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I have been going to the gym (on and off) for about 20 years (I am in my late 30s). One thing that I have definitely established is that I do not like getting very tired and if I do work out hard, it creates an animosity and fear in my head for working out so that I am likely to dodge the next day.

One way I have countered that was to reduce my workout load to significantly below my capacity so that gym visits become actually enjoyable rather than sweltering pits of misery and pain. Under reduced schedule, I actually look forward to going in as I am not fearing the discomfort. In fact, I have realized that this approach pays better for me over time as I will lift a cumulatively higher amount of weight than if I start pushing myself but start hating and avoiding it soon.

I understand I will never be super fit because I simply refuse to endure pain but that's OK -- when I work out lazily, I still feel significant improvement over not working out at all and feel reasonably fit. So I am looking for more tips on how to even advance the workout for a lazy person. Are there any studies on how to make the workout pleasurable and painless? I believe some gain is possible without pain. Primarily I am interested in the psychology of making workout fit in your life's routine and as painless as possible.

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What type of workouts have you tried? Strength training is generally painless. –  Kate Jan 1 '13 at 23:23
    
Classic weight lifting. I begin every workout with 3x250 jump ropes and 5x30 decline bench situps with 25 lb weight. then do the weights. –  amphibient Jan 1 '13 at 23:57
    
It looks like your goals are adding strength and keeping body fat low. Is this correct? –  Kate Jan 2 '13 at 0:17
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I highly recommend jump ropes. It can be very challenging, yet you can start easy. I started from 1000 skips a day, then to 2000, then to 3000 a day. Eventually I did 120,000 skips in a month. Tired but not sore, it was enjoyable and sustainable. My legs become so much stronger, my body leaner, my heart able to support a much higher work load. –  Gapton Jan 2 '13 at 6:39
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In my opinion you should work on your motivation as well as your workout-routine. –  Baarn Jan 2 '13 at 10:17
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2 Answers 2

Choosing a "train - no pain" path is interesting. The question has two parts: A. Tips on advancing the workout B. Studies on pleasureable and painless workouts.

A. A general tip on advancing the suggested workoutis to work on the technique of your exercises. Squats, as an example, film yourself doing squats, compare & contrast with how it is done by masters you know or on what you can see on the net. Log your improvements in technique instead of logging the increased weight.

B. Google Scholar: "joyful physical training Various papers about how to increase the motivation when the focus of training is to have fun, especially for children. Google Scholar: "light physical training", one paper that was interesting is that rats training at 60% of VO2max (i.e. moderate exercise) also show an increase in bone growth. Given that your motivation is increased following your way, you can increase the chance of training over a longer period of time which is good for you, see Google Scholar: life long training, here the study of "Physical Activity and Muscle Training in the Elderly" shows that the body responds to resistance traning into the 70s.

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Can you cite exemplary statements from those studies? Search results vary from person to person (see filter bubble) and resources might get lost with time. –  Baarn Jan 2 '13 at 13:18
    
@Informaticker, good point, added this. –  FredrikD Jan 2 '13 at 14:22
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What you are doing currently works for you, so it can't be that bad, but I think your perspective is wrong: You suffer through "working out" as a price to pay for being in reasonable shape.

You can also do cardio (treadmill/biking/elliptical...) while watching a movie, set the pace low enough that it doesn't distract you from the movie. Use an elastic band to work your upper body at the same time and you'll still come ahead because 1:15/day at low intensity is not a bad deal at all. And it's just a matter of convincing yourself to go watch a movie. Can't be too hard.

However, my real advice would be for you to try and take up a sport that you can actually enjoy doing. Could be Football, Basketball, Judo, BJJ... any physical activity you enjoy.

Grappling sports are particularly good for that. They develop the whole body rather uniformly and it's fun to try and outwit an opponent - just find a friendly dojo where they don't care too much about competition.

Then it doesn't feel like you are "working out" but like you are "playing a game" and instead of having to tell yourself "Darn, I need to workout", you start looking at your watch and telling yourself "2 more hours. Can't wait to get on the mat".

If you are the slightest bit competitive, you will find your training intensity goes through the roof because you want to win and the pace is no longer dictated by some arbitrary numbers of reps to be done, but by your desire to win.

Result-wise, intensity is a necessary component. Low intensity provides mild cardio benefits and that's about it. Medium-high intensity is where you get all the fitness result goodness.

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I am not good at team sports, I can't handle a ball to save my life. I do whitewater kayaking which is not a whole lot of exercise. Generally, I prefer the kind of sports that have some degree of predictability and where I know what to expect rather than very ad hoc sports like bal games and martial arts. –  amphibient Jan 3 '13 at 20:06
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