Everyone, even avid runners, are encouraged to move more throughout the day. So whether you’re new to exercising or looking to get more active, incorporating these tips will help. Get ready to walk your first mile, head into the next level of yoga class, train for your first 5K or run a marathon. Whatever your movement goal is, these nine tips — plus plenty of workout guides — will help you get going and, hopefully, enjoy the process.
1. FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE
“No pain, no gain” may be true for elite athletes, but for most of us, nothing could be further from the truth. Finding joy and pleasure in being active is its own reward, but the biggest benefit of doing something you love for exercise is you stand a much better chance of actually sticking to it.
If you already love an activity, great. If the idea of exercise bums you out from the start, try a wide variety of things to find something you enjoy. Try indoor classes, boutique studios, outdoor trails, individual activities and team sports — mix it up until you find something that stands out for you. Here are four ways to learn to love exercise.
2. WALKING WORKS
If you’re new to working out, walking is a great place to start. And yes, walking is sufficient exercise to lose weight and get in shape.
3. GET A WORKOUT BUDDY (OR BUDDIES)
If someone is waiting for you to walk, you’re a lot more likely to show up. Having a workout buddy holds you accountable to someone else, which is a great motivator. Plus, working out with a friend increases the enjoyment. Some people take it a step further and find a tribe of likeminded individuals to push each other, offer encouragement, suffer and succeed together. Research confirms the benefits of this kind of camaraderie in the gym:
- Working out in a group boosts the stress reduction we get from exercise.
- Even working out in the presence of another person reduces the perceived effort of the exercise.
- If you think your workout partner is doing better than you, you’ll work harder, so train with someone who’s stronger/faster/fitter.
- Exercising with a member of the opposite sex has been shown to reduce perceived exertion.
4. TAKE IT OUTSIDE
Fresh air, sunshine, lovely vistas … exercising outdoors makes exercise more enjoyable for a lot of people. As we know, the more enjoyable our workout is, the more likely we are to do it. There are also psychological benefits, according to a 2011 meta-analysis. Outdoor workouts resulted in greater revitalization, increased energy and more positive engagement with the activities, along with less depression, anger, confusion and tension. Plus, sunlight can increase testosterone levels via vitamin D production.
So if you usually hit the stationary bike, try mountain biking. Trade in the treadmill once in awhile for a trail run. Move from an indoor class to an outdoor bootcamp.
5. INCORPORATE PLAY
Sure, this is another way to enjoy your activity more, but it’s also a way to stay motivated. Indulging in “fun” activities like trampoline jumping or tossing a Frisbee around can be a great break from the more “serious” activities like running or strength training.
Most play also involves other people and turns your activity time into social time. A pickup game of basketball, a tennis match or kicking a soccer ball around with a friend keeps you active in the most fun of ways. By framing your workouts as a “fun activity,” they become their own reward.
6. FIND FLOW
Have you ever had a workout that feels effortless until it’s over, at which point you collapse under the weight of suddenly realized exertion? That’s flow. According to the father of flow research, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, we must engage in doable but difficult challenges that tap into our individual curiosities and interests while giving immediate feedback or reaction to attain flow.
To find flow during your workout, try eliminating distractions. Instead of running on a flat track, for example, go running on a trail that forces you to dodge rocks, jump roots and pay close attention to where your feet go; the time will fly by and you’ll probably go longer than you would have on the track.
7. SAVOR HOW EXERCISE MAKES YOU FEEL
Exercise can be an escape from the drudgery of real life. A good workout relaxes you. Food tastes better. The sunset’s prettier. Work stress is somehow less pressing. You’re confident after a workout because you’ve proven to yourself that you know how to use and inhabit your body.
Taking a moment to appreciate that feeling makes it easier to recall it and use it to motivate you to your next workout.
8. FOCUS ON THE JOURNEY
Great outcomes are fabulous, but if you’re always chasing something, it can be tougher to enjoy the process and stay motivated. When you can immerse yourself in the journey — in the exercise itself as you’re doing it — great stuff happens. You hit the flow state more easily. You find yourself having fun again when you work out. You discover training can be an end in itself, and your workouts are reinvigorated and more fruitful.
Keep your goals, of course. Just don’t forget to savor the journey and accept that sometimes the outcome will differ from your expectations.
9. TRY SOMETHING NEW
Humans are novelty seekers. One way trying a new workout or exercise can help is by boosting enthusiasm. If you’re bored with your workout, you’re bored. You’re going to go through the motions, doing the minimum and getting minimal results. If you’re excited about what you’re doing, you’ll be more into it and you’ll get more out of it.
When it comes to strength training, it might even be more effective to change up the exercises you do than simply increase the intensity (weight, volume, etc.). In a study, researchers tested the effects of exercise variation in both beginning strength trainees and early advanced trainees. Compared to varying the intensity, varying the exercises yielded significant strength and hypertrophy gains in both groups.