Falling in love can be a beautiful experience. If you’ve ever fallen in love, you might be reminded of those first dates with your partner while you’re reading this. It was blissful and beautiful. It may even have been easy. That, unfortunately, is seldom the case when it comes to exercise though. Anyone who’s ever begun an exercise journey toward a goal can remember it being a brutal and painful experience, and yet, some of us emerge from that baptism of fire not just able to handle its difficulties but craving them daily.
If you think that this article will explain ways to fall in love with exercise easily, then I’m afraid that you’re reading the wrong article because such an article either doesn’t exist or is lying to you. That being said, let’s jump into the first of four ways to fall in love with exercise, despite its difficulty.
#1 Start With Why
In 2015, James Lawrence achieved the impossible by completing 50 Ironman races in 50 days, each in a different state in the USA. He had attempted this feat several times before and had failed, so what made the difference in his 2015 attempt? – His children.
Just before Lawrence left home for his first of 50 races, he promised his children that would reach his goal this time. From that point, every time he wanted to give up while swimming, cycling, or running, he would remember his promise to his kids. To him, he believed that a father should never go back on his promises to his children, and that helped him to complete 193km of swimming, 9012.5km of cycling, and 2110km of running all within the space of 50 days and with an average of 4.5 hours of sleep per night. He was no longer just competing for the glory of achieving his goal, but for the trust and respect of his children.
Your Values Matter
It can be easier to find motivation to do something difficult if you can see how it connects with your values. Let’s take my hypothetical conversation with Tim for an example:
“Why do you want to exercise more?”, I asked.
“To lose weight”, Tim says.
“Why do you want to lose weight?”
“So that I can look good.”
“Why do you want to look good?”
“I think it will improve my relationship with my wife.”
“Why do you want to improve your marriage?”
“Because having a successful marriage is of paramount importance to me.”
“So, could you say that you’re not necessarily planning to exercise to lose weight, but that the real reason is so that you can possibly improve your marriage?”
“Yes, I suppose so. Now I’m going to work extra hard in the gym and I’ll keep thinking of my wife and how much I love her as I train.”
So what’s your “Why”?
People don’t necessarily start businesses because they want to make money, but because they want to create something significant. People don’t buy Playstations necessarily because they want to be entertained, but because they want to be someone else, somewhere else for several hours a week. What’s the real reason as to why you would like to fall in love with exercise? Have a conversation with yourself similar to the one I had with Bill, and you’d have taken the first step toward falling in love with exercise.
#2 Small, Simple Habits
If you’re reading this, it’s reasonable for me to assume that you brushed your teeth this morning. While you’d be quick to agree with me (hopefully), you probably can’t remember the exact experience of this morning’s oral hygiene session. This is because for most people, brushing one’s teeth in the morning is such a regular habit, that it’s become automatic- So automatic, in fact, that we don’t even remember it. If this is you, congratulations! You have successfully built a habit, but how do you make exercise as much of an automatic habit as brushing your teeth?
First of all, it is much harder to make exercise a habit than teeth brushing. This is because exercise typically requires more preparation, time, and effort than brushing your teeth, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make it a regular, powerful habit.
Reduce the friction by planning ahead
. This simply means that you should make getting into your exercise routine as simple as possible. For example, how likely do you think it would be for me to go to gym if my gym clothes aren’t washed, I can’t find my running shoes or earphones, and my car has almost no petrol in it? Conversely, How easy would it be for me to attend gym if my gym bag is packed and ready the night before, my gym shoes are in their usual place, I have my gym clothes washed and ready, my water bottle is filled, and my car has petrol in it? More likely, right?
The secret to forming discipline to exercise is to plan ahead to make it as easy as possible for your future self to get into the gym and get moving. If you plan to train tomorrow morning, do everything you can tonight to limit any excuses you might have tomorrow. If you’ve worked hard to get everything ready for tomorrow today, then it would be a waste of all that effort to not train, right?
