Everyone struggles to find motivation for exercise. Yes, everyone; even your crazy friend who runs at 6 a.m. every day.
I would know, because I’m your crazy friend who runs at 6AM every day. OK we're not talking literally every day, but I love to run and most days I like hitting the road early in the morning before it’s time for work.
That doesn’t mean I don’t play snooze-ical chairs with my alarm clock every morning; getting out of bed is 95% of the challenge. And if I don’t exercise before work, by the end of the day I’m so beat that it takes a whole lot of mental wizardry to convince myself I need to do some moving around, and I don’t always win that battle. (I love Netflix almost as much as I love running.)
The reason I’ll wake up early to run on a regular basis, though, is because (like I mentioned earlier) I love to run. I truly enjoy it to the point where I don’t exactly think of it as “working out.” For me, it’s more like what surfing is to a beach bum or what soccer is to a bunch of kids in a park.
It’s fun, it’s recreational and most importantly, (although it presents a challenge) it doesn’t feel like work.
In all the time I’ve spent working as a personal trainer and writing about health and fitness I’ve always made a point to emphasize the importance of finding activities that are enjoyable. But this whole idea of actually enjoying exercise resurfaced for me recently when I joined Discover Outdoors for a primal “workout” as part of their Outdoor Rise campaign last week.
I put the word workout in quotations because while what I participated in was definitely exercise, it felt much less like a workout and more like an active playdate in the park. I was expecting a boot camp style bodyweight workout. What I got was on a whole other level.
Yes, we performed what you could call “bodyweight exercises,” but the class leader, Jonathan Angelilli, never mentioned anything about how many repetitions to complete and he never once named an exercise. Instead he led us through a series of games.
Games that challenged both our mental and physical capabilities. Games that made us smile and laugh. Games that, to my surprise, left my muscles feeling quite sore the next day.
But at no point during that hour-long session on the grass in Central Park did I ever feel like I was doing “work,” which is what we too often equate exercise with these days. When was the last time you laughed or even smiled while working out at the gym? It can be such a serious place, and that’s probably part of the reason it’s so hard to motivate ourselves to go.
Don’t get me wrong, some people actually do very much enjoy lifting weights or running on the treadmill or participating in group exercise classes. Some people look forward to going to the gym. If you’re one of those people, more power to you. But for those of us who have a hard time associating happiness with these more traditional forms of exercise, well then I encourage you to explore new options.
The key to sustaining an exercise routine actually has nothing to do with motivation at all. If your “workouts” consist only of activities that you truly enjoy, than you won’t need any motivation. You’re passion and enthusiasm will keep you engaged far beyond the point that any amount of motivation could.
I’m not saying that I jump out of bed absolutely eager to run every day of the week. As much as I love to run, sometimes I just really don’t want to do it. That’s usually when I know it’s time to take a break. Lucky for me, I also love yoga, swimming and cooking. Variety is important too. Don’t let yourself get bored.
Maybe you won’t turn into the crazy friend who runs at 6 a.m. every morning, but I bet you‘ll spend much less time worrying about finding the motivation to exercise.