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I want to exercise. I really do. But it's boring.

From conversations with others, I gather that exercise gives people a natural high, but I don't seem to get one myself. I used to try to play sports and such to make it enjoyable, but my ACL is temporarily missing and I haven't got a new one just yet. Luckily I've taken some initiative lately and combined the exercise bike with television, but I need more variety than that. Also, it doesn't help with strength training.

My primary goal is to lose weight, but I'm not trying to do so directly, instead going for the roundabout approach of increasing fitness, muscle mass, and metabolism.

Does anyone have suggestions as to how to make exercise more interesting so I'll actually do it?

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3  
I think it all boils down to how interested and motivated you really are in attaining your goal. Nobody can force you to do anything which bores you to death... –  Owen Apr 14 '11 at 7:09
    
Perhaps you know this, but in general exercise only forms a small part of weight loss. Most weight loss comes from a permanent change to your diet. –  rthsyjh Jul 9 at 9:25

19 Answers 19

up vote 23 down vote accepted

There's no magic pill or easy answer....YOU need to motivate yourself. Here's some potential ways:

  • find a work out partner
  • join a gym with exercise classes (get out of the house)
  • imagine what you will look like once you lose the weight - take a before/after picture
  • set small/weekly goals for yourself and if you succeed, reward yourself (hopefully non-food rewards)

I'm not sure why you mentioned that you don't want to 'directly' lose weight? if that's what your goal is, then directly do it.........

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Because I think that if I go at it with the idea of losing weight (as opposed to being more fit) then it won't stick and I'll bounce back later. –  jprete Apr 14 '11 at 14:53
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@jprete - losing weight (or more appropriately body fat) is something you can measure easily (scale, pinch an inch, how you fit in clothes) - where being 'fit' is a little more obscure. I would recommend setting SMART goals (S = simple, M = Measurable, A = attainable, R = realistic and T= timed, within a given timeframe) –  Meade Rubenstein Apr 14 '11 at 17:06
    
+1 for going with someone else - that really kept me motivated. –  RichK May 8 '11 at 13:27

Turn fitness into a game.

I agree with the advice to find something you like doing and vary your workouts, but there are also some apps out there that are specifically designed to help make working out fun. Runkeeper is a great smartphone app if you're into running or biking because it helps you track your distances, speed, and calories burned. It also has music integration, so you can hook up a playlist and get updates on your progress without the music stopping (the volume just turns down). Additionally, you can integrate your RunKeeper account with your Twitter and Facebook accounts, so you can post updates for your social network to see. I use this when I'm training for a race and doing a lot of long runs - it's kind of fun to brag to your friends about how far you ran, and it also keeps you accountable (I don't want to share a really slow run, for example). RunKeeper also has a feature called RunKeeper Elite, which allows your friends and family to track you live during a workout and cheer you on via comments. So, it's really helpful if you're the kind of person who likes to set a goal and try to beat it, or if you want the support and accountability that goes along with having your family and friends watching you.

Cardio Trainer is very similar to RunKeeper in that it uses GPS tracking and has voice notifications and music integration. It also has a few additional features, such as a Pedometer and Move Your Bot. Move Your Bot is pretty cool because it gives you points for your workouts and allows you to compete with your friends on games inside the app. In that way, it makes the app even more social. However, I don't believe Cardio Trainer has a live-tracking feature like RunKeeper has.

Edit: As Scott just informed me in a comment below, both RunKeeper and Cardio Trainer have Autopause (the app automatically pauses the workout when you have to stop at traffic lights, etc).

Fitocracy is another great product that is designed to help you track different kinds of workouts. You get points for all your activities, so you can focus on beating the number of reps you did last time, and also on beating your friends. It's more versatile than RunKeeper or Cardio Trainer because you can you can log strength training, swimming, yoga, and a lot of other things in addition to just running and biking, but it requires that you manually enter a lot of workouts. It does have RunKeeper integration so you can automatically import your runs/bike rides, but you do have you manually enter weight lifting, swims, etc.

Ultimately, you have to find exercise enjoyable in order to stick with it, but these might help make it more interesting.

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RunKeeper has an auto-pause feature: blog.runkeeper.com/running-app/auto-pause –  Scott M. Mar 18 '12 at 23:05
    
Oh cool! Good to know. I'll definitely have to check that out. Thanks. –  Lauren Mar 19 '12 at 13:32

Variety is something I consider to be important to keep things fresh in order to prevent stagnation (whether physically or mentally). I have been practicing martial arts for a few years now, and it never feels like it is getting old. I am continuously learning new things, refining my techniques, and applying those details to material I learned in the past. In our classes, we tend drill different things that physically affect different parts of our bodies. Practicing martial arts does get easier with time, but I am still finding myself faltering when I learn unfamiliar physical movements. It throws both my mind and body off, and forces me to adapt to what I'm doing.

