Can you help me learn to like (maybe even love!) exercising?
March 3, 2008 3:53 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me learn to like (maybe even love!) exercising?

I've never liked exercise and have tried so many ways to try to make myself like it, I'm out of ideas and would really appreciate your help!

I know the many good things exercise could do for me, physically and mentally, but it doesn't seem to make any difference. Part of the problem is I don't really *need* to exercise unfortunately - I'm strict with my diet so my weight is always stable, and I've gotten so used to sitting on my butt in front of various computers all day that I don't feel the (apparent) discomfort of a sedentary lifestyle (some background if it's useful - I'm 27 years old, female, married, working full-time, no children).

I've tried gyms (hate contracts and never go anyway), super fun exercise I thought I'd enjoy like dancing (always seemed to find excuses not to go), a personal trainer (too expensive), home-gym equipment (never used it). The list goes on. Now I'm thinking about buying a second-hand treadmill so I can at least watch movies while I walk and run, but I also wonder if that's just another dead-end.

I think what I really need to do is change my attitude towards exercise - treat the cause, not the symptoms. I'm just not sure how. I've tried rewards but they don't seem to work. I've tried forcing myself to stick at it for at least 30-days-straight to form a habit but that doesn't work either. How can I force myself to do this - even if it's something ridiculous that will keep me motivated long enough to form a proper habit (in my case I think that's going to need to be about 3 months).

I would really welcome ANY advice you have time to give me. Thank you very very much :)!
posted by katala to Health & Fitness (51 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you could cut down on the time spent exercising? All you really need is 20 min. 3-4 times a week, and it can't be hard to force yourself to do that. Shovelglove has a rule about never exceeding 15 minutes because it's the smallest schedulistically significant time -- 14 minutes doesn't count as time, so you have no excuse not to do it. Or try something like simplefit -- involves simple exercises you can do at home for 20 min 3x per week and the most you need is a pullup-bar. The myth of gym-going is that going to the gym makes you fit and the longer you stay there, the more fit you are. Not true. My gym is full of fat people watching tv for hours on the treadmill. Make the exercise time count and then move on with your life.
posted by creasy boy at 4:04 AM on March 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

The exercise trick that worked best for me when I was working full-time was to join an exercise class that *progressed* (the peer pressure to advance with your classmates will help you to keep going) and started immediately after the end of my workday.

Going straight from work was the best solution for me: you take your gym bag with you in the morning, and you can't avoid going because you know that people in your class expect to see you. You also learn a new skill and improve as you keep attending, which helps you to enjoy it even more.

Have you thought about martial arts? These will keep you fit and help you learn something at the same time. All those levels and different belt colors...There's also dance, ballet, pilates...anything in which you can see physical improvement as you advance. Choose a class that takes actual skill and begins immediately after your workday ends.
posted by laconic titan at 4:09 AM on March 3, 2008

There are so many good ways to get exercise, you just need to find one and not treat it as chore. Personally I love walking home from work and doing errands on foot. Do you enjoy games at all? If you do something social, it makes it harder to just blow things off.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:09 AM on March 3, 2008

What has worked for me is to workout first thing in the morning before my brain can even come up with excuses. I do give myself 20min to eat a bit and have some coffee before. The other key is the music I choose, I've found that Madonna or mid 90's dance hits really make me laugh and keep me going. I do dvd workouts at home and mute the terrible music and chatter. For me this is fun and I look forward to letting out my inner 16 year old and being ridiculous-- that what has me hooked. Find what is fun for you....
posted by mcbietila at 4:27 AM on March 3, 2008

Two solutions:

1. Something that feels like a treat when you do it. For me, mountain biking, snowboarding and snowshoeing.

2. Wii Fit
posted by unSane at 4:36 AM on March 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'd go against what creasy boy says. If you want to build up cardiovascular fitness, and get all the benefits that go with that, then you should go for sustained exercise several times a week and spend at least half an hour at it. What you don't need to do is absolutely go flat out and collapse at the end of it. Better to spend time at a sustainable rate than exhaust yourself and get fed up of it. But 14 minutes just isn't anything like as productive.

