The Rumor: You can trick yourself into enjoying a workout
Every once in a while you hit a rut, and exercise — your usual relaxation go-to — just doesn’t work. In the winter, you may be trying to string together a week of morning workouts when the temperature drops; in summer, rooftop happy hours beckon. You know you should work out, but there are days when hitting the gym is more stressor than stress relief.
The Verdict: Yes, you can fake it until you make it
Training your mind to enjoy a workout often starts by choosing the right reason to work out, according to a study published in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise. Focusing on health benefits, like lowering cholesterol or decreasing your cancer risk, are much more likely to keep you motivated than your desire to look like Victoria Beckham.
“Very often we start an exercise program believing that we will look like a supermodel when we are finished,” says Jeanette DePatie, a plus-sized certified exercise instructor and the author of The Fat Chick Works Out!. “I always recommend that exercisers focus on how they feel after they work out, rather than how they look.”
Once you’ve decided to work out, you should do something you enjoy. Too many people believe that a workout involves running laps or being yelled at by a spin instructor.
“Forcing your body to get through an activity you hate is a form of self-punishment that will pit you against yourself and create a lot of negative thoughts,” says Aili Kuutan, an integrative health coach and yoga teacher.
During the winter months, you can go on a run to look at Christmas lights. Sledding with your kids — or partner — can count as a workout, too. In the summer, try using your daily workout as a chance to get outside. Hop on a bike to explore the town you’re vacationing in, or swim laps in an outdoor pool.
If fatigue is holding you back, telling yourself that you’re not as tired as you think during exercise could help make that a reality, according to a new study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Bored? Change your routine. You don’t have to wait for seasonal changes to try new workouts.
“If you focus on leg movements one day, the next day you should focus on arms,” says Anthony Lorenzo, the chief instructor at Villari’s Self Defense Center, in Elverson, Pa. “Focus on changing the specific exercises every so often so that you work different muscles to keep your interest up.”
Other options to stave off boredom include joining a group exercise class with a motivational fitness instructor or working out with a friend, according to Ray Barrieault, the fitness director at Shrewsbury Health and Racquet Club, in Shrewsbury, Mass.
“Group classes are a good way to make it more fun and enjoyable — suffering together is always better than suffering alone,” Barrieault says. “Working out with a partner is a great way to make workouts more fun and add an extra motivational factor. Just make sure that you find someone with similar goals. Otherwise, you’ll probably just exercise your vocal chords the whole time!”