Do you have a hard time getting motivated to exercise?

I used to be that way. I was not athletic, I never played sports, and I couldn’t run for more than five minutes without having to stop and catch my breath. I was also very unhappy with my body and I wanted to change. Unfortunately, I continuously used all of those famous excuses for why I didn’t want to put in the effort. Exercise was boring, complicated, and time-consuming. I felt intimidated by my lack of coordination and physical limitations. I had been that way for so long that change seemed impossible now.

How was I ever going to fall in love with fitness?

Suddenly, something clicked one day listening to a friend describe how she felt about her recent weight loss. She had lost weight with daily exercise and with the help of the Nutrisystem diet. She was so proud and excited that her face was literally glowing. I realized at that moment that it wasn’t that I was avoiding the horrible pain of exercise by staying in my slump. In reality, I was depriving myself of the joy of physical fitness and the pride of achieving better health.

I now exercise anywhere from 4 to 6 times a week, sometimes for as long as two hours at a time, and I honestly love every minute of it. I won’t allow myself to go more than two days without some form of physical fitness, because I miss it too much. The trick was changing my mindset and finding fun exercise that motivated me, so I looked forward to working out.

Here are 10 tips on how you can fall in love with fitness:

1. Pick the Right Time of Day

Everyone is different when it comes to working out. Some people find they are more productive first thing in the morning, others get a boost of energy in the afternoon, and some prefer to work out a few hours before bed. Experiment by exercising at different times of the day and then monitor your performance. Choose the time of day that is most productive for you.

2. Start at Home

If you feel intimidated or awkward going to the gym, you can always start working out at home. There is an endless supply of fitness videos or online exercise routines that you     can do from the comfort of your living room. Start at home until you build up your confidence level. This will make the transition to working out in public much easier to handle.

3. Look for Fun Forms of Fitness

There are more fun ways to get fit than there are to get fat. You can do a challenging boot camp, a cardio dance class, join a sport’s team, take kickboxing, swim, bike, run,     or any other movement that gets your heart rate up. I started doing my own crazy dance workout routine in the mirror before my shower each morning, now I do a high impact 30 minute kettle bell workout. It is all about finding something that gets your excited.

4. Embrace the Endorphins

Endorphins are our bodies’ own natural painkilling, stress-reducing hormones that are released during physical activity. Endorphins work by binding to another chemical in your body to alleviate pain and then sending a signal for the body to release dopamine (controls the body’s pleasure center). By exercising, you will be releasing endorphins that are designed to help you fight through any pain and improve your overall mood.

5. Set Small Goals & Build on Them

I started off with a personal goal of walking a half marathon and then worked my way up to running a full marathon. I knew I couldn’t run 26.2 miles when I first started out, so I took it one mile at a time. That is how all efforts to become physically fit should be viewed. Take it one milestone at a time and keep increasing the difficulty level. There is no greater rush or reward in life than reaching a challenging goal. By setting several small goals, you will feel that sense of accomplishment multiple times along your journey to better health.

6. Find a Reliable Workout Partner

Fitness is more fun when you have someone who wants to do it with you. Choose someone who is committing to working out and who has a positive attitude about life. You can work together to motivate each other and help you stay on course.

7. Don’t Over Do It

Many people feel the need to make up for a life’s worth of inactivity in their first real workout. Working out to the extent that you feel pain during the exercise will only discourage your from wanting to do it again. It is normal to be a little stiff and sore the day after a workout, but you shouldn’t be pushing your body past its comfort level while you are actually exercising. If something hurts too much to do properly, don’t do it. Start by working out 20-30 minutes a day, every other day. Once your fitness level has improved, you can kick it up to 5 to 6 days a week for 30-60 minutes each time. Make sure to take at least one day off per week to rest and recover. 

8. Reward Yourself

Working out will soon feel like it is its own reward, but you do deserve a little more than that. If you stick to your workout schedule all week, maintain a healthy diet, and feel proud of how you hard you tried, then reward yourself. Allow yourself a “not-as-healthy” snack or a relaxing spa day. You need to acknowledge how hard you are working and a little special treat is sometimes all it takes to stay motivated.

9. Keep it Interesting

No matter how much you enjoy the fun workout you found in step 3, make sure to still mix it up throughout the week. For example, in the summer I run 2 to 3 times a week (or more if I am training for an event), attend a kettle bell boot camp 2 to 3 times a week, and swim once a week. In the winter when I can’t run outside as often, I attend a kettle bell boot camp 3 to 4 times a week, swim once a week, and play floor hockey one night (usually after my boot camp). Occasionally, I will skip a couple months of boot camp for a kickboxing or cardio dance class. I even joined a soccer team one summer. There are too many fun options that I can’t seem to stick to just one. Mixing it up is also a good way to challenge different muscle groups and improve your overall fitness level. 

10. Keep track of Your Progress

This step is a little tricky to master, because you won’t be able to immediately track real results on the scale. If you don’t see your weight physically dropping in the beginning, it may discourage you to continue. Progress doesn’t need to be measured in pounds or inches. It should be based on how much more capable you are now than you were when you first started. For example, I can now run for hours without stopping when I couldn’t run for five minutes only a few short years ago. Combine your goals from step 5 with a progress chart, so you can see how far you have come from when you first decided to start exercising. 

I went from an overweight and out-of-shape couch potato to an active and energetic person, once I fell in love with fitness. I now crave the chance to get my heart pumping and those endorphins flowing freely. Hopefully this article has inspired you to fall in love with fitness too. I would love to know if it does or if there is anything else I can do to help spark that life changing love for exercise.