Setting small goals (while keeping the overall big picture goal in mind) helps keeps things realistically attainable. By breaking things up into little steps, I find myself applying little tweaks to fine-tune my performance so that I can reach the next level of where I want to be. All those small performance jumps contribute to the type of person I want to be at a later point in time. Having a time frame to reach your goal prompts me to work more, but even if I don't complete what I want in that span, the effort I have put in will not have gone to waste. Asking myself who I want to be in 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, or whatever also motivates me to do more. I never want to be stuck on making any progress; the thought of being the same person in the future as now screams, "LOSER!" to me, something I do not want to be.

Looking up to other people has also motivated to become a better performer. I have only been practicing martial arts for a few years, but there are many others who have been practicing far longer than I have. Watching older martial artists serves as an inspiration for me to be better and to challenge and push myself beyond what I can currently do. That itself can manifest in various ways, but it also feeds into the mental effort I put in for tweaking my performance and setting goals for myself.

These are all very intrinsic factors that make exercise personally interesting to me. Conversely, one extrinsic thing that has helped to keep things interesting is to have someone else or a group of people to join you in exercise. They can be friends, random workout people, group classes, teachers, mentors, or whomever. Find people who will push you or train you harder. I like to be around more experienced people who can help provide guidance and insight to how I can strive for excellence in what I'm doing. Without that type of support system and the kind of person I am, I wouldn't be in the state I am today.

After years of martial arts training, I am also finding myself to be very capable in other physical activities. Going back to variety, I am starting to experiment with other things like running (for the Warrior Dash) and rowing (particularly Dragon Boat) and have an interest in pursuing climbing and snowboarding. The physical development I have gained is making me more aware and conscious of what my body is doing, and I am eager to try new things and test myself out in different capacities. You can get a feel of what you would like to do from the ample amount of opportunities available to you.

Aside from that, when I used to "run" many years ago (being terribly out of shape and not knowing what I was doing), I would pretend to chase people around the track and then run away from them when I passed them. Sometimes I would count in my head to see what pace I was keeping; other times I just liked to make imaginary stories up about other people at the gym. As an very introverted person, it put away any self-conscious issues I had regarding exercising in public.

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The simplest answer is to find something that you like to do that makes you more active than you are now, and then do it. Maybe it's working out with friends, or playing sports, or flying a kite, or arm wrestling. Doesn't much matter what it is, as long as it:

  1. Expends more energy on a regular basis than you do now, and
  2. Is something you enjoy and are motivated to continue
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Here are some of my methods of making my workouts enjoyable (mind you, I love working out anyway):

  • Listen to some good music. Find some tunes with a fast and recognizable beat and sync your exercises with it. For example - make each rep go to with the beat of the song. Depending on your tastes, intense rock can be great for heavy lifting. System of a Down or Rage Against the Machine are fantastic. Nobody gets motivated to pump iron listening to Dave Matthew's Band.

  • Try new workout plans. There's a lot of garbage in fitness magazines, but pick one up, find a routine that they've laid out and give it a shot for four weeks or so. When you're done with that, try a new one.

  • Make your workouts a point of improvement and practice. Having a goal to strive for helps motivate you in the gym, but sometimes the simple goal of 'looking better' is not enough to motivate because the results come slowly. Try to make it a point to have perfect form and to lift more weight. By striving to always improve your technique, there will be motivation even when the fat around your stomach is not pushing you into the gym.

  • In my personal opinion, cardio is boring. That's why I don't do it. You can still lose weight by lifting weights as long as your diet is in check. If you feel cardio is boring and that's preventing you from working out, just skip it. It's better to have resistance training without cardio than no training at all.

  • If you're willing to take a pre-workout supplement, they can be great for getting you into the gym. This is for multiple reasons:

    • The energy boosters in them will make you want to be active
    • They have an effective time duration, so once you take it, you need to be working out within a half hour or so for it to be effective. This puts a timer on getting your butt to the gym.
    • Once you take it, you'll force yourself to go otherwise you've just wasted money on that scoop.
    • If you're willing to go this route, I recommend White Flood, Jack3d, or NO Shotgun.
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If you are the kind of person that can set a goal and then force yourself to work towards it until you attain it, then you can do that. Most people I know don't work that way. Doing things you hate gets old quickly, and willpower can only go so far.

