How not to hate exercise

Hands up — who loves exercise?

Chances are, anyone currently sitting in front of an electronic screen with an arm held aloft is either blatantly lying, sadly mislead, or an extraordinarily rare and enviable breed of human.

For most of us, yes — there’s the enjoyable camaraderie and competition of sporting games. Yes- we may be highly motivated to exercise for the purpose of achieving an end objective (a tummy that’s flatter than an goth’s enthusiasm and abdominal muscles harder than differential calculus etc.). Yes — we may even be addicted to exercise; endorphins are drugs after all. But try to convince me that you’re actually enraptured with the process of exercising for the sake of exercising, and I’ll have a hard time believing you.

Unfortunately for the aesthetics and general health of our species, exercise is frequently not fun. In fact, it often looks and feels a lot like hard work. So we make excuses to justify our inactivity. “I won’t have time to wash my hair before bed”. “I’ve only got 15 minutes before Masterchef is on”. “I broke the nail on my pinky finger last week and I’m still recovering from the emotional trauma”.

And so our backsides remain firmly planted on couches, and droop progressively lower with each passing day. Until one day we wake up, look in the mirror, and realise that our reflection has come to resemble that of a pregnant rhinoceros.

It’s not ok. But I blame the marketing.

Lose weight! Get toned! Look fab!

Every day, we are programmed to exercise for an end goal. The path towards that end goal is entirely disregarded — even discouraged — as we’re spurred to ignore the painful journey and think of the long-term results.

But sustainable motivation doesn’t work like that. We need our reinforcement (bangin’ body / health / vitality) closely linked in time to the behaviour (i.e. huff puff heave ho) to inspire us to keep doing it. So when we fail to instantaneously transform into Victoria’s Secret/Calvin Klein model lookalikes after our first agonising gym sesh, it all starts to seem a bit too hard.

Solution 1: Generate an immediate-term reinforcement

On occasion I’ve thrown on joggers and a rockin’ 70s sweat band, sprinted down the street with arms and legs pumping… and then it all starts getting a bit hard. My body is screaming at me to go home, apologise to the cookie jar I’ve been neglecting, and consume the lot in recompense. Or at least substitute the running for a gentle stroll.

But a little while ago, I found something that keeps me going.

It’s not pictures of perfectly photoshopped exercise models. It’s not the promise of a block of choc when I get home.

It’s sunset.

If I look out the window and see the dying glow of a glorious celestial display, I come down with a serious bout of FOMO*. The FOMO drives me to sprint the distance to my local beach, all the while knowing that if I falter from the cracking pace I have set myself, the exertion, perspiration and heightened heart rate may be in vain by the time I arrive (having missed the sunset).

And believe it or not, I’ve caught the sun before it sinks below the horizon every time. Once by only 12 seconds. But catch it I did.

If you’re not the type to be motivated by sunbeams, try TV shows. Identify your energetic jogging pace, pick out a local running route, and work out how long it would take you to jog the lot. Depart for said run precisely at said time prior to commencement of favourite show. If you snooze (stop/walk), you lose (bye bye TV time).

Solution 2: Find a form of movement you love

Boot camp. Push ups. Burpies. It’s little wonder that to many, the word exercise has become synonymous with torture.

What we fail to realise is that exercise does (believe it or not) have the potential to be fun. Like most things in this world, it just takes a little creativity.

Have you heard of Bubble Soccer? It’s this extraordinary craze that Aussies recently shipped in from Europe. Essentially, you encase yourself in an enormous squidgy person-sized ball and run into your opponents. Or the people on your own team… anything goes, really. It’s like the bipedal version of human dodgem cars. Of course, there is the risk that you may laugh more than you run. But hey — scientific studies have shown that laughter increases heart rate and calorie expenditure too. So win-win.

Then there are trampolining joints. They’re springing up all over the place. Many have areas where you can propel yourself into the air and splat into a gargantuan pool of foam blocks. You can play bouncy dodge ball. Or you can just elect to do some standard up-down BOING-ing. Apparently you burn a butt-load of calories from just a 10 minute bouncing sesh. PLUS you get to re-live the glory days of childhood. Double win.

If you’re strapped for cash, there’s always the good old fashioned home-made dance party. Whack on some tunes, dim the lights, and transform your bedroom into a rockin’ night club. No one is there to judge you… well, unless you invite them. Which can be fun too.

The possibilities are endless, really. Watermelon rugby. Jelly wrestling. Good old fashioned team sports.

We all have it within us to get fabulously fit. It’s just a matter of finding the right motivator.

*FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out

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