They say that love can move mountains. Well, if you discover an activity that you love, it can convince you to move more, too — even if you’ve never enjoyed exercise in the past.
When it comes to careers, relationships and hobbies, most of us understand that if we’re going to stick with something and get good at it, we need to have some passion for it. Yet few people apply this concept to their fitness pursuits: Instead, they slog through routines that bore or frustrate them when they could be enjoying fun, active pastimes that engage their bodies and minds, and stoke their spirits.
“I think most people define exercise far too narrowly,” says fitness instructor Tim Haft, MA, CPT, whose specialty is helping people find their fitness passions. “People assume that enjoyment is irrelevant, and that exercise is like medicine — you just have to grin and bear it,” the former New York University career counselor explains. As a result, he notes, people rule out fun activities that in fact are probably ideal exercise for them.
“Maybe in the past you loved gardening, playing outdoors or riding your bike,” says Michelle Cleere, PhD, an exercise and sports psychologist who helps clients overcome anxiety, burnout and other obstacles to reach their fitness goals. All those hobbies, she says, count as exercise if you do them deliberately and at an intensity that gets your heart rate up and your muscles working. “It’s easy to overlook fun activities because you don’t consider them fitness related,” she adds.
“Say you go out for a run, and you find it painful and boring,” says Charlotte Hilton Andersen, author of The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything (Clerisy Press, 2011). “You’ll assume you hate exercise because you hate running.”
This, she asserts, is the mistake many people make when it comes to fitness: People assume they dislike all exercise because they haven’t found that one thing that really inspires them. And that’s a shame, says Andersen, because “life is too short to hate what you’re doing.”
Of course, if finding the perfect exercise match was easy, everybody would have done it by now. Typically, it requires both self-reflection and experimentation. We enlisted the help of sports psychologists, physiologists, personal trainers, life coaches and other experts to develop the five guiding questions that follow, as well as a downloadable flowchart.
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