The best way to stay consistent with your workout routine isn’t by buying a fitness tracker or hiring a personal trainer who will call you out every time you attempt to skip a gym session. It’s to legitimately love working out.
So if you dread exercise and scratch your head when your friends tell you they “can’t live without their daily runs,” follow these four secrets of people who love working out. Soon, you will, too.
1. They don’t use exercise to punish themselves
Women who enjoy exercise don’t see their workouts as punishment—not for eating too many cookies last night or for having put on a few extra pounds, says Molly Galbraith, certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of the Girls Gone Strong online fitness community. Instead, they hit the gym excited for the rewards they will immediately feel. “Shifting your focus from ‘having’ to work out because you want to change something about your body to ‘getting’ to work out because you’re excited about what you’re going to achieve changes everything,” she says. “Hating your body into lasting change almost never works, and even if it does, it’s miserable.”
To focus on rewards rather than punishment, write down a list of everything you love getting from every workout—from a sense of achievement to receiving a boost of much-needed energy. “For many women, their workout is one of their few opportunities in the week that they get to be free of distractions and 100% focused on themselves,” says Galbraith. And during workouts, rather than thinking, “I’m so out of shape” or “My muscles ache,” change your internal dialogue to, “This is the feeling of my body changing for the better.”
2. They’ve tried lots of workouts
Even people who love working out probably hate at least one type of workout. The difference is that they’ve also tried enough different types of workouts to find one they enjoy—and then stuck with it, says Beverly Hills-based personal trainer Mike Donavanik, certified strength and conditioning specialist. “If you don’t like riding on a bike, go run. If you don’t like running on a treadmill, take it outdoors. If you don’t like running, period, try rowing, swimming, surfing, playing tennis, lifting weights,” he says. “There’s too much variety out there to just say, ‘I hate working out.’”
The key to finding a workout that works for you is to sample a wide array of workout types. To do just that, he recommends signing up for a ClassPass membership if it’s available in your area. It’ll give you access to hundreds of workout classes nearby, from indoor cycling to circuit training, and there’s no limit to how many different ones you can try out per month. If that’s not an option, make a point of signing up for a gym with a variety of group fitness classes—and try a bunch until you find a couple you enjoy.
Watch this video and learn how you can find motivation to work out:
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3. They don’t expect to love it every day
“To think that even people who love exercise will love it every day is a bit misguided,” says Dr. Cindra Kamphoff, director of the Center for Sport and Performance Psychology at Minnesota State University Mankato. And when you think that way, it’s easy for one bad workout to convince you that you don’t like exercise. In reality, even people who love exercise have days when they don’t want to get out of bed for an early-morning workout—or when they end up cutting their workouts short. The difference is that, when people who love exercise have not-so-great days, they know it doesn’t make them a failure. They know hating one workout doesn’t mean they hate exercise. And they don’t let one bad workout keep them from trying again tomorrow, says Kamphoff.
Here’s another time when having a list of things you love about how exercise makes you feel comes in handy. Whenever you find yourself struggling with your workout, think through that list rather than through what “sucks” about exercise. And revisit it after every workout. “It’ll help you cultivate that excitement for exercise,” she says.
4. They are part of a community
No one likes to feel alone. “That’s why SoulCycle is such a juggernaut—when people are in that room, they feel like they’re all collectively working for something greater than their own pursuits,” says Donavanik. Still, even fitness fanatics who aren’t into classes know they are part of a community. They spot weights for strangers in the gym, wave to runners on the trail and maybe even play a sport as part of a team or club.
If you’re looking to make your workouts a little more social, consider changing your typical lunch dates with friends into gym dates and checking out adult sports leagues in your area, says Galbraith. Or just start paying mind to the other people at your gym. You’d be surprised by how your gym can start to feel a lot more like home if you just start saying, “hello.”