How to Find and Fall in Love with Exercise That’s Perfect for You
The necessary burden I feared would control the rest of my life
Exercise — we’re told it’s important from a young age, our doctor consistently advises us to do more, we read articles on how it’s great for us, yet consistently millions of people every day choose not to engage.
And I don’t blame them.
I used to hate exercise and was always avoiding it, finding both fictional and real reasons to avoid any form of exertion. Even later on when I had finally decided to take responsibility for my increasing weight and deteriorating health, and had committed myself to it, I found myself consistently dreading it. For a while, I feared my life would always be dictated by this necessary burden, and considered giving it up altogether for I wasn’t sure how much longer I could cope.
But that was several years ago, and now I am still exercising, staying fit, and the miracle is that I love it and couldn’t imagine a life without it. I had become one of those people, but it was not by chance or a slow-growth love for exercise.
It was only when I made three key changes to the way I viewed exercise, that movement became a joy in my life rather than a necessary burden.
Step 1: Acknowledge you’re meant for it
Our athletic ability is very personal to our identity, and there is a strong psychological barrier to adopting exercise because of it. Yet you can’t be good or bad at exercise, like you can be fast at running or good at throwing a ball. You can be good at exercising like you can be good at eating, meaning that when you do it in a way that improves your quality of life, you are always doing it right.
And exercise is hardly ever bad for us (unless we are over-stressing our bodies and doing too much of it) as it helps you control your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and improve your mood and reduce your risk of depression, in addition to a whole lieu of other benefits.
So if you work up a sweat, and you feel refreshed and good about yourself afterwards, you’re doing it right. Ignore what your high school P.E. class may have convinced you, and acknowledge that as long as you exist, you are meant for moving.
Step 2: Identify the secondary factors that you don’t enjoy — and avoid it!
Everyone enjoys exercise — even if you think you don’t, you probably do.
What people don’t enjoy about exercise tends to be secondary factors associated with it: you don’t enjoy the process of planning time for it, the discomfort of pushing yourself, the eyes in the gym, the pressure of working out in a group, or the monotony of a treadmill.
But exercise comes in many forms. If you don’t like planning time for exercise, try a short at-home Youtube workout video you can do on a yoga mat, any time during the day on whim (they have many apartment-friendly workouts). If you don’t like pushing yourself to the point of discomfort or exhaustion, realize that you don’t need to — low-intensity exercise such as walking, gardening, or stretching also have a multitude of incredibly important health benefits.
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Avoiding exercise you don’t enjoy is key to finding exercise you do enjoy — just don’t conflate this with avoiding all kinds of exercise. Although it seems obvious, so many of us have been conditioned to assume exercise as something forced, planned for, and disciplined into our lives, that we often forget that at its core, it is not any of these things.
You don’t need to work out in a gym, you don’t need to work out in a group class to have fun, and you definitely don’t need to go on a treadmill to get proper exercise. If the exercise is not enjoyable for you, do something different!
Step 3: Appreciate that exercise for self-improvement is not an act of vanity
As with any new endeavor, you will end up growing from it. And if you’re new to exercising, chances are there is a specific goal for it: perhaps you want to drop a few pounds, found you are genetically susceptible and want to reduce your risk for heart disease, want to join your athletic friends in their weekend activities, or want to look stronger and feel fitter in your own skin.
Exercising for self-improvement should not be treated as an act of vanity, but as one of self-care. So enjoy the process, celebrate the inevitable growth you’ll encounter, and enjoy spending time looking after yourself. While our goals are mere guidelines, and the real value comes in the consistency of looking after ourselves, celebrating your own growth is a powerful habit that even the most humblest of us should embrace.
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It sometimes seems odd to me that something that I had looked at with such distaste at one point is now something that does so much to improve my quality of life.
Fitness and health for sure, but falling in love with exercise has also allowed me to connect with people I otherwise wouldn’t have met, experience activities I was once too shy to try, and explore and challenge parts of my identity that I previously thought inflexible.
Like all kinds of love, there is a type of exercise out there that you will enjoy and is perfect for you. So acknowledge that you’re meant for it, be unrelenting in avoiding exercise you don’t like (not exercise in general), and celebrate your growth there. Every future version of yourself will be glad that you did.