Don't pike. Here's how to actually feel pumped about exercising tonight

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Exercise is a lot of things: sweaty, gruelling, ultimately rewarding… but fun?

Well, that depends who you ask. Some people live for the burn, while others have to internally bribe themselves to get through a workout (“There’s a brownie at the finish line, I promise…”). It gets even harder to derive joy from fitness when winter rocks up. What’s more fun — staying in bed where it’s warm, or running in the freezing 7am chill? Exactly.

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According to new research from the Netherlands there could be a way to make running/yoga/pole vaulting/insert chosen exercise here a more satisfying experience. As the New York Times reports, the University of Utrecht researchers wanted to figure out why exercise is so enjoyable to some and torturous to others.

Their answer is a health buzzword you’ve probably heard a lot of lately: mindfulness. This technique, which involves “awareness of what is happening in the present moment” according to the study authors, has been applied to everything from meditation to eating.

Mindfulness doesn't only apply to meditation.

The researchers quizzed a group of 400 physically active volunteers to determine how mindful and absorbed they were during their workouts, and how much satisfaction they drew from the experience, to see if there was a link between the two. Their findings were telling.

“The message is that mindfulness may amplify satisfaction, because one is satisfied when positive experiences with physical activity become prominent. For those experiences to be noticed, one must become aware of them," the study's leader Kalliopi-Eleni Tsafou told the New York Times.

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"We would argue that this can be achieved by being mindful.”

So what exactly does a mindful approach to exercise involve? Well, a lot of it comes down to keeping your eyes, ears and other senses open and appreciating the various elements of your activity. It's paying attention to the burn in your calves, the sound of your feet pounding the pavement and the air in your face.

That's all well and good, but if you want slightly less conceptual ways to take the torture out of working out, here are some practical tips from Aussie personal trainers and athletes:

1. Make it social

"Working out with a buddy is a perfect way to mix up your exercise routine - it keeps things interesting while making sure you both stay motivated and accountable," says Steph Prem, winter Olympian and founder of Premium Performance in Melbourne. 

"We are social creatures. Don't beat yourself up for failing to commit to your training if you attempted to go it alone," agrees Luke D'Astoli, Functional Movement Personal Trainer at Acumotum and lululemon athletica Chapel Street ambassador. "There's nothing better than having a training partner who is as committed to their health as you are. Someone to celebrate your achievements with, someone to support you when you're hurting. Find a good influence for you and be a good influence for someone else. You can't play games on your own."


 2. Find what works

If the mere thought of running makes you want to burrow into your sofa, maybe it's time to accept that you're never going to enjoy running, full stop. But that doesn't mean exercise as a whole can't be enjoyable.

"Whatever you love and you feel works for your body and makes you feel good - do that!," says Steph Prem. "Think Pilates, dance and barre classes, waking the dog, home workouts, DVDs... Your body will respond better being consistent with something you like and know works than being inconsistent and trying every new fitness craze that comes to town."

Here are some ideas to get you started... [post continues after gallery]

3. Play

Being mindful doesn't have to be meditative. Greg Stark, personal trainer and founder of Better Being, incorporates a mindful type of exercise called 'play' into his sessions. Yep, play isn't just for kids.

"Play is the ultimate way to exercise — it creates positive engagement in physical activity and is fundamental to not only physical, but also mental function ... The process of play is more important then the end goal," he explains. This can take various forms - from 'body play' (activities like handstands) to 'creative play', involving activities like dancing or yoga poses.

Luke D'Astoli says you can incorporate play into your workouts by turning exercises into mini games. "Having a great experience while you're training can often come down to making a game of it. Why do a boring set of lunges when you can tap a balloon to a partner and incidentally lunge as you reach towards the balloon?" he says. "Games change the focus from internal to external, and quite often you can push yourself harder when you're not thinking about it."

4. Think about your progress

"I've never seen someone bored when they were getting better. When you have a structured program to follow, it's exciting to see how you can come back each week a little stronger, faster and fitter," says Luke D'Astoli.

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"You might set yourself a goal to lift your own bodyweight for your deadlift in two months. As you get closer and closer you'll be more and more motivated to get back in the gym and hit that goal."

5. Don't be scared

You know what's a major barrier to enjoying exercise? Freaking out about 'getting it wrong'.

"I see people go to the gym all the time with fear in their eyes," says 12 Week Body Transformation guru Michelle Bridges. "The worst that's going to happen is you run out of energy – and that's that. There's nothing to be afraid of. War, yes I'm afraid of war. Earthquakes? Yep, definitely afraid of those. Exercise? Not that much."