Ways to stop hating exercise

I initially wrote this post for a different blog and a different audience, but I don’t want to waste it, so I’m posting it here!

As someone who grew up pretty sedentary, I’ve definitely been able to say I hate exercise.   This little fact, while not entirely to blame, helped contribute to my tipping the scales at 270lbs two years ago.   Unless you’ve grown up as an active person, chances are good that you and exercise just don’t see eye to eye (yet).

We all know that exercise is important for weight loss and maintenance, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, blah blah blah.  But it’s BOOOORRRRING.  And it’s HAAAAARRRRRD. Three of my strategies for overcoming the “exercise sucks” mentality are 1) sneaking in little bits during the day, 2) tricking yourself into having a good time, and 3) beating yourself over the head with mantras.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that adults aged 18-64 need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate physical activity or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or some combination) every week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week in order to improve health and prevent disease (Source: CDC Adult Physical Activity Guidelines).  Nowhere does it say that you have to do all of that time at once. If exercise isn’t a habit, that 2.5 hours sounds pretty scary, but it’s just 30 minutes a day on 5 days - that’s nothin’!  Even if 30 minutes at a time sounds daunting, do 10 minutes, 3 times a day.  Hell, if you’re still a couch potato, do jumping jacks during commercial breaks – those 2-3 minutes will add up quickly!

If you still can’t get over the mental hump of “I have to exercise for how long?,” distract yourself. I’ve turned a corner in my hatred for exercise in the past year and I have two things to thank for it: the personal TV screens on the cardio equipment at the gym, and listening to podcasts while biking, running, and walking.  Here are some ways to distract yourself from exercise long enough that you might trick yourself into liking it:

  • The glorious TVs at the gym – especially if you can catch some mindless guilty pleasure, you’ll start looking forward to the gym.  I NEVER watch reality TV, yet I got hooked on “NYC Prep” in the fall because I watched reruns at the gym.  It made me want to stay on the machines for an hour to see what those rapscallions were up to.
  • Podcasts – be it educational or entertaining (or both!), these free nuggets of distraction come in all lengths and genres.  My favorites are Doug Benson’s Doug Loves Movies, Chris Hardwick’s The Nerdist, NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and This American Life, and our very own bloggers’ podcast from DietGirl and MizFit - Two Chicks and a Microphone.  Also, check out Rachel’s Gymnertainment!
  • I’ve recently discovered Genius mixes in iTunes (yeah, I’m late to the party).  This little gem will create playlists for you by lumping together genres of music from your own library.  I’m bad about over-using workout playlists and coming to hate them, so Genius helps overcome my stale go-to lineups.  It scoops up some forgotten favorites and those free downloads I always get but never listen to, keeping my playlists fresh and my workouts un-boring.
  • If you’d rather find motivation from within and not use technology as a crutch (hey, sounds healthier to me), try mixing up your routine.  If you’re married to the machines, try a DVD at home.  If you’re a solo walker, grab a friend or a dog and try a different route.  I always thought I hated working out with other people, but the first time I reconnected with a BFF from high school at the gym, we huffed and puffed our way through 30 minutes on the elliptical after declaring we’d “only go 15 minutes and see how we felt.”  The time flew by because we were focused on catching up instead of on running out the clock.
  • Speaking of running out the clock, this is the Kiss of Death for workout-haters.  DON’T stare at the clock. If you’re struggling to make your goal of 10, 20, 60 minutes, do anything you can to not look at the clock!  If you're on a machine, physically cover it up with a towel or magazine.  If you've got a watch or iPod, set an alarm instead of constantly checking the time.  If you can only focus on how far you have left to go, your mind will totally mess with you and psych you out of finishing.  Trust me, I know all too well.

When you can’t distract yourself from how much you hate exercise, sometimes you’ve just gotta suck it up and do it.  Before a workout when you’re trying to talk yourself out of it, think of how good you’ll feel afterward.  “You never regret a workout” is something I see people tweet a lot.  It’s true – there’s a natural high you get after a good sweat session, but if you loathe sweating, it can be hard to jump over that initial hurdle and make yourself move.  Keeping an inspirational vision board handy might be a good way to perk you up and make you move, too.  When in the throes of exercise, repeating a mantra to yourself can keep you from quitting.  “I am healthy, I am sexy, and I am strong” is a good one to keep your ass moving!

Are you a current or former exercise-hater?  How did you get (or are you getting) over your hatred?  What other tips have you picked up for making yourself want to move?  Got any good podcasts or mantras to share?