Tips for Getting in Shape Even If You Hate Working Out
We all understand regular exercise is necessary to stay healthy, but how do you get started? And once you do, how do you learn to enjoy (or tolerate) this new reality consistently for the rest of your life?
Luckily, you don't have to be extremely motivated. We talked to fitness experts about some tips to help you get moving and get in shape, even if you dread the thought of working out on a regular basis.
It's just another chore
We've all seen influencers online and/or on TV brag about their exercise routine with huge smiles on their faces. While some people genuinely do enjoy working out, it's OK if you don't. In fact, it's pretty normal.
"I think a lot of people think that they should want to work out," said Brianna Bernard, nutrition coach and personal trainer. "They use the excuse of lacking motivation as the reason they aren't training consistently, if at all. Somewhere along the line, I think we all received a bad memo that we're supposed to feel excited and motivated to train, but, thankfully, motivation is not a prerequisite."
Instead of thinking of exercise as something you'll grow to love and enjoy, you could reframe your thinking and consider it more of a requisite chore—and, yes, that's a good thing.
"We all have things in our lives that we do every single day that we dislike," Bernard said. "We stay in jobs we hate for years. We stay in relationships that are no longer serving us for decades. We clean toilets and do dishes and laundry and pay the bills. I don't particularly love doing any of those chores, but I do them anyway. And exercising is no different."
Figure out why you want to exercise
If the "chore" argument doesn't work for you, another helpful tip is to focus on why you want to work out in the first place. Look beyond the typical "to be healthy" or "to lose weight" answers, even if they're true.
DeBlair Tate, certified fitness coach, military training instructor and owner of 8figured in Atlanta, Georgia, encourages clients to focus on their "why."
"One of my clients told me her 'why,'" Tate said. "The doctor had just told her she had diabetes. She has two little boys, so the thought of leaving them behind because she failed to take her health seriously was terrifying. Each time she dreaded working out, she thought about why she was doing it, and that mentally gave her the strength to push forward and handle her business."
Whether you're working out to combat health issues, improve flexibility and range of motion or just to feel better overall, dig deep and figure out your "why." Write it down if you need to and display it somewhere so you'll see it every day—like on a mirror or your refrigerator—to keep you motivated even on days when other things seem more important.
Focus on activities you like (or at least don't hate)
Even if you dread all types of exercise, there's likely one or two you'd rather never have to complete again (burpees, anyone?), so stop doing them. If you hate biking, don't do it. If HIIT exercises drive you crazy, do something else.
"It's helpful if you at least somewhat enjoy the activity you have planned," Bernard said. "For example, I hate running. Like, if you ever see me running, you better run, too, because something is definitely chasing me. So if I need to run in order to be fit, I'm probably just going to be out of shape forever—if I dread my workout, I'm more likely to skip it altogether. But if you can find something fun, whether it's lifting weights, boxing, kayaking, hiking—there is a much greater chance you'll show up week after week."
This advice is especially helpful when considering where you should work out. Some people love going to a gym or to a workout class, and others prefer to do their workouts by themselves at home. If you find yourself unmotivated, going somewhere where everyone is working out could help ensure you stick to your routine, but if you're self-conscious about working out in front of others, this could backfire. Being comfortable in your exercise space is important when working toward building a habit.
Keep on moving
Even if you're not able to complete a full workout, find small ways to stay active throughout the day so you feel better about yourself and maintain motivation throughout the week. Sure, everyone gets busy and priorities change, but it's important you keep on moving and keep failure at bay. Continuing these habits on days when you work out can help you stick to your goals—especially if you work at a job that requires you to sit for eight or more hours a day.
"I provide my clients with snack workouts that they can do throughout the day to keep their body moving and help maintain a high energy state," said Emma Caird, certified fitness and wellness coach. "These snack workouts range from 5- to 15-minute bursts of movement—anything from a vibrant dance meditation to standing core exercises. All snack workouts can be done outside, which helps my clients get vitamin D and fresh air in the day."
These small movements can be as simple as taking your dog for a walk, doing a quick lap around your office building, doing a series of squats or lunges, or performing standing crunches a few times a day.
"Any chance you can spare to be active—take advantage," Tate said. She recommends taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away so you'll walk longer, and even wearing light weights around your legs to make each movement more impactful.
Don't panic if you still hate working out
As you begin to work out more regularly, you may find you're enjoying it more and more. Personally, I feel great at the end of a workout and, yet, it seems like every day I find myself rummaging through reasons not to start.
You may never feel passionate about working out and that's okay. Focus on staying active as a practice that will keep your body healthy and strong. It may not be your favorite routine, but it's as important as doing laundry, cleaning dishes and all those other chores on your list.