Saturday, January 21, 2012

Try a new f-word while exercising - FUN!

How's that New Year's resolution you made to exercise coming along? Maybe you've doubled down on your efforts, but are wondering if it's really worth it. Why does something that we know is good for us and that seemed so exciting just a few weeks ago, turn into a lackluster chore we begin to avoid? Rather than dreading it, slugging it out half-heartedly or abandoning your goal altogether, how about considering a different strategy? Try putting a little fun in your exercise program!

Yes, you read that right. FUN! Okay, so, maybe for you another F-word comes to mind when thinking about exercising, but, before you discount the idea as absurd, think about it for a minute... Can exercise really be fun and if so, what could make it fun? I think our response to this question might be influenced by our past experiences with physical activities.  Reflect back to when you were a kid. Did you ride a bike, a skateboard, or a scooter? Did you play tag, hide and seek, jump rope, and run races? What about shooting hoops, roller-blading or hula-hooping? You get the idea. These are all physical activities that for most of us are associated with fun. Now, what comes to mind when you think about your next workout on the treadmill, elliptical trainer or recumbent bike? If you said fun, good for you, but you're definitely in the minority.

The bottom line is for many of us is that physical activity has lost this element of fun. So, if your wondering why you're struggling with waning motivation, or you've moved past that stage to just giving up altogether, take a look at your workout and ask yourself - is this fitness routine boring and uninspiring? Case in point, faced with taking the stairs or the escalator, which would you choose? Well, not surprisingly, an experiment conducted by Volkswagen found that the majority of people would use the escalator - that is until they made the stairs fun.  Check it out:


 If you're wondering, how do I make my workouts fun?  Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Revisit some of the childhood activities you once liked to do, although you may have to scale them back to accommodate your current fitness level
  2. Know what you like and reward yourself for doing it. If you find being outside exhilarating, than choosing a form of indoor exercise isn't going to work for you.  Consider hiking through a local park, planting a garden or walking the dog.  Commit to it and reward yourself when you reach a predetermined goal. See SMART goals post here on how to set specific, measured, attainable, realistic and time-targeted goals, another key to being successful.
  3. Progress g r a d u a l l y. This prevents pain and injuries. Remember, we had to learn to crawl before we walked. This applies to everyone. Even if you were a super athlete in college. If you've not exercised in a few years - you need to take it slowly. A few words about exercise and pain. Now, don't get me wrong, there will be a measure of discomfort, but this isn't pain and it will decrease over time. Exercise shouldn't be torture.  The old "No pain no gain" thinking has been replaced with the much wiser - "Train, don't strain."
  4. Mix up your activities.  Variety is the spice of life, so they say and in this case it helps to prevent overuse injuries, as well as boredom and monotony.
  5. Enlist the help of a buddy. Exercise is more fun if you have the support of a like minded friend. Mutual encouragement is a wonderful motivator.
  6. Make exercise less like a "routine" and more like a game - a mental game that is.  Set a little "contest" for yourself for each physical activity you undertake.  For example, today when I perform the plank I'm going to hold this position for 10 extra seconds.  Make this  mini-challenge attainable, but not too easy, and then make sure you congratulate yourself when you win. 
Of course, always check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

So, are you ready to stop cursing those dreaded workouts and put some fun back into fitness? Just give these ideas a try and perhaps you'll find a new attitude about your exercise resolution. You've got nothing to lose, right? Well, except maybe the few pounds you've resolved to lose already.   I look forward to hearing all your success stories. Happy new year!

Association for Applied Sports Psychology - Exercise Adherence -
The Fun Theory -

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