How to make exercise enjoyable

Have you ever tried to start exercising, or exercise more regularly and despite your good intentions just not really found it enjoyable and so given up? It can be hard to exercise if you don’t find it enjoyable but there are lots things you can do to make exercise seem more enjoyable – and the experience the mental and physical benefits of it.

Here are a few suggestions…

Find a type of exercise you enjoy

It goes without saying but in order to enjoy exercising you need to be doing a type of exercise you actually enjoy!

There is no point in taking up running and starting Couch to 5k just because a few of your friends have done that if you actually hate running. Likewise, if you have a gym membership but never use it because you don’t like going to the gym, then cancel your membership and take up something you do enjoy.

There are so many different sports out there, from mountain biking to tennis to Zumba. With so many different options out there, there is bound to be something that you enjoy. You might need to try out several different types of exercise to find something you really enjoy and look forward to doing but I’m confident you will find something.

Once you have found a type of exercise you enjoy you’ll do it more often, get better at it and increase your self-efficacy (something a bit like self-confidence but more specific). This will have lots of benefits for your mental health as you’ll feel better about yourself and feel a sense of achievement for doing something positive for yourself.

Make it sociable

If you are someone who likes going out with friends and socialising then try making exercise a social thing. By doing this you will look forward to, and enjoy exercising more as you will be able to catch up with your friends at the same time.

Now, this is obviously a bit difficult at the moment with social distancing etc. but there are still ways you can make exercise more sociable. You could meet up for a socially distanced workout (where government guidelines allow), do a workout together on Zoom or just ring each other up to compare runs, for example. And as things start getting back to normal you could go to the gym together, do Parkrun together, or play tennis together, for example.

When you are exercising with other people try to make sure that you surround yourself with people who are internally motivated (they like exercising for the sake of it, rather than some sort of external gain). This will make you more likely to be internally motivated yourself, and therefore enjoy exercising more. You can read more about this here.

Keep it varied

No matter how much you enjoy exercising, doing the same thing over and over again can lead to boredom and a lack of enjoyment. Luckily this is easy to overcome with a bit of creativity.

For example, if you always do the same gym exercises and resent going to the gym (or doing home workouts) because of this, you could book a session with a personal trainer (either face-to-face or online) to get some ideas for new exercises you could be doing. Not only will this have physical benefits, it will also help you to enjoy your workouts more.

An idea I’ve used for home workouts during lockdown is to get a pack of cards to decide what my workout will be. To do this you need to assign a movement to each card suit based on the equipment you have available, and then something more intense for the joker (I normally pick 50 burpees). You then shuffle the cards and pick up one at a time and do whatever exercise it says for however many reps is on the card. For example, if spades was kettlebell swings and you got seven of spades, you would do seven kettlebell swings and then pick up the next card. You then repeat this until you get to the end of the deck. Because you can pick different movements each time this is a way to ensure that each workout is slightly different, which makes it more interesting and enjoyable.

Or if you run or cycle you could get a map of your local area out and see it there are any new footpaths or routes you could explore to vary your routes a bit more. I always love finding new places to run as it makes going running more interesting and stops the boredom of repeating the same routes week in, week out. Alternatively you could try doing one of your regular routes in reverse – I’ve done this before and it is amazing how different it can make a run feel!

Complete a challenge

Now, this is definitely not for everyone as for some people challenges take the enjoyment out of exercising but if you do enjoy challenges then there are plenty of ways you could challenge yourself.

You could aim to exercise a certain amount of times each week for a month or run/ walk/ cycle a certain amount of miles in a month. You could also sign up for a virtual race (there are lots of options in this blog post) if you normally do races and are missing them.

Another option if you walk or run is to walk or run along every road in your local area within a certain time frame. I did this in my town when I was a teenager and although some of the little estates are slightly tedious to run along as you are constantly turning round at dead-ends (I got some strange looks from residents!), it definitely keeps your running varied and enjoyable. I kept track of which roads I had been along by colouring in each road on a street map as I went (and then had a celebratory cake when I was done…). This is also a good option if you are getting bored of the routes in your local area, having not been able to travel much during lockdown.

I hope this blog post has given you some ideas of how to make your exercise more enjoyable – let me know if you have any other suggestions in the comments below.

Happy exercising 🙂

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