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5 Painless Ways to Get Yourself to Exercise

posted: 04/15/15
by: Katie Morton
getting yourself to exercise
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Sometimes nature is the best motivation.
iStock

As the mother of a toddler, I've found plenty of reasons not to exercise. I didn't sleep well. I should really spend my energy tidying the house. Perhaps I can let it slide and allow "moseying along at the speed of a 3 year-old" count as exercise. I was finding it difficult to get and stay motivated, and my lack of consistency was making it difficult to get into shape.

However, I do care about my health, and so the excuses were beginning to wear thin. I discovered these five painless ways to get myself to exercise consistently so that I can improve my energy levels and health. See if these exercise motivators could work for you.

1. Start small.

Sometimes we can't get started because our goals don't sound like fun. For example, if you're trying to make yourself get up at 6 a.m. and go to the gym, but you wake up feeling like you could really use the extra hour of sleep, you're going to have an awfully hard time convincing yourself to get out of bed and go do something you don't actually want to do.

It's much easier to get motivated when you decide to start small. For example, choose to walk for 15 minutes. Or do a simple and quick full-body workout in your living room with lunges, squats, crunches and push-ups. You'll get your heart rate up, and you won't have to get up silly-early. A few minutes of concentrated movement in the morning will raise your metabolism, give you more energy, and help you sleep better at night.

2. Lure yourself with pleasure.

Habits don't stick if they aren't pleasurable. In order to create a habit, your brain needs to get a reward. So when trying to develop the exercise habit, make sure you sweeten the pot so that your brain craves this part of your routine; it's the only way you're going to be able to exercise consistently.

What would help make exercise more pleasurable for you? Maybe you're bored to tears on a treadmill, but a walk in nature each morning would really light you up. Maybe you would crave the continuation of a juicy story each day by listening to audiobooks. Perhaps you can treat yourself to an album of music that makes you want to move. If the concept of working out generally sounds lousy and un-fun, then check a few different workout DVDs out of the library to see what kinds of exercises feel enjoyable to you.

Maybe you don't want to work out formally, and you prefer to get your exercise in the form of play. Think about what kind of games or sports you enjoy. Do you like racket sports like squash or tennis? If team sports are your thing, check to see if the World Adult Kickball Association has a league near you. Search for a MeetUp for any kind of game or sport you're into, and you're bound to find people to play with.

3. Have no shame when choosing your reward.

Let's talk for a moment about what would make exercise more pleasurable. We often get caught up in thinking that we "should" get pleasure from certain things. Like Shakespeare or NPR. And sure, these might be pleasurable on some level, but I'm sorry, I'm not getting out of bed and getting all hot and sweaty because I'm just DYING to listen to NPR.

When choosing your music or your audiobook, or even your means of exercising - make these things the most sensational, pleasurable, and quite frankly, addictive means of pushing your pleasure buttons you can find. In order to do this, you have to not care what other people think.

Guess what gets me out of bed for my 20-minute jog in the morning? A Britney Spears CD. I carry my bulky old-person portable CD player with me to the treadmill and I jog to Britney. The catchy beats keep my feet moving and that's the only thing that matters when I'm motivating myself out of my comfortable bed and into my running shoes.

If belly-dancing sounds like it would be a super fun and addictive workout, but a little part of you would be mortified, do it anyway. You've got to tune into what really makes you feel good, with no consideration for how cool or uncool you might look. In order for the exercise habit to stick, you must practice getting into it and enjoying yourself without any other thoughts but the pleasure.

4. Shut out your whiney inner voice.

Especially when we're first starting out developing the exercise habit, it can feel pretty darn uncomfortable at first and our inner voice can really kick up a fuss. If you're someone who really needs to be good at what you're doing in order to enjoy it, starting an exercise program might feel like torture.

What actually makes exercise feel uncomfortable is our complaining inner voice. We might check the time repeatedly and think, "Uuuuugh, time is moving sooo slowly! Am I DONE yet?!?" Or we think about how we're so breathless or out of shape, or we mentally search our bodies for signs of pain. This is a perfect demonstration of how to not get the exercise habit to stick.

If you were successful at tip number 3 - choosing the most addictive and pleasurable circumstances you can - then it will be a bit easier to shut out that whiney inner voice by focusing on the pleasure. If you're listening to music, then concentrate on the lyrics or the melody. When your inner voice starts to complain, ignore it! Return your attention back to the music, or the movement, or to happy images in your mind. Pay close attention to any aspect of your workout, except for unpleasant thoughts.

5. Commit to a daily routine.

In the past when I've failed at sticking to an exercise program, it was usually because it was slightly complicated. I wanted to perform different routines on different days, like having strength days versus cardio days. This is fine if I'm already in the habit, but when we're just starting out, committing to too many different variables complicates the act of getting our brains hooked on the habit of exercise.

When you commit to a daily exercise routine that's always the same, then you eliminate thinking, bargaining, and tracking. If you miss one day, you don't have to debate whether to make up the missed workout or to preserve your schedule by moving to the next one. You never have to wonder where you are in the scope of our weekly routine. When we create routines and habits, especially at the beginning, simplicity is one of our greatest allies.

Back to point number one: start small. Get yourself into the habit of simply showing up each and every day to do whatever it is you committed to doing. When you commit to a daily routine, it eliminates the wiggle room for excuses and debates, and then the exercise habit is much more likely to stick.