I believe we are not meant to be miserable, and that taking care of yourself feels good

I like working in front of the computer, but if I do it all day, my body starts to hurt. Many physical activities are a lot of fun: the wind in my hair of bicycling; the feeling of power when I lift something heavy; the thrill of climbing a wall at a climbing gym; the joy of playing catch with my kids, or ultimate frisbee with my friends. Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity is a full day of active work, and it feels wonderful to help folks out at the same time.

Swimming laps is fun, for about 1 lap. Same with a treadmill. I often see people on a treadmill with a book or watching TV, and I think "clearly you don't like what you're doing, since you have to pretend you're not doing it!"

It can take a little willpower to remind me to get out there and do something, but way less if it's something I love than something I hate.

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try out more kinds of sports, some that you've never tried before. if you were into sports once, your body will adapt quickly to the new movements. You also need to have the money (to afford the equipment and/or some initial training lessons) and need to enjoy learning new skills.

For outdoor sports, in your area, you might discover a golf course, skiing, waterski or cable wakeboard pool, go kanooing, sailing, triathlon, hockey... whatever. If you start looking you'll discover a lot of things. I've discovered that each sport has its own community and attracts its own type of people - with certain traits.

Maybe you simply haven't found a community yet that suits you.

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I had this problem too. Two things that have helped me (YMMV of course):

  1. Music. As mentioned by someone else, energetic music can be very stimulating during workouts, especially cardio workouts. For me, I find instrumental dance-club music the best. (Recent example, just to illustrate the type of music I mean: I found many good songs for this purpose on the album Prague '11 by Markus Schulz.) The instrumental part (rather than music with a lot of vocals) is important in conjunction with #2.
  2. Reading or watching videos. Even with thumping move-it-move-it music in my ears, I would get bored stiff doing 45min–1hr of cycling on a stationary bike or elliptical bike. What made it tolerable is reading something interesting, or (if the equipment is available) catching up on tv shows on a computer. I find it especially easy to read while biking on a stationary reclining bicycle. I don't have time during the day to read material that isn't work-related, but I tell myself that my exercise time is when I can read anything I want -- I catch up on magazines, I print out articles I want to read, I read fun books, etc. Once I started telling myself that this was my free time to read, I started wanting to go to the gym.

Hope this helps,

Mike

P.S. I have no relationship whatsoever to the creators of that album I mentioned in #1.

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I am a geek - a developer, programmer and all round nerd. I hated the thought of exercise and gyms and all that involved it, but the doctor told me it was vital. I started a blog to document how I get on. It began rather self-deprecating, stabbing fun at myself on how little time I can jog for or how quick it was before I started getting shin splints. But then I started improving and I was managing to transform it in to something a bit geeky and self-indulgent. I guess the real answer here is try to adapt your exercise in to something you enjoy. I now find myself encoding videos on to my iPhone and watching them while I work out. Finally, my bluetooth headphones are a godsend.

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I had this same problem years ago, and what worked for me was to give up the gym and take up martial arts instead. It's still a great workout—some strength training, some flexibility, lots and lots of cardio—but the best part is that you're constantly learning new techniques, or learning refinements to the techniques you already know. It's exercise for the mind as well as the body, and that helps to keep me interested more than the gym ever could.

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I've been into running and cycling for years now and have done races and different things to motivate myself. However, just recently I started the popular P90X in-home workout series, and just watching this before and after YouTube video every few days got me feeling great about doing it and more confident to meet my own fitness goals. Maybe it would help you as it did me!

P.S.: I don't work for or partner w/ p90x. I'm however a proud advocate of course!

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Just make it fun by doing excercises you enjoy.

If you like Biking, then go Biking. If you like Running, then go Running. Etc...

Change it up and don't do the same thing all the time. Repetition can get really boring.

Additionally, if you set goals for yourself and keep track of your workouts, then you'll easily be able to see your progress over time. Ex: When lifting weights, keep track of the muscle groups, amount of weight and reps that you do. Over time you should see your workout logs show an increase in your ablilities; which should help keep you motivated.

If you're looking for visible results, it doesn't hurt to take photos of yourself once in awhile so you can compare them over time.

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Something tells me that if the questioner knew of an exercise they enjoy, they wouldn't have needed to ask the question. –  slim Apr 23 '13 at 12:34

Watch TV.

It's hard to read a book or scroll through an iPhone on a treadmill or stationary bike. It is not difficult to train your eyes on a television screen.

