8 Hacks for Learning to Love (or at Least Like) to Exercise

As much as you think you "hate" to exercise, you really don't. No one was born hating to move. The desire to move is innate. If you dislike exercise now, something happened to make it so. Maybe you had a bad experience or, spent years being habitually sedentary.

There was a chunk of my life when exercise was not at all on my day-planner. I secretly envied the jocks on school sports teams being pushed by their coaches while training. I felt I had no discipline. I had poor sleeping and eating habits. I was easily humiliated and developed fear of failure. This fear was not without good reason. While I was coordinated enough to take dance lessons for years and do calisthenic-type exercises, I was clueless on how to hit a ball in a desired direction and failed to catch most of the ones coming fast at my face. I had no "natural talent" for ball sports and no energy to get up early for 6 am training to learn other sports. I was pissed at the world and my family, so instead of pursuing my secret desire to be athletic and active, I was swept up by the anger and energy of punk rock music. Jocks and punk rock don't mix - conformity and nonconformity. I chose staying out all night, hanging out at dingy rock clubs until the wee hours, drinking sweet cocktails and, eating junk food, instead of joining the track and field team.
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Shortly after college, I knew this had to change. I felt like a sloth - and not like one of those cute ones on YouTube.
I made a resolution to get active and fit and, stay that way.

Here are some tactics I've seen work on myself and others:

1. TV and treadmill. Associating your exercise with something you enjoy, like your favorite TV show or podcast, has been shown to make working out more palatable. Set aside a few shows you look forward to seeing or listening to and resolve to only play them when you're doing cardio. This tactic may not work as well with reading unless you're on a stationary bike and, it might slow you down, but if reading is your entertainment of choice, you'll log some major miles reading Tolstoy.

2. Resort to artificial energy. Purists may say it's cheating, but I say if it gives you an edge, and moreover, motivation, go for the caffeine, assuming it's not on your contraband list. Coffee or strong tea are the most natural choices, but in a pinch I wouldn't turn down a diet energy drink as a last resort. One of caffeine's many benefits aside from an energy boost, is it makes you feel less fatigued so exercise is actually easier.

3. Bet on yourself. Starting a betting pool with friends where money goes into the pot for every missed workout is good strategy. It's a fact that humans are loss averse. Aversion Therapy seems to work even for the worst of us (think "A Clockwork Orange"). You may not fall in love with exercise this way, but it can help you make it a habit. And, think of all the ways you can spend the money you win.. like on a decadent massage at the spa.

4. Do it for charity. Signing up for an event that benefits a cause you are passionate about is doing something good for you while doing something good for others. We all know that doing charity work is high on the list of things that give us self-satisfaction. Combining it with exercise is a win win. There's no shortage of 5 and 10Ks, bike rides, fun runs, even obstacle races in mud, that you'll want to get in shape for before the event. It's also easy to find local groups you can train with.

5. Use a motivational app. Search the App Store for health & fitness tools and see which offer the right kick in the pants you need. On my last browse, I saw one called "The Rock Clock," which is a motivational alarm clock from Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson. You can even set your alarm to sync with his and hit the gym when he does. I have personally seen him at the gym. Trust me, it's motivating. Now if only the app also showed you video of him in the shower after. I guess that would be an extra cost.

6. Get a dog. I know you're thinking, "I have no time for a dog. I'm never home." That's kinda the point. Your furbaby will look at you with those soulful eyes and jump for joy every time you put on your shoes or walk by his leash. He will motivate you to walk at the very least. Plus, there's nothing like hiking along a trail or walking along a shore with your best buddy who's over the moon just to be outside sniffing things and moving. It's a regular reminder that we shouldn't take life's little pleasures for granted.

7. Don't make it a chore. My mom hated to exercise so much I can't even find a proper metaphor to describe her distaste. I never saw her exercise, ever. But what she did love to do was dance. She'd sign up for dance classes at a local studio. Latin, tap and ballroom were her deal. If just the thought of an exercise routine gives you agita, find an activity that gives you pleasure and can make you sweat like gardening if, you're digging, weeding and landscaping. Check sites where you can take lessons for activities that intrigue you. Daily deal sites like Living Social and Groupon can give you ideas.

8. And the big daddy of making exercise something you love is finding your "flow." Think of it as being in "the zone." That feeling of being one with a challenging task that requires focus and skill. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the leading researcher in the field of positive psychology, and director of the Quality of Life Research Center, we are happiest when we are in a state of flow, fully immersed in an activity for its own sake.

Attitude is everything when you want to open yourself up to a new passion. Looking at exercise as something you want to do intrinsically for yourself, rather than for the fleeting goal of just losing weight for summer, will help you enjoy it longer. And if you're like me, you will love it the rest of you life.

Have you gone from coach potato to super fit? How did you do it? Share with me on social media and inspire others too!