This article was first published in The Hindu in June 2012.
Can’t enjoy exercise? Learn how to like it.
It comes from the joy you feel in the freedom of movement. The understanding of your own body. From watching your body grow from strength to strength, the changing posture, shape and tone. The improved stamina and flexibility. The incredible power you acquire over your body. The energy. The calming of the mind.
Sounds too good to be true? How can anyone actually enjoy exercise? Well, I admit not everyone can. But you can try and get there.
Find the right programme
It is important to find the right programme. Don’t imagine that you will fall in love with the weight room or the TRX like your best friend did. You may not be able to get up and run out of the door first thing in the morning. You have your own personality and preferences. It’s possible that you may like cross training and boot camp. Or you may prefer to include a few days of yoga with your strength routines.
Speak to a fitness professional to first identify and understand your unique needs. More importantly understand your strengths and weaknesses.
If you have really poor coordination and are tone deaf, you could still go to a zumba class for the fun of it but chances are — by the time you get your head around those steps, the choreography and the music — you may not be able to sustain the required level of intensity to benefit your cardiovascular endurance. Or worse still, you could injure yourself trying to keep up. Perhaps you should run to maintain the intensity of your cardio and improve your stamina.
On the other hand if you love to dance and move to music, a walk on the treadmill will probably bore you to death. You should then use an aerobic class with lots of music and dance moves as your mainstay of fitness and use the treadmill once or twice a week to get a quick workout when time permits nothing else.
I know women who have invested in expensive exercise equipment thanks to a savvy sales person or because a friend has one. You don’t have to buy a cross trainer just because you can afford to or because everyone else is doing it. However attractive it may sound to have the option of being able to “exercise any time you want”, just buying a machine will not make you do so. Exercising on your own at home requires an immense amount of self-motivation. Some people need the encouragement of a trainer or group exercise. Others can do it alone.
Women, particularly, thrive in group classes. It seems to appeal to their social nature. You have to determine what kind of group class will appeal to your senses and which one is good for you. Someone with an unstable knee joint, for instance, should stay away from a step class and high impact activities unless they strengthen their knees with strength training and isolation exercises for their leg muscles.
The lucky ones
Very few can do just about anything, love it and, more importantly, be good at it! Take them to a dance aerobic class and they are in their element, able to master the choreography and move flawlessly to the music. Ask them to a cross-country run and they are quite comfortable running through the undergrowth. In the gym, they love to train with serious body builders! These are the annoyingly lucky ones. They can adapt and avoid boredom just by the sheer variety of activities available.
However even such people need to be aware. It’s one thing to enjoy something but is that what your body needs? Are you benefiting from that particular form of exercise? Since time is precious, you need to use it wisely for the activity that benefits you the most.
Mostly, you have to find your niche and develop a discipline to participate in the form of exercise that you require for your specific body type. Do it often enough and you will get better at it. This makes you more confident and proud of yourself. After a while it becomes a habit. An enjoyable one at that!
Yes you can learn to enjoy your fitness routine. It can become a part of your daily life. There is something out there for you. All you have to do is find it! Feel younger, stronger, more cheerful, energetic, optimistic and driven by including the right exercise routine into your day.
Go through a fitness assessment to determine your body requirements.
Include strength, flexiblity and cardio into your routine. Doing just cardio day after day is not only boring but also detrimental.
Add strength training and flexibility to correct muscle imbalances. A runner, for instance, suffers from tight hamstrings and hip flexors. Unless she goes through a routine specifically designed to stretch these muscles, her run will suffer and eventually culminate in injury.
Setting goals and working towards them is another way of staying with a programme. Achieving success is motivation enough to go further.
Don’t wait for injury or a pronouncement of disease to start exercising. You can prevent injury and degenerative disease with exercise.