I don't see much benefit in spending money on a gym or whatever either. The outdoors is more enjoyable (in my opinion anyway), and I'd second gesamtkunstwerk with the games or other sports. You might be surprised at the lesser known sports clubs who'll more than happily take on novices, won't charge you anything like gym rates to take part, and where there's a social side too. And the social side as well as making it more fun is definitely the most motivating thing I've found when it comes to sports.
posted by edd at 4:41 AM on March 3, 2008

Turn your exercise into play. Make it fun instead of work. Look for a local basketball/volleyball/etc. game/league.
posted by neilkod at 4:47 AM on March 3, 2008

I was in exactly your position (except without a strict diet and stable weight) and got talked/shamed into doing a 10k, and that's what changed my attitude towards exercise. I ended up walking the entire thing and crying for about 3k, but managed to raise a lot of money for breast cancer charity and was stunned that i'd actually achieved it. After that, of course, i wanted to do more -- I'm now doing the couch to 10k training for the same race this year, and the goal is to actually jog this time!

I don't like to exercise just for health, but i'm happy to train towards a goal. Maybe you're like me and need a reason behind exercise beyond just "getting fit" - if so, definitely think about a charity run.
posted by ukdanae at 4:57 AM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is there somewhere you could find to walk to on a regular basis that you would enjoy? I walk to the library several times a week and it's a pleasant walk plus I get my books.

Having good music on my mp3 player really helps too.
posted by Melsky at 4:58 AM on March 3, 2008

Unfortunately I don't know the particular motivation that works with you, but combos of the following helped me:
-Sign up for a exercise class (or agree to do laps) with a workout buddy - obligation to show up got me to show up. Sometimes a social interaction is fun.
-An exercise that involves a lot of exploring (or, for some people - social interactions) - things that meet this criteria include biking with cue sheets to a new place (and if you wan tto go the social route, find a cycling club or an outdoors club in your area).
-Novelty (a club that can introduce you to lots of new sports/places - appalachian mountain club
-I'm going to second having a goal (sign up for a race/or a vacation with a race, or riding a century, etc).
-I'm also going to second incorporating walking into your schedule - walk to work, etc.

Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 5:07 AM on March 3, 2008

I've been doing the shovelglove fora couple of weeks, not quite as on schedule as I would like, but it's fun and I kind of do feel a difference in my body.
posted by sully75 at 5:12 AM on March 3, 2008

Laconic Titan has the right it right after work.

I go to the gym 3 - 5 times a week. The only reason is that I found a gym across the street from work. No out-of-the-way drivingor making time to exercise--it is simply on my way (and pack everything up the night before).

Stop, jog for 30 minutes on a treadmill, and then feel 100x better for the rest of the night. It can get addictive.
posted by rocket_johnny at 5:24 AM on March 3, 2008

yohko made an excellent point about this in a previous thread, and I elaborated on it: it really is worth considering the option of just deciding to exercise without burdening yourself with the demand that you also feel really motivated to do it.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:40 AM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Load up your iPod and walk on your lunch break. You get it over with and it's a nice energy boost in the middle of the day. This way there are no worries about working out in the morning before work, or after when you are tired. Load up some books on tape or radio shows that interest you if you don't want to listen to music.

Plan your weekends differently so you can get some exercise in. Get out with your spouse and walk nature trails/beach/downtown. Or buy bicycles. Walk in the neighborhood with your spouse after dinner. Exercise doesn't have to be formal or difficult. If you walk for 30 minutes a day it greatly benefits your cardiovascular and lung health and builds stronger bones. We all need to move, even if we are thin.

If you want to do more than walking, purchase a couple pairs of dumbbells and do some simple exercises two or three times a week in front of your favorite show. Don't worry about working out every muscle in your body. Just walk daily, if you can, and do a few arm exercises, easy-peasy. Done.

A lot of people can't commit to a gym, or think treadmills are incredibly boring, or, jogging is not their style. This is OK. I wouldn't force something that isn't going to stick. And definitely STOP telling yourself you hate to exercise and you're not the exercise type. This is not helpful in the least. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Start telling yourself that you enjoy being active. That you love to walk to some great tunes and smell the fresh air.

And it never helps to have a vain goal in mind. Summer is coming up. You will look hot in sleeveless tops.

Good luck.
posted by LoriFLA at 6:01 AM on March 3, 2008

How about a more recreational exercise like cycling or kayaking? You get to enjoy the beauty of nature and still get a decent workout.

