When you try some new activities, or do them in a different way, you need to have an open mind. It may take a little time to start enjoying the feeling of movement if you have been inactive for a while. Take baby steps, and ease into it. And remember, you don't have to sweat profusely or go through extreme discomfort to derive any benefit – ‘no pain, no gain' does not apply when you start exercising to remove stored body fat.
If you have a positive attitude and can find ways to make your exercise enjoyable, you will be much more likely to stick to it. Doing what you enjoy doesn't require motivation. You will feel enthusiastic, and look forward to it, rather than making excuses not to do it. Find an activity you are passionate about and exercise will never seem like a chore.
What if I don't like exercise?
When people say they don't like exercise, what they really mean is that they have not enjoyed the exercises they have tried in the past. Fair enough. You may have got too puffed and red-faced, or embarrassed, doing something that didn't suit you. Most people have probably already had a negative experience in sport or exercise at some stage. But what about getting back into some form of movement right now? You should have goals that mean something to you – and physical activity can help you achieve them.
Try cross training
Choose an aerobic activity, such as walking or slowly jogging, as your primary activity. But if you think doing the same activity every day sounds boring, it may help to try a wider variety of exercises. This is known as cross training, where you do a number of different activities on different days. After all, variety is the spice of life. Cross training may help you maintain your motivation and interest. If you focus on a variety of activities that you enjoy, you will be more likely to incorporate them into everyday life.
Action plan: add variety into your exercise routine
- Try to find one or two other activities (in addition to walking or slow jogging) to include in your exercise routine – resistance training, or a team sport, for example
- Try to include a few activities that are more about fun than exercise – backyard cricket, throwing a Frisbee, or playing tag with your kids, for example
- Try a variety of activities to increase your chances of finding something you enjoy
Top ten: fun cross training activities
- Mountain biking
- Surfing / bodyboarding / bodysurfing
- Frisbee throwing/kite flying
- Martial arts
- Kayaking / canoeing
- Team sports
Try interval training
Interval training uses rest periods combined with short, intense bursts of activity to progressively add a little more intensity and exertion to your exercise routine. This gives you a change from steady-state exercise, where you always work at the same level. A higher level of intensity can increase the number of kilojoules you burn during exercise, and has been shown to be more effective for women, who are less likely to engage in vigorous exercise.
Action plan: vary the intensity of your exercise routine
- Once or twice a week, try to push yourself a little harder, in short bursts
- Use telegraph poles for a walk/run program where you run between two poles, then walk for four. You can then reduce your walking (rest periods) as you progress
- If you are very overweight, don't push yourself too hard: make your high intensity intervals only slightly harder than normal
- Interval training places more stress on the heart, so if you have a history of heart disease, see your doctor before you use this strategy
There's nothing better than being your best
It's only natural to want to look good, feel great and perform at your peak. That's what's so great about exercise; it helps bring out the best in you. One of the true joys is achieving a personal best (PB). What could be better than a journey where you are constantly striving to reach a goal, reaching it, setting a higher goal and reaching that? That's how you get fitter and leaner: by going a little faster, or a little longer, or lifting a little more weight. It's also a great way to help you focus on the process of exercise, not the results. If you constantly strive to beat your previous PB, you will lift your self-esteem and get more out of exercise – and you will probably lose body fat.
Personal challenge: record your goals and your progress
Find somewhere to write down your exercise details – in your diary, a loose-leaf folder, a scrapbook, on your computer. Write down your long-term goals, your exercise plan, and your actual exercise over the week, to track your progress towards achieving your goals. When you plan your week, be creative, and include a good balance between your primary fat-burning exercise and more fun activities.
Another way to add interest and enjoyment to your exercise routine is to use some of the available technology, equipment and gadgetry. Exercise machines offer convenience and privacy, making it possible to exercise in front of the television, and to keep active on a miserable day. Choose machines that mimic the most effective exercises, such as treadmills and elliptical trainers. There are also some great devices to help you monitor your progress, such as heart rate monitors and pedometers. The options are really only limited by your budget.
How long before I love exercise?
You have to learn to love exercise, and it will take some people longer than others to do that. All good things take time. As exercise becomes more of a habit, you will start to feel fitter and more energetic. You might even feel bad if you miss a day of exercise. Eventually, you might find yourself wanting to be active on your weekends or on holidays instead of lazing around doing nothing. Suddenly, one of your friends might call you a health freak. Can you see yourself as this person? Is it possible to unleash the inner athlete inside you? It's easier when you don't have to force yourself to exercise – you actually want to do it. Health and fitness can gradually become a passion. Make it yours.