Try this out
If you’re planning to join a gym or exercise class, stop right now and do this simple exercise first:
- Have your training clothes, bag, bottle, earphones, etc ready for gym every morning for one month.
- Be disciplined to take them out every morning, and to be ready to exercise at the right time every day.
- If you can do this for 30 straight days, then you’ve proven to yourself that you are disciplined to maintain a regular exercise schedule.
- Once you’ve developed that habit, then you’re ready to start joining a gym or exercise class.
- This task may seem daunting for you, but it’s a huge step toward you achieving your exercise goals.
Put in the hard work behind the scenes now so that you’re relying on habit, rather than force of will to get yourself training. This is a big step toward doing for your body what you already do for your teeth. Habit Expert James Clear puts it brilliantly when he says, “We don’t rise to the level of our goals. We fall to the level of our habits.” Here’s to a healthy smile and a healthy body!
#3 Make it Fun
I’m not surprised if you groaned when you saw the title to this section. “How on earth can something as tedious and painful as exercise be fun?” Exercise doesn’t need to be tedious. There are hundreds of ways to move and strengthen your body that don’t fit into the typical running or lifting weights category. In fact, I’d be surprised if you’ve tried all of them.
Try something new
I want to challenge you to go out and try a new method of training as soon as you’re able. In fact, many exercise organisations such as Body 20 make a one-hour free trial available for you to try. I’ve found Body 20 to be much more enjoyable than a traditional gym because clients not only get their own personal trainer to train them, but these trainers are friendly, interesting people who are great at making conversation. This ensures that if you join Body 20, that training will never be a lonely experience for you.
Have you thought of these?
Other interesting forms of exercise could include joining a casual sports team, joining a dance studio, taking up individual sports such as tennis or squash, going on park-runs, or even playing Augmented Reality video games such as Pokémon Go or Zombies, Run!
The great thing about most of these suggestions is that they’re both physical and social experiences. Being active can be so much more enjoyable when you do it with people you enjoy being around.
#4 Make it Yours
You may be reading this having tried loads of different ways to be active, but are still struggling to get yourself to exercise. This could be because most of the activities you’ve tried are either too difficult or painful for them to be enjoyable. I can relate to this somewhat.
Not a fan
While my wife and many of my friends enjoy ballroom dancing, I was always really put off by it because it was way too difficult for me to learn and remember all the moves while trying to lead a partner in a dance. However, when I realised that if I was patient with myself, and took my own time to learn the moves, I began to understand the moves better, performed the moves better, and began to enjoy them.
You may have gone to a fitness class that was too intense for you, while it looked much easier for others. Be patient with yourself and start with an easier exercise. As you begin to improve, you may find that your enjoyment of the activity starts to slowly grow with it. Train on your level. The beauty is more in your improvement over time than what you can do today.
The next piece of advice is way easier said than done, but it’s to stop comparing yourself to other people. Remember that everyone who is stronger and fitter than you has probably invested a huge amount of time and energy into their exercise.
Start to view yourself as the learner and improver, rather than the rooky, weakling, or fatso. Build your identity around that. Play the long game and view your fitness journey as an investment rather than a competition. If your satisfaction from training is from improvement rather than just results, then it will be easier to gain satisfaction.
You are competing with only one person, and that’s the you from the past. There’s nothing like the feeling of lifting weights that you previously couldn’t lift or running that 5k without your lungs burning as much as they did a month ago. If looking at the Instagram photos of chiselled models discourages you, stop following them for now and focus more on your path.
Focus on fulfilment
Don’t expect exercise to make you happy but expect it to make you feel fulfilled instead. Remember that a life well lived is not one that is easy or always fun, but one in which we are faced with daily pain, but are well trained and equipped to overcome it regularly, and go from strength to strength in the process. If you can do this, your fitness journey will be one of genuine reward and deep fulfilment. Here’s to the start of your love story.
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