When I'm on my bike, I feel like a kid again, no matter how much my legs hurt from those darn hills!
posted by at 6:14 AM on March 3, 2008

It seems like you've only tried exercising inside. You might want to try something outside this time, as the fresh air, sunlight, etc. can turn dreary exercise (running on a treadmill) into fun (running through the woods). Some ideas: walking, running, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, rollerblading, soccer, ultimate, basketball, and so on.
posted by ssg at 6:22 AM on March 3, 2008

During my early 20's I would go to the gym about 3-4 times a week in order to maintain my weight, but I never enjoyed it and I didn't really see any changes in my body. After a bad breakup I decided to try to train for a half-marathon. I did it in secret for a month before I started telling people what I was doing. It was HARD. But it was also the first time I'd ever really challenged my body and it was super empowering to see my endurance improve. I also lost 10 pounds without even meaning to. The whole thing was really inspiring and gave me a lot more respect for my body. Reading running forums (I like helps when I need a jolt of motivation.
posted by jrichards at 6:23 AM on March 3, 2008

Well, there's always the old motivator, fear. My fiance' (who on first glance of your question I thought had written this) has a history of diabetes in her family, and one aunt who's had a leg whacked on account of the disease. Not wanting *that* outcome, she (my fiance') has started walking.

Hey, if the shoe fits...
posted by notsnot at 6:35 AM on March 3, 2008

Wow. My fiance sent me a link to this question because at first he thought I'd written it. I may try some of these suggestions. Recently I had a change in my mindset. I was beating myself up for not enjoying exercise. Then a while ago I decided I didn't have to like it, I just had to do it. I don't have to like everything I do to keep my body healthy, I just have to like being healthy. So it's gone to being a means-to-an-end rather than an end-in-itself. And I've been in a better mood since then.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:39 AM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just start doing it and don't let yourself stop. Once you start seeing results in a few months you'll learn to like it.

Or play competitive sports.
posted by Caper's Ghost at 6:48 AM on March 3, 2008

You need a goal to work towards. Just like the rest of life, a fitness goal will give you direction and purpose. It will motivate you as you see yourself progressing and improving.

You first need to figure out what it is you want to get out of exercising. Do you want to be stronger, look better, have fun playing sports, just generally be healthier? If you can't think of any reason other than a nonspecific "because I'm supposed to," then don't bother because you'll never actually want to keep doing it. But if you can identify something, then focus it more using the "SMART" method of goal setting--Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Tangible. Make sure you physically write down your goal, and most importantly, write out why you're choosing that specific goal. Here are some examples:
(1) I want to get stronger --> I want to be able to do an unassisted pullup by July 1st.
(2) I want to be healthier --> I want to improve my cholesterol/triglycerides by X amount in 6 months (as measured by blood tests before and after).
(3) I want to have more endurance --> I want to run a half marathon in under 2 hr by Jan 1st, 2009.
I didn't add the 'why' for each goal, but don't leave that out. Also, once you have a specific goal and timeframe, you can devise a plan or strategy to get you there so that you know what you're supposed to be doing on a weekly and a daily basis. You may have to do some research on what strategies will get you to your goal (how to design a program), but for me, that extra knowledge adds to the motivation. Good luck.
posted by Durin's Bane at 6:51 AM on March 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Work on doing your exercise rather than liking it. How was your first job? You probably didn't like it but you did it because you had to. After a while you might have started getting some enjoyment out of it - but you aren't doing it because you enjoy it, you're doing it because you have to do it.

For me, what leads to greater enjoyment is challenging myself continually to do better. That way you get a sense of achievement out of your exercise.
posted by lemur at 6:51 AM on March 3, 2008

I like Durin's Bane suggestion of goals. That was and is a motivator for me to keep exercising. I have found that in the past where I have hit targets but failed to set new ones, I have relapsed. In addition, I highly recommend a workout partner or two. It makes you accountable to the others to ensure that you work out and it introduces a social dynamic which often makes a lot of activities more enjoyable. Conversely, don't make your exercise group too big otherwise your lack of participation wouldn't be as big of a deal and thus the peer pressure won't be there.
posted by mmascolino at 7:00 AM on March 3, 2008

A goofy mind experiment that has actually worked for me in the past to get back on a regular exercise program:

Tell yourself you have hidden arcane knowledge, and actually know a magic spell that you can cast to make yourself more confident, more energetic, better-looking, and more successful in life overall.

You have to cast this spell once a day for it to be successful, and it takes about half an hour to go through the magic ritual. The ritual can consist of a number of things, but can be quite physically demanding! Still, you know that if you cast this magic spell every morning, over time it is guaranteed to attract the favourable attention of the elder gods, or Norse pantheon, or whatever, and they will bless you with better health, more energy, self-confidence, yadda yadda yadda.

