switch to a form of working out that you enjoy! You may have to try a few first...and definitely get some good music going!

Also: How about keeping a journal of what it does for you! Is it easier to walk up the stairs? Note it down! Are your arms a little firmer? Sleep a little better?

What kind of exercise are you doing? If you're walking/running, note how far you've gone, and tally it up--eventually you'll have walked the equivalent of across the state!
posted by sLevi at 10:42 AM on August 14, 2006

Buy yourself a playstation (or xbox or gamecube), a roll of duct tape, and a dance mat. 100% serious. Maybe you hate the gym. I totally hate the gym.
posted by shownomercy at 10:43 AM on August 14, 2006

I'm the SAME way, I hate exercising and avoid the gym at all costs. I love my yoga studio though, it's not just for relaxation - I often break a sweat in my yoga class (vinyasa) and when I was doing it at home every day for 6 months, there was a noticeable difference in both my body and health.
posted by echo0720 at 11:02 AM on August 14, 2006

I think everyone hit the biggies but I will summarize things:
  • Do an exercise that you like
  • Do something that involves socializing since that adds a bit of peer pressure as well as something you can look forward to doing
  • Keep a journal of your activities so that it because part of your routine to "check the box"
  • Keep measurements of your weight, waistline, strength, etc. to quantify what might be subtle changes in your physiology
  • Set short, medium and longer term goals for yourself and evaluate yourself against these goals regularly.

posted by mmascolino at 12:32 PM on August 14, 2006

posted by amtho at 12:47 PM on August 14, 2006

Everyone has said it. Find something you love! I find sports that I really enjoy force me to train harder. For example I jog (I _hate_ running), in order to cross train and get better.
I suggest starting in your local rec center's activity guide for somthing to try. Sign up for three or four beginner classes that interest you and see if you find something that works! Take the attitude that activity is an adventure. I made a pact with a friend that we were to try three new things this summer. All of them were physical in nature. You don't necesaraly have to stick with one thing. Just -keep- doing things.
Some suggestions:

-Fencing (My sport of choice. Very social. Can be kept at a rec level easily. Both mental/physical development).

-Kayaking (If you are near water. This was one of my 'try new things' and was way more fun than I thought).

-Swimming (I swim as part of my fencing cross training. In the early morning some laps around the pool are awesome).

-Dancing (Ballroom dance can be quite physically demanding. It is also very social, and fun!)

-Bike Riding (Especially to work. My required daily cardio is covered by my transportation needs. Two birds with one stone).
posted by billy_the_punk at 1:37 PM on August 14, 2006

I like taking classes at the gym. It's more motivating to me to (a) have to be there at a specific time instead of "gee, I really should go to the gym today" and flaking, plus (b) someone else is leading you through what to do and you don't have to think too hard. Obviously, this should be in something you think is interesting to do.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:39 PM on August 14, 2006

amtho: Dance!

I concur. I've made mix discs (composed primarily of disco, funk, upbeat pop, etc.) that I can really work out to. I can do this by myself, without paying anyone for the privilege of waiting for their machines or weights, and when I'm done I feel really good. Once you find what exercise you really enjoy, I'm sure you'll be happy to do it regularly. Good luck!
posted by Meep! Eek! at 8:46 PM on August 14, 2006

The TV Show "WorkOut" on Bravo makes me want to go to the gym. All the beautiful people and the enjoyment they seem to get out of it.

What makes me more willing to go to the gym is going to the gym LESS. Instead of going to the gym 5 days a week, I now walk extensively with a pedometer 2-3 days a week (10,000+ steps=3-5 miles), so that counts as a workout to me. So I end up going to the gym less--which makes it MUCH more palatable. Now I go 2 days a week or so for lifting and cardio and it's not such a drag since I'm not there all the time.
posted by clairezulkey at 1:14 PM on August 16, 2006

i hate the gym, too. but I LOVE exercise. Its one of my biggest priorities and greatest joys in life. i have a sweet setup at home -- olympic bars and plates, standard bars and plates, dumbbells, jump ropes, rings, pull-up bars, paralettes.

I can be done with a solid workout and showered within 30 minutes if i have to.

the point is, find some kind of activity you like, and make it convenient.
posted by noyceguy at 9:25 AM on August 26, 2006

I found in high school that I kept a better routine if I had a workout partner that I would meet regularily in the gym. If it's just for myself, meh, but if I know someone's waiting for me...
posted by Mozai at 9:26 AM on August 29, 2006

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