Getting started on a new healthy habit can be tough. Since we are creatures of habit, it takes special effort to change our old habits (like sleeping in) for healthy new habits (like getting on the treadmill first thing in the morning). Until you build new nerve pathways in your brain to support a new habit, and you start feeling the wonderful results of the new habit, some extra incentives can be helpful. And sometimes the best incentive is to make it FUN! AFter all, when it feels like drudgery, we are not so likely to follow through.
So, if one of your new health resolutions for this year is to get into a regular exercise routine, here are a few things you can do to put the FUN into your workouts and get through the initial habit building stage.
1. Grab a partner. Working out with a friend can bring an otherwise boring activity to a whole new level. Talking with a friend during a brisk walk can take your mind off the fact that your body is ‘working’ and the time will fly by. Or, you can partner up for a multi-person activity, such as a game of tennis or synchronized swimming. As a bonus, you are less likely to skip an exercise session when you know someone else is depending on you to be there.
2. Join a class. There are so many options available at fitness centers, community centers – even our local school holds weekly classes. Some companies now offer classes on-site after work or on lunch breaks. Being part of a group can make fitness social and fun. Options are endless – anything from Turbo Kick to Kick Boxing, Zumba to Yoga.
3. Crank the music. Personally, I find upbeat music to be very energizing and motivating. I guess that’s why Chalene Johnson’s Turbo Jam has been a favorite of mine for almost a decade now. A peppy song can boost my spirits and give the energy I need to push the more difficult segments of a routine.
4. Do Double Duty. If you are a task-oriented person like me, you get special enjoyment out of being able to complete more than one thing at the same time. Try pairing your exercise with another thing that you already do or want to do during the day. For instance, you can power through a workout on an elliptical machine while listening to an audio book or podcast on your smart phone or Mp3 player. Or, you can put on some upbeat praise music and worship while you workout!
5. Play hard. Do you like to play games? Try exergaming – video games that are also a form of exercise, such as Wii fitness games. I’m not too up on the current technologies, but I know there are many options available – especially if your kids already have some sort of game box. Why not make use of it yourself, or better yet – get the kids up and moving, too, instead of sitting on the couch to play games:)
6. Get competitive. Nobody likes to be a loser, and winning can be a huge motivator! You can compete against your own personal goals, a workout partner, or a group. At the worksite where I serve as the wellness program health coach, last year we did a team challenge modeled after the The Game On! Diet book by Krista Vernoff and Az Ferguson), and it was a big hit! We had several teams of 3-4 people each, and during the 4 week game, two-thirds of the people had lost an average of 2-3 pounds per week. They also had a blast, since part of the game is contacting at least one team member and one opponent each day. You can get a game started with coworkers, your church group, or even just a few friends. The concept of the book is great and I recommend it; my only gripe was a bit of off-color language in the book itself.
7. Go outside. In the bitter cold winter like we are experiencing in NH as I write this, there are still fun outdoor activities such as downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. In the more pleasant warm weather days, there is walking, running, swimming, hiking, tennis… you name it. Studies show that not only does exercise itself help rid your body of the negative effects of stress, but so does being outdoors in nature. Fresh air feels pretty good too!
8. Reward yourself. Buy a new outfit or splurging on a massage may be just the ‘carrot’ you need to complete your goal. The key is to choose a reward that is very desirable to you and not something you would normally get to enjoy. Just be sure to make the reward something other than food or anything that could throw you off target from your ultimate healthy goals!
Do you have a particular way to make your workouts fun and enjoyable? Tell us about it in the comment section below!