Half an hour out of your day to cast a magic spell with guaranteed results? Who wouldn't do it?

Again: goofy. I know. But it actually does the trick for me when I'm trying to get back on a routine after a while off due to illness, travel, etc.
posted by Shepherd at 7:17 AM on March 3, 2008 [12 favorites]

Great suggestions. I second the idea that finding a fun, athletic activity is a great way to find the motivation for getting and staying in shape.
posted by Echidna882003 at 7:45 AM on March 3, 2008

I second Melsky's comments. Walking is a very effective and very easy exercise - it always kills me to see overweight people trying to jog when a good walk covering the same distance would do them just as much good.

An mp3 player is a fantastic aid in getting me to workout at the gym everyday.
posted by thomas144 at 7:48 AM on March 3, 2008

One thing that's really helped me is walking with a friend (as cliche as that sounds).

The walk is at a good pace and distance (almost 2 miles, if we walk the local lake) but I have tons of incentive to actually show up and walk because we get to spend 40 odd minutes (driving the mile to the lake, and walking and driving back) talking.

I care about it enough that I drive 20 minutes out of my way after work to do it twice a week after work, and we'll nudge each other if one of us is trying to find excuses not to do it (but also recognise that sometimes it's just not going to happen - we're in Minnesota, and we mostly don't walk if it's below 10 degrees (sometimes higher, if the wind chill is miserable) or over 90, for example.
posted by modernhypatia at 8:10 AM on March 3, 2008

I've been running for 20 years. I've trained for 5 marathons. And I STILL have to trick myself into actually doing it.

I make a deal in my head that all I have to do is put my running shoes on. That once I have them on, if I really still don't feel up to it, I don't have to.

And without fail, I *always* feel too guilty to take them off without having gone running.
posted by wayward vagabond at 8:27 AM on March 3, 2008

What about getting a dog so you have to walk it? Extra bonus is that having a dog is extra good for you, in addition to the health benefits of walking it.
posted by tastybrains at 8:27 AM on March 3, 2008

I'll go along with those who suggest signing up for a race. My first race was a really silly one that ended at home plate at our local minor league baseball stadium. I really had no idea how welcoming the running community really is. I was afraid I'd be last by a mile, but it wasn't nearly the case. After a few odd sounding races, I find myself running all kinds of races and loving it.

(I have since been last, but curiously, I loved the huge cheer that came with being the last finisher.)
posted by advicepig at 8:39 AM on March 3, 2008

"Part of the problem is I don't really *need* to exercise unfortunately"

Where did this pervasive myth come from. EVERYBODY NEEDS PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. Millions of years of mammalian evolution are behind it. Especially if you sit in front of a computer all day.
posted by tiburon at 8:48 AM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Motivation is a really really slippery beast, it comes, it goes. I was never good at motivating myself when it came to 'exercising'. So I just thought about stuff I'd like to be able to do, and the excercise came along with that. What works for me is making an activity about learning, until it becomes a no-brainer and I don't have to THINK about doing it any more - I just do it.

Recent example. I hate taking the tube to work and wanted an alternative, so on a whim I traced out the journey on my bike one sunday (I'm no pro-cyclist!), it's 11k across central London at rush hour, and seemed like madness at first but once I knew the way I figured how hard can it be to get to work? It was a bit weird at first, but now I love it and I miss it very much if I skip for any period of time. If I need to take the tube, I do but mostly I like to cycle - becauise it feels good and I don't have to think about it.

Basically, the bottom line is that anything outside your routine is going to feel like pulling teeth. Once it becomes part of your life - it's exactly that, part of your routine and you feel the difference when you deviate. As I'm saying this I'm thinking 'Yeah, that's what everyone always says', and it doesn't seem very concrete. So, if you want a starting point maybe take some of the suggestions further up in the list and just try them, not as exercise, but as learning a new activity or solving a problem e.g. "I wish I could bump n' grind (try street dance)/pretend to be a cowgirl (try horse-riding)/have astonishing balance and poise (try aikido) " etc and give it a go.

