Some love to exercise. They’re itching to get to it no matter what and give it all they’ve got once they do. But many don’t. It can be a real problem to find the motivation to start, or really get into it when we do. Some may say, “that’s just not me”. What makes the difference between these groups? It’s mostly about our deep-rooted beliefs often based on our experience of the past. Did you look forward to PE and Games lessons at school? Did you enjoy school sports day? Do you remember having fun getting exercise? For the first group, the exercise junkies, the answers are likely to be yes, but if we didn’t then this may explain why the thought of exercising now fills us with fear and dread and ultimately stops us from enjoying the benefits. The most common underlying issue with many of these negative childhood influences is that we felt forced to do things we didn’t want to or we were made to feel we weren’t any good at them. If we feel this way, even at a subconscious level, the less chance we have of ever enjoying them in the future thanks to the big psychological barriers those experiences built up. So, let’s get to breaking those psychological barriers down and see how we can learn to enjoy exercise. First, think about why you want to exercise. Is it to lose weight, improve body shape, address health concerns or just feel fitter and better generally? Whatever it is, picture yourself having achieved those benefits. How do you look and feel? What can you hear? Really immerse yourself in that vision of you in the future, take a snapshot of it and return to it often in your mind’s eye to remind yourself regularly of just how good it is. Secondly, don’t get hung up on the type of exercise you do. At this stage the only important thing is to do something you are likely to enjoy. If you do something you enjoy you start to chip away at those barriers and, over time, you’ll open you mind to other activities that may seem impossible right now. Think through the types of activity that are likely to appeal to you most by asking yourself some questions. · Would you be on your own or with others? · Would you prefer to be indoors or outdoors? · Was there an activity you enjoyed as a child, cycling or swimming perhaps, that you might now enjoy as an adult? · Is there a new activity you would like to learn? By answering these questions you can narrow down options to try out and see if they work for you. Sometimes we might not think an activity counts as working out. Our image of a ‘proper workout’ might be getting sweaty pounding the treadmill or taking a class at the gym. But everything from a walk around town or rambling in the country to learning karate or actively playing with the kids for half an hour can count as long as your heart rate is elevated and you engage in it regularly. Thirdly find a time that suits you to exercise. It’s important to enjoy your activities and if it feels forced or that you’re missing out on enjoyable alternatives, you’re simply not going to. I like to use what I like to call ‘dead time’. This is time when you can do some exercise when you would normally do something far less beneficial. In days gone by I stood, watched and chatted with others whilst my son trained football for 90 minutes two nights every week. Then one night I went for a run. I did it again and again and again. Other dads noticed, asked me about it and then joined me. Now around 8 of us go for a run each time our kids train. It’s a much better use of time than standing around and, because we have a good chat on the route, we all enjoy it. Also think about how you feel at different times of the day. We all have different body clocks . Some of us are morning larks others are night owls, that’s just the way it is. There’s little chance a night owl will enjoy early morning activities, whilst a morning lark will be in their element early on. It doesn’t really matter what hour of the day you are active. It only matters that you do it and that you enjoy doing it. Fit your activities around your natural disposition as far as possible and you’ll feel the benefits more and, as a result, enjoy it more. And that’s all it’s about at this stage. Enjoying it. By doing things we enjoy we begin to gradually chip away at those memories of the past that build the barriers of the present. We’re gradually learning to enjoy activities that are good for us and as time goes by you’re much more likely to try and enjoy additional activities that now seem impossible to like. Trust me, you will.