Personally, I like to watch sports, because I'm kinda jocky, yes, but also because a game doesn't require sound. You can keep your earbuds in and your music pumping through a game.

But maybe you're not into sports, and that's fine. If you belong to a gym, don't be shy. Ask the staff to change the channel or take the initiative to access the cable box yourself and change the channel. Find something you like to watch -- say Mythbusters or Desperate Housewives. Then tell yourself you won't step off your exercise machine until the second commercial break or halftime or any scene where Teri Hatcher makes out with a delivery guy. By that time, you'll forget how long you've been going. And isn't that what beating boredom's all about?

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Getting interested in exercising has been a life-long struggle for me as well. I had a breakthrough last summer though that might work for others too.

I really enjoy documenting things. I enjoy hiking, but it's difficult to motivate myself to go. I had some time to kill while I was waiting for someone and I decided to walk on a trail by a lake nearby where I was waiting. I later decided to document some innformation about this trail using the GPS on my phone. There were more trails in the area, so I decided to map them. Then I later entered that information on Google Maps for others.

So, what I discovered was that I didn't hate activity, I just needed to turn it into a learning experience and a creative experience. Now I enjoy documenting information about hiking trails in my area and documenting that information online for others to benefit from.

Hopefully this may get you to start thinking about physical activity in a different way. Good luck!

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Try incorporating social media, e.g. log your workouts to dailymile.com. This provides some sort of real life (yet still somewhat anonymous) accountability.

When I was in the middle of marathon training, having to post my progress forced me into some workouts that I would have otherwise skipped. It can also be inspiring to see how your friends are doing in their exercise programs too.

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well, I try to frequently dance during the day. I'll dance in my chair as I work on the computer, or even just move my shoulders in circles as I type. Dance as I lie in bed waiting to go to sleep, or again, just move different parts of my body in circles, or bellydance. Bellydance while I wait in line at the grocery store, or while riding an elevator, or while standing at the corner waiting for the light to turn green while out for a walk. Don't need any music, just move gracefully

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CT Fletcher will make your workout more interesting...

CT Fletcher has a great story behind his going from cardiac arrest into world record holding weightlifter. Here is his channel, and a nice play list

CTFletcher

Mike Rashad - does work outs that are INSANE and motivating.

200RepBench

Really it's a matter of pushing yourself. Or finding the motivation...do you work out better with a partner? Perhaps a personal trainer can motivate you (I highly suggest interviewing first)?

Another thing, Goal Setting. If you set goals, and you can achieve them, at the end of the "boring" training session, you will feel the satisfaction of achieving that goal.

Make the mind/muscle connection. That is important. The natural high you speak of, comes from a mixture of mind/muscle connection + the desire to achieve + your own inner voice telling you to push.

Get off the exercise bike? What the hell is that supposed to do? You sit there and pedal so you can watch TV? Get off the elliptical. Those are not fun exercises.

Go pick up some free weights, and give yourself a 4 week 8 week and 12 week goal, whether that goal is to become stronger, leaner, lose fat, complete 50 pushups, curl some weight, or a combo goal, it should be the motivating factor while yo're in the gym.

BTW where are you working out? Home? Gym? What equipment do you have available?

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Can you provide a more complete and thorough explanation for your answer? –  Matt Chan Oct 9 '13 at 2:07
    
I have edited my response @MattChan –  Hituptony Oct 9 '13 at 12:58

Find a treadmill or stationary bike next to an attractive person of the opposite sex. If the person is famous (join Equinox), all the better. You will work out harder than you ever have before.

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For me, what motivated me the most was setting goals and achieving them. Here is my little essay on why I train: Why I Train Some things that could spice it up and motivate you: 1) Join some classes with an instructor. There you will be with other students and that and the instructor can motivate you. 2) Vary your routines from time to time 3) Listen to some motivating music. I often find that music that pumps you up lets you perform more work and the time passes without you even realizing it. 4) Set goals for each workout 5) And final and not least, seriously like the previous poster mentioned, when doing cardio and stuff (which is boring) if there is a hot girl next to me, then it motivates me. Especially if she is still on the machine, I stay on the machine! :)

Good luck with the ACL surgery. I had it last month and still recovering from it. Started doing rehab. Get really prepared for it, since this injury will set you back a year in your training. You will have to rehab back to the form you were in before the injury, so basically back to zero. The first week is really painful! Good luck!

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Two answers and in both of them you try to promote your blog… –  Baarn Oct 10 '13 at 20:12
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If you think your essay is an important part of a good answer, you should repeat it here, rather than simply linking to it. –  Kate Oct 10 '13 at 23:40

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