Understand you won't feel results immediately, but if you find something you genuinely enjoy that has the side effect of getting you moving, then commit to doing it at least once or twice a week for just a couple of months - if it suits you'll keep at it and I swear you'll start to feel the love.
posted by freya_lamb at 8:51 AM on March 3, 2008

'excercise'? jeez. I have such a mind blip with that word, I mean 'exercise'!
posted by freya_lamb at 8:52 AM on March 3, 2008

For me, it's the events that are fun. That is, running 5ks, 10ks, etc (the marathon was the most fun!). And to run them, you must exercise. I really couldn't care less about running for exercise, and would rather be doing almost anything else, but I have to if I want to run some races. My friends consider me a "runner" and think I must love it, but no ... I'd rather do just about anything other than exercise. But I can't climb all 94 floors of the John Hancock building if I don't use my stairmaster. :) How much fun is it to climb up a skyscraper or run around the city for 4 hours with several thousand other people? TONS! So you've got running races, stair climbs ... bike rides? Ever try a century? Ever do RAGBRAI? If it weren't for ragbrai and the occasional century, I'd never get on my bike. But I have to train at least a little bit if I want to complete those events without pain.

My other motivator is weight management, but "unfortunately" you don't have that problem. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 8:56 AM on March 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of your options (personal trainer) is definitely expensive, but has helped me a great deal. Like you, I loathe exercise. It hurts, I get grubby/sweaty, I can't do all that I'd like to do. With my trainer I work through these attitudes, get heaps of praise and learn new (and sometimes fun) ways to workout and get my heart rate up.

Being able to see exercise through the eyes of someone who loves it enough to choose it as a profession made a big deal for me. Having workouts tailored to my mood, an injury or even a desire or interest outside of the exercise itself (like working on balance, for sailing) is so valuable that I have no problem paying the money.

I'd say your best shot would be to budget money, interview a bunch of different trainers and find one who is willing to take you where you want to go. I know that a few months from now I'll not need the trainer, as the love of fitness is already seeping into my brain. Personal training is expensive, but done right it can be temporary, seasonal.
posted by cior at 9:43 AM on March 3, 2008

I get bored while exercising. But I get bored anytime I'm only doing one thing, so that makes it easy--calf raises and wall-sits while brushing teeth, handweights at the computer, go up and down the stairs during TV commercials.

What about a volunteer job that requires some exercise? Habitat jumps out. Or any physical activity that you don't think of as exercising.

It sounds like you've been trying to get into a routine. Try another approach--alternate your activities. Swimming, horsebackriding (incredible for back/thighs/calves), hiking, ice- or rollerskating, dancing of various kinds. Just do whatever you feel like that week.

And try being impressed with you body. The rest is just distraction from something you find dull or unpleasant. But if you can be running, lifting weights, climbing a mountain, whatever and shift your mind into "Hey, look what I can do! Whoa, muscles are amazing! I'm not tired at all!" ...well. Then you feel incredible.
posted by hippugeek at 10:34 AM on March 3, 2008

N-thing some sort of bike riding. I can't commute to work on my bike all that often, so I'm very excited when I get to do it (about 22 miles round trip). Otherwise I try to do lunchtime rides around the office for 45 minutes to an hour. If you have a few hills to mix in you can get a great, varied workout.

As someone else mentioned, I get out regularly to prepare for "event" rides. It gives you something to look forward to day-to-day and the events themselves are a blast.

Oh for the time to do RAGBRAI....
posted by turbodog at 11:04 AM on March 3, 2008

I don't really *need* to exercise

Exercise is important for your long term health. Eventually, lack of exercise will have an effect on you -- you probably won't chalk it up to a lack of exercise though, but just say to yourself "Wow, I'm getting old". Occasionally you will envy those of your age who seem to be in better health and not feel as achy as you do. Some people are motivated to exercise because they want their body to look a certain way, but just because some people have a different reason for their actions than you do doesn't mean you don't need to exercise.

The idea that you don't need to exercise is like thinking that you don't need to pay attention to getting enough calcium, since you've never had any trouble with osteoporosis.

And game warden to the events rhino has my favorite comment in this thread, and a good point. If you feel that this is important enough to post this question, just start doing it.
posted by yohko at 11:38 AM on March 3, 2008

You need to experiment with different things -- like running, swimming, biking, aerobics, walking, strength training, and anything else you can think of until you find one that you like.. Also, if you do something like biking or walking, you should get either a cyclocomputer or a pedometer so that you can track how far you go.. That keeps me motivated.. For me, I get bored on a stationary bike without any sort of computer on it.. The ones that say how far you've gone and your heart rate and everything keep me going for longer.. I guess I'm just nerdy.

