Let's start off with my work out story.
I was kind of a klutz growing up, so I didn't play any sports. In hind sight sports could have helped with that, but I didn't want to feel like I was letting my team down by being bad at the game. I took dance lessons once a week throughout most of my childhood, but didn't start any real, strenuous exercise until junior year of high school when I started to row (crew). I quickly realized that rowing was my sport. It required a very special type of coordination- all I had to do was repeat the same motion in sync with the rest of the boat, balance, and row hard enough to that you beat all the other boats. I finally found a sport I enjoyed! I rowed competitively all throughout college. I loved everything about rowing... well, except my coach. After four years of rowing under "the rude dude" I was burnt out on the only sport I was ever good at or really enjoyed.
I spent the next few years forcing myself to go to the gym or out for runs. Sure, I felt better afterward and was glad I did it, but it was a constant, daily battle to get my butt to the gym. Even when I did a performance internship (coaching) I had to force myself to go to the gym... and even then I did it because I didn't want to be labeled as the only intern who didn't work out (blasphemy!)
Fast forward to a few years ago. At some point over the last few years I made some realizations about working out and it's put me in a much better place.
1. When people say "I don't like to work out" or "I don't want to work out" it probably means that they don't like the work outs they are doing. It takes a special sort of glutton for punishment to actually enjoy going to 24 hour fitness and working out in sweaty solitude. Going to the gym just isn't fun (for most of us).
2. The key is to find a work out that you genuinely enjoy doing. This sounds like no easy task, but hear me out. For me, it's hiking, yoga, high intensity interval training with really loud music, kayaking, rowing, running with my dogs and husband, and group classes like Jazzercise. Honestly, it's really easy to motivate myself to do any of these things- I enjoy doing them!
3. Everybody is different. I really love group classes. After being on a team with 60+ girls all through college and never having a sweaty moment to myself, I have come to enjoy the group setting. Many others straight-up hate group classes- perhaps they feel silly or self conscious, or they don't like someone else being in charge of the music. The important thing is to not feel like you have to conform to anyone else's likes or expectations.
4. Determine what aspects of work outs you like so you can replicate them. I've noticed three things that make me like a work out: company (canine or human), music, and outdoors.
5. It's harder to start and stop than it is to just keep going. No, really. As a long-term work out yo-yo'er I can tell you it is SO much harder if you stop. I'm sure this is part mental- you fall out of habit and find it hard to make time for working out. However, I think the bigger part of this is physical. Every time you start working out you get really sore, but after a few weeks you don't get nearly as sore- even if you really kick butt. Say on the one hand, you start and stop an exercise routine four times in a year. That means (for me) you're looking at four pretty painful "break in" weeks. On the other hand, if you only started once and kept with it you'd only have to deal with one "break in" week. It's a no brainer- it's just not worth it to stop.
The other thing to consider is that it stinks to feel like you're out of shape. I actually really loved running when I was good at it. When I was in rowing shape doing a 2k sprint in under 8:00 was no sweat. Right now I doubt I'd be able to row one in under 9. I hate getting on that erg and not being as good as I once was, but you know what? I'll get back there.
6. Pain and exercise can can be a nasty catch-22, and it can also be a hint that you need help. After college I stopped rowing in part because of my chronic low back pain. I thought "if I stop rowing and beating it up it will finally have a chance to heal". But it didn't change. The chronic, knife-like pain in my right SI joint persisted for three years after my rowing career had ended. I went to numerous chiropractors, physical therapists, and doctors all of whom said I needed to exercise. Everyone had the same spiel- I should strengthen my glutes and abs and stretch my hamstrings and hip flexors and when I worked out the pain would go away. The trouble is that the very thing that was supposed to fix me (working out) caused the pain. I was stuck in a catch-22. How was I supposed to get rid of the pain if I couldn't bring myself to do the treatment?
I did every exercise; I got every adjustment; I tried every non-invasive treatment there was. Finally, when I was 24 I just resigned myself to the fact that I would always have this pain. However, later that year I accidentally found the cause of my pain whilst doing a food elimination diet. It turns out, my gut and brain were so inflamed from multiple food sensitivities, I was unable to control the pain signals going to my brain. Since I eliminated gluten, dairy and sesame three and a half years ago I haven't had a day of low back pain... well, except for my one accidental exposure to gluten at a sushi restaurant.
The point of this last bit is that sometimes exercises and PT are really what you need... but if you're unable to work out because of chronic pain that may be your body screaming that you need some help. If this is the case, please try to find a functional medicine doctor near you who can help you identify and overcome underlying health problems.
I hope that you find a work out that you truly enjoy. It will be of a tremendous benefit to your body and mind if you do.
If you or somebody you know is interested in working with a functional medicine doctor please feel free to call our office at (919) 238-4094 to set up a free phone consultation and see if we are the right fit for you. Infinity Holistic Healthcare is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, part of the Raleigh-Durham "triangle" area.