fitness

"I've quit the gym 5 times in two years. Now I've figured out how to actually enjoy exercise."

I have a confession to make, and I’m not exactly proud of what I’m going to say.

It’s something a friend would roll their eyes at and ask rather frustratedly, “really?”

Over the last two years, I have signed up to – and subsequently, quit – five gyms, to be exact. And like all shameful quitters, I’ve never hit the same gym twice. God forbid they recognise me and realise I didn’t actually move to a new area/lose my job/insert other excuses I’ve used to justify quitting, instead of telling them that I do not enjoy their gym and would rather sit on the couch and eat a bag of Twisties.

Lordy, how I hate the gym.

They smell. I get sweaty. It feels like a chore. They always play loud music so I can’t hear my podcast. My earphones refuse to stay in while I attempt to work out. I get lonely. My trainer wants to weigh me a lot. There are lots of very fit looking people in fancy active wear who look really good while running 5km and oh my do I not look like that.

Literally everything about the gym bugs me. But I always go back when I get a burst of ‘I can do this!’ energy. But then inevitably I quit and every time I do, it’s because I lose all motivation to continue my crusade for toned arms (this usually happens two weeks into my membership). And when you’re paying between $12 and $20 a week for a membership, it can become a pricey lie to tell yourself.

Watch: The Bachelor’s Sam Wood shows the Mamamia team how to exercise in an office. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

I always felt guilty when I had a gym membership, like when you’re in uni or doing your HSC and feel like you’ve never actually got free time – because you should be studying. I felt like I should be exercising.

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Then I got to a point where I realised while exercise is good for my body, that didn’t have to mean going to the gym five times a week and drinking kale smoothies, because that doesn’t work for me. I no longer feel pressured to have trendy, healthy foods (I don’t like turmeric lattes or acai bowls, gimme the big breakfast) and I no longer ‘should’ myself to exercise, because I know if I’m doing that I’m not having fun.

And why would I want to force myself to do something I don’t enjoy in my (very precious) non-work time?

So I changed the goalposts.

I now exercise, but make it so it’s more like a fun hobby.

Eat healthy foods, but only the ones I enjoy.

I’ve kept my favourite treats but eat them in regular, human portions.

Here’s how I changed my outlook on health and fitness.

Things I realised I absolutely cannot motivate myself to do:

  • Work out at home, including squats, lunges and push-ups. I 100 per cent will not do it when there are so many other fun things to do at home.
  • Attend over-priced yoga classes (I’m beginning to accept I won’t be a Meghan Markle-esque, legging-wearing, trendy Yogi).
  • Running. Period.
  • Regularly go to the gym and stick to a workout plan.
  • Get up early to exercise. When the sun isn’t up yet. And the coffee hasn’t been drunk yet.
  • Give up treats and snacks in favour of a salad. Never.
  • Eat billion-dollar acai bowls. It’s fancy fruit – let’s be honest.

The things I can motivate myself to do that are fun, can be done with a friend and keep me fit and active:

Sign up for something so you have a goal you can’t quit

One of the things that helped me actually stick to regularly exercising, was setting myself a goal I couldn’t get out of or cancel – at least not without intense shame or large financial implications.

Yep, that’s just the kind of erm, pressure, I need to light a fire under my butt to actually work out, otherwise, my couch and the latest Netflix comedy special are just too irresistible to pass up.

Think marathons, group netball games, overseas hikes…

I signed up to hike Peru’s four-day-long Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with my partner about eight months ahead of time. Now, the Inca trail winds through the Andes mountain range in South America at a very high altitude, so we knew we better train just a wee bit for this hike.

It’s something I had always wanted to do, but my fitness levels were not quite there yet. For the eight months we trained by going for daily morning walks and chatted the whole time. We got to spend time together and it didn’t feel like an effort, because we kept our walks to a stroll and increased the distance when time permitted. I doubt we would’ve finished our hike in one piece without the prep we did.

But my point is, having something to work towards that you can’t get out of, certainly helps with motivation. And you’ll have such a sense of satisfaction when you reach your goal.

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Make it a holiday

Holidays with some sneaky exercise thrown into it are still amazingly fun holidays.

Why not go for a hike in some American National Parks?

Snorkel a lot if you’re visiting a Pacific Island?

Walk a crazy amount if you’re on a shopping holiday (is this a thing?)

Go on a walking tour of a city?

Take a salsa class if you’re in a Latin American country?

There are so many options that are fun but will help you move your body.

Dance

I have two left feet but boy do I love to dance. You will always find me on the dance floor at a party.

I will not be the best dancer, my hips do not move like Shakira’s, but I will be a sweaty, singing explosion of daggy dance moves and I’ll be having the time of my life.

The way I see it, dancing is super fun and while I’m not great at it, if it brings me joy and is good for my body, why not? It’s much more fun than chin-ups at the gym. And you can do it anywhere for free, which my inner cheapskate really likes.

I think sometimes we get so caught up on things we ‘can’t’ do because we will look a bit silly, but if we want to enjoy life and not be so anxious I think we need to chuck that kind of thinking out the window.

Who cares how you look? Dance like it’s the ending of Footloose.

Walk your dog

You know those times when you really can’t be bothered going out but then you look at your dog and can see they’re bored and restless so you take them for a walk even though you’re tired? That’s one of the many reasons why dogs are brilliant.

Even a quick 30-minute stroll around the neighbourhood is better than nothing. And is there anything more satisfying than seeing your dog smiley and happy to be out? No. No, there isn’t.

What do you like to do for exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise? Tell us in a comment below.

Feature image: Getty Images.

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