How to Fall in Love with Exercise
By Shauna Reid, aka Dietgirl
Exercise. We all know we're supposed to do it. But if you've not done it before or avoided it for years how do you start? How do you find the exercise you enjoy and that's right for you?
I never thought I'd enjoy exercise, let alone have it become a vital part of my life. I grew up in Australia where sportiness is next to godliness. Australian babies emerge from the womb wearing a swimming cap with a football tucked under their arm.
Sadly I did not fit this stereotype. My athletic feats were a montage of disaster: scoring an own goal at hockey, getting fished out of the pool by a lifeguard, and falling over on the school tennis court and flashing my polka-dot undies at the boys.
But over the years I found my exercise mojo, and today I'm sharing my insider tips to help you learn how to love exercise too.
Start your exercise with walking
Walking is perfect if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the options out there. You just need a pair of trainers and some ground! At 25 stone I could only walk half a block before I was ready to collapse, but I added another block each week and slowly built up my mileage. If you find walking dull, spice it up by listening to a podcast or an audio book. Sometimes I get so caught up in the story I end up walking for longer than planned.
Ask for help
I joined a gym at my heaviest weight and felt intimidated by the machines and the svelte chicks. I asked a gym bunny friend to explain how to work the equipment and together we devised a basic program. Most gyms offer free induction sessions to help you get started, or group exercise classes like Body Pump or Spinning are beginner-friendly and provide great instructions.
Try activities three times before giving up
Almost every new exercise I start, I suck at the first time. It's too hard! It hurts too much! The only exception was kickboxing - I knew from the first punch that I'd found true exercise love. But for everything else I make myself give it at least three honest attempts before abandoning ship. That usually lets me see if it's my usual resistance to new things or an honest dislike of the exercise.
Let your friends lead you astray
I've tried many activities purely because my friends or family were doing them - salsa classes, curling, kayaking and mountain biking to name a few. Sometimes it's a disaster but sometimes you end surprising yourself and enjoy the exercise. You never know what athletic skills you could uncover, so be brave and bold. My husband is a hardcore hill walker and drags me up some mighty hills. I moan all the way - but the sandwiches and views at the top almost make the huffing and puffing worthwhile!
Start exercise for charity
If you find it hard to start and stick to an exercise routine, sign up for a charity event. You get to help people plus there's a huge incentive to train - you don't want to let down the charity or your generous sponsors. I ran the 5K Race for Life and it was incredibly moving to see thousands of women turn out in aid of cancer research. I also did the 26-mile Moonwalk - a huge commitment and I wanted to die after eight hours on my feet - but it was thrilling to be one of 10,000 women roaming the streets of Edinburgh in our decorated bras.
Match exercise to your personality
If you're still not feeling the exercise love, try to match the activity to your style. Are you a social butterfly? Why not start a lunchtime walking group? A colleague of mine did this and we found it broke up the working day and was a great opportunity for office gossip! Or if you're more shy and retiring, buy some exercise DVDs (and get sweaty in your pajamas. I love quiet workouts at home, particularly weights and yoga. I did some classes out in the real world to learn the basics so I felt comfortable striking out on my own.
What exercise did you enjoy as a child?
When I was kid I always loved dancing, but I was self conscious about my weight. I compared myself to my skinny, dainty sister and feared I'd be laughed at if I asked to join her proper dance classes. Now I'm older and beyond caring about what I look like so I'm revisiting this old passion. It doesn't matter that I'm not Royal Ballet or Beyonce back-up dancer material - all that matters is having fun and shaking my booty.
I've just discovered Zumba, a Latin-inspired dance class, and I also prance around my living room with a ballet DVD. What exercise did you love as a kid? If you were mad for the monkey bars you may like indoor rock climbing. If you loved netball as a teen maybe you could join a grown-up team. Look back through your memories, there might be clues there!
Forget about everyone else
The biggest thing to remember is not to worry about other people. Everyone looks red and sweaty and faintly ridiculous when they exercise - it's not just you! And if you still feel paranoid, as I did, try going to the gym in off-peak times or hide in the back row of an exercise class. But honestly, nobody is looking at you - they're too busy thinking about their own thighs, or wondering if they've burned enough calories to justify a KitKat for dinner!
Are you looking to find an exercise you enjoy? Learn how to love exercise with WLR’s Exercise Diary. Log your exercise and see how many calories you burn to help you on your weight loss journey and get inspiration on how to start a new exercise from fellow members. Click here for free trial.