I for one enjoy weight lifting and cycling.. There are so many ways to exercise and there has to be one for you
posted by majikstreet at 12:50 PM on March 3, 2008

I'd say that you should start out just walking. It helps clear your head, as well as give you some fresh air. Once you're used to walking briskly, then think about going to the gym.

You could also get a few friends together and join an intramural league.
posted by reenum at 2:42 PM on March 3, 2008

Exercise becomes much more tolerable and enjoyable when you start seeing the difference in the way you look.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:18 PM on March 3, 2008

Find a really compelling audio book or podcast, only listen to it while walking or jogging! I've walked extra distance on many occasions to hear more of a good audio book.

I am also in the process of walking every single street in my neigbourhood. Sounds a bit odd but I keep finding little pocket parks, unusual houses, shortcuts, rail crossings, odd businesses etc. It feels like exploration as much as exercise.
posted by tomble at 3:55 PM on March 3, 2008

I dislike exercise, generally speaking. But, looking at the endpoint of a lack of exercise in my family tree, I have enough motivation to find a solution.

Firstly, I have a personal trainer, and shortly, I hope to also have a gym buddy, This will, I hope, help me do work outs in the gym. I dislike the gym. I can't afford the space or the equipment to do it at home, though. Sigh.

Secondly, I've taken up gymnastics. Man, it's amazingly fun. But it totally owns my ass. So this gives me motivations to do my gym workouts, as well as being about the funnest way I've ever worked up a sweat. Somersaults! Tumbling! Handstands! And flips make me giggle a lot (I don't know why). Also, I go with someone else to this class - giving him a lift also makes me want to go.

So, I have one form of exercise that's boring and annoying, which I need to get better at the other form of exercise, which is fun but really, really hard. And, I have people to go with me at each activity. That's what's working for me, at present. YMMV.
posted by ysabet at 5:11 PM on March 3, 2008

Seconding cycling.

It's far more interesting than any stationary exercise, and it's more relaxing and enjoyable than running, which means you'll be motivated to do it again.

Or you could be like me:

You're sprinting downhill at 30mph. You accelerate until you're in your highest gear. You lean, the the bike turns, you adjust the handlebars so you don't fall over. You're literally inches away from death the entire time. How awesome is that?! It's like a video game.

You could also try bicycle commuting to work. That way you'll have to do it no matter what. It's what I do. I weigh 135lbs, and I've been trying (failing) to gain weight for years. If you're able to work it into your mundane daily routine, it will soon become the most enjoyable part of your day.

I don't like working, but I love going to work.
posted by BeaverTerror at 9:21 PM on March 3, 2008

I bargain with myself every single day to work out. I start with, if you just put on your sweats, you don't have to do anything else. Then, if you put on your shoes, you can go take a nap or watch TV. If you get in the car, you don't have to go anywhere.... all the way until I've taken a class or done a couple miles on the treadmill or run in the park. I know it sounds lame, but for me, once I've put my "exercise clothes" on, I almost never quit there.

I started walking a couple years ago on a challenge from a friend. After nagging her to quit smoking, she said she would quit smoking when I ran a marathon. I took the challenge and started walking in a Race for the Cure 5K. It was a huge event and very inspirational. I kept signing up for 5Ks working on shaving a minute off my time every time -- my first 5K was almost an hour -- until I got to a half marathon where I was walking and running. My first full marathon is the Flying Pig in Cincinnati in May. My only goal is not to be the last one across the finish line. By the way, my friend hasn't quit yet, but I'm holding her to it as soon as I finish the marathon.

In addition to getting healthy, one bonus is a HUGE collection of really cool race T-shirts -- just kidding. For me exercise indoors or without a class is painful. There is nothing better to relieve stress than listening to my ipod and being outside as I rack up the miles.

It's really made me mentally stronger in all other areas of my life. When faced with other tasks that I felt were overwhelming, I think, if I can run (using the term loosely) 13.1 miles, I can do this easily.

Good luck!
posted by ReneeOg at 6:32 PM on March 4, 2008

Let's look at the reasons you haven't done things and then whittle it dow from there:

- I've tried gyms (hate contracts and never go anyway)
Ok, if you hate contracts then gyms are out and perhaps any structured programs that sometimes require them, i.e. martial arts.

super fun exercise I thought I'd enjoy like dancing (always seemed to find excuses not to go)

Problem here may be that dancing is not consistent, i.e. often on weekends.

personal trainer (too expensive)
If it's too expensive, then it's too expensive.

home-gym equipment (never used it)

This explanation bears investigation, as you don't really say why you didn't use it except in the general sense of having to change your attitude.

So looking at all these reasons we might come up with a form of exercise that:
  • Doesn't require a contract, isn't expensive and can be scheduled consistently.
To me that points to things like walking/running, jumping rope, calisthenics, or the simplefit plan someone linked to.

In terms of larger motivation, perhaps go to the library and get "Spark" by John Ratey and read chapter 10 "The Regimen". If you have time read the whole book, although fairly dry in places, it talks about the increasing research between exercise and the development of the brain and I found it inspired me to do something easy every day that increased my alertness and memory, which I translate to making me better at work, which I translate to making me a higher salary in the long term. And of course healthier as well.
posted by jeremias at 9:55 AM on March 5, 2008

Here's why biking rocks.
posted by unSane at 1:14 PM on March 5, 2008

I have an elliptical machine and here is what I've done to make me want to exercise. I when to Wal-Mart and purchased a cheap plastic shelf system. I set that shelving unit in front of my machine. On top of the system I can set my laptop and enjoy one of the that I really like...the interent. I can surf the web and work out at the same time. I can check out lifehacker, consumerist, craigslist, watch videos like quarterlife AND get thinner at the same time.

I've been dieting for 14 months now and have lost 50lbs. I started at 285lbs. <>
But in a nutshell, if you can mix something you like with your exercise, then you win, win.

posted by Jackie_Treehorn at 3:49 PM on March 6, 2008

Excellent point by Jackie. For me, I mix my stairmaster with my Tivo. I watch too much TV as it is, but I figure I can spend one hour a day of my TV watching time (45 minutes without commercials) exercising. So I do! And I keep caught up on my favorite shows. ;)
posted by iguanapolitico at 5:08 PM on March 6, 2008

I go to the gym twice a week with a friend of mine, we go on wednesdays and saturdays on fixed times. We agreed that if one of us can't go the the gym, you have to call the other and tell why you can't go...and you really have to come up with a good excuse, and you (might) feel sorry that the other has to go on it's own, so you'll go anyway although you don't much like to. And your friend must be someone who is nice to talk with, to overcome the boring excercising. I do the same on sundays when I run about 7 miles with a couple of friends of mine.
And as always, if I don't want to go to the gym in the first place, after exercising I'm happy I did go to the gym, feeling much fitter and healthier.
posted by at 5:03 AM on March 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you for all these fantastic suggestions and for taking the time to help me :)!!

Based on your responses I've come up with some specific ways I can get more consistent and incidental exercise in my life. It's weird because some of them are so forehead-slapping-obvious that I'm annoyed at myself for not thinking of them before.

One of the best one's for me is going to be walking to the Busway 25 minutes from my house, instead of the one just 5 mins up the road. This has the added advantage of lots more buses so I can pretty much catch one straight away instead of waiting around for ages like I have to at the closer stop. If I combine this with getting off the bus a stop earlier and walking to work that's a good 40 minute walk done and dusted by the time I walk in my office at 9am. I've already tried this option and I really liked it, it was relaxing, I got to listen to my music, and it was lovely to enjoy the morning outside.

I also like the idea of walking to the library as clearly I'm a task-driven person so exercising for exercise's sake doesn't interest me at all. I think walks to take photos of certain things, or draw, will also be fun. I'm also going to ask to take the next-door neighbours dog for a walk with me sometimes if they're cool with that.

I'm going to buy a rebounder / mini-trampoline instead of a treadmill as this is going to be much cheaper, more compact, and less jarring on my ankles that are prone to shin splints. I still want to practice my running as I love it, but I'm hoping between the walking and rebounding I will start to enjoy exercise, and then I can progress to running when my bones are stronger.

Finally I've changed my attitude to exercise thanks to your comments! I actually have a checkbox on my daily list which I go through with my husband each night at dinner and I've now crossed out "exercised" and written in "physical activity". So now anything I do above and beyond my usual walk to the (closer) bus-stop I get a tick for. Since I'm task-driven I think this will really help me since I'll be able to tick off that box a lot more and it won't be compounding my negative opinion of the word "exercise" since every time I see the damn thing it's like "oh, I didn't do that AGAIN today" ;)

Thank you once again!!
posted by katala at 8:03 PM on March 7, 2008

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