Last Sunday I went to the gym seeking an open treadmill because even though it’s now officially spring I wasn’t feeling up to toughing the -13 weather outside and I just wanted to walk. Usually I find treadmills extremely boring but if I have a new podcast to listen to then I can usually zone out and sort of enjoy the fact that I’m walking in one spot for 30 minutes to go nowhere.
Every single treadmill in the place was taken but one. The gym was busy that day, maybe there was some post Saturday night guilt going around. Quickly I claimed my territory on the treadmill, put my headphones on and started walking. The treadmill I was using was on the second floor of the gym. Directly in front of it was a giant t.v. and a view of the lower level which had most of the cardio equipment on it. If I had to guess from memory there was probably 40 to 50 pieces of cardio equipment on the floor, laid out warehouse style and every single one was being used. As I was trying to concentrate on listening to Coffee Break – French I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that the gym (specifically the sea of cardio equipment) reminded me of a science experiment involving mice who learned to run on a wheel for their food or to avoid punishment.
I’m not knocking treadmills or people who work out in a gym. Gym’s can provide a sense of community, motivation and a platform for building strength and It’s also true that some people genuinely claim to love doing stationary cardio but let’s face it – no one is jumping onto a cardio machine simultaneously thinking “Wow, this is SO much fun! I wish I could do this more often”. Usually the dialogue sounds more like “Gee, I haven’t done much exercise today. Maybe I should log some miles on the treadmill? I hope my ipod is fully charged”.
The image of mice got me thinking. Have we forgotten to move for the sake of moving? Do we exercise like conditioned mice in a gym because we enjoy it or because it has become the social norm? Certainly we moved as children because it was fun. We didn’t play tag because we were trying to be healthy. We just did it because we wanted to, because it was play and it brought joy.
Becoming an adult too often causes play to mysteriously disappear from our lives. We are taught that play is for children and it’s important to get down to business and start being an adult. Choosing exercise you don’t enjoy and expecting to be successful with it through sheer willpower is going to end in disappointment and discouragement. If you don’t like walking on a treadmill, don’t do it. If you don’t enjoy biking, don’t bike. Not only will the quality of your life improve because you sincerely enjoy what you’re doing but finding exercise that you enjoy (structured or not) will help you stick with it long term. It’s human nature to avoid things we don’t enjoy. Now, there is a time and place for hard work but If dread is what’s stopping you from getting off of the couch or computer chair remember that movement should be fun! Here are 9 ways to make exercise fun again:
If you love to dance or always wanted to try a dance class, now is the time! You won’t even realize how much exercise you are getting because you’ll be having so much fun. It’s also a great way to try something new and meet new people. Or just go dancing! Every Sunday Babylon nightclub hosts Mod Night, dance your worries away. Heck, just blast your favourite song and let loose in the comforts of your own home. Who knows, you may discover your inner dance queen.
Join a sports team that you really enjoy or if you’ve never been into sports try something new that you think would be a good fit for you. Winter sports are abundant in Canada, there is no excuse to be cooped up inside all winter. If it doesn’t work out you can try something else. Being on a team helps keep you accountable and if you’re really out of shape and you love your sport then you’ll be motivated to get more fit.
3. Get Outside
Get outside. Pack a lunch, grab a friend and get going. Ottawa is fortunate enough to be right next door to the Gatineau Park which is a great place to go for a hike. On a sunny day head to the ByWard Market and spend the day walking around checking out the sights. Go biking on one of the many bike paths Ottawa has to offer. Every Sunday the City of Ottawa closes down major roads to be used as oversized bike paths. Check out Sunday Bikedays to find out where to ride. In the winter go skating on the World’s Largest Skating Rink. You can take up cross country skiing, downhill skiing or snowboarding. Invest in a pair of snowshoes and trek unbeaten paths. If winter usually brings you down, don’t stay cooped up inside. Dress warm and get out there!
4. Try Something New
Are you adventurous? Try rock climbing at Vertical Reality. Learn what the Crossfit craze is all about. Check out Algonquin’s Impact Zone to experience different disciplines of martial arts. Maybe powerlifting is your thing?
If you already have enough excitement in your life try Yoga if you haven’t already. There are hundreds of group fitness classes just waiting for you to try them.
There are so many different communities out there. If you look for them you are bound to find one that’s perfect for you.
5. Walk Your Dog
This should go without saying but if you have a dog, walk it. Your dog needs exercise, you do too. You will both be happier because of it.
6. Be More Playful
Do you have children, younger brothers and sisters, younger cousins? Take them to the park or play structure and go exploring together. See if you can still swing on the bars, create mini challenges like how fast can you climb, what about cartwheels? Not only will you make the kids day (because adults are boring) but you will surprise yourself with how much fun you can have. This may not be a good idea if the structure is packed with kids who recently learned how to walk.
Go on a new nature walk and view your environment as a giant play ground. See if you can climb any rocks or trees, discover the size of rocks you can or can’t lift. Try new paths or “wannabe” paths. Go exploring.
Darryl Edwards, an exercise therapist specializing in the art of play, introduces great ideas on how to interact more with your environment to facilitate movement as play.
Check out Episode: 10 on The Primal Blueprint Podcast on itunes to hear what he has to say.
7. Change Gyms
If it’s the gym you don’t like (too busy, too stuffy, bad atmosphere, grumpy staff, poor location, etc.) then try out another gym! Not all gym’s are created equal. Give some local fitness facilities a call and tell them you would like to try their facility. They will be more than happy to introduce you and set you up with a free workout. You may find that your whole attitude changes. Environment influences performance.
8. Try Personal Training
Talk to different personal trainers and see who you mesh well with. Tell them that you want your workouts to be fun… REALLY fun! Finding a personal trainer who can get you to work hard without knowing it will get you results you didn’t think we’re possible.
9. Social Influence
Exercising with a friend or friends provides you with a social outlet and keeps you more motivated to exercise. Surround yourself with like minded people who are active or want to become more active. Tried and true, this is one of the best ways to stick with exercise. Its also a lot of fun.
Ok, so this might not be “fun” or play, but if you have some household chores that need to be done blast your favourite music and vacuum that house. By the end you’ll notice you’ve actually done a fair bit of moving around. Heck, sometimes I get a small sweat going when I catch the cleaning bug (Is that just me or does anyone else get this?). You will feel better afterwards because now there’s one less thing you have to do and you have a clean house. Yay.
“Movement is Medicine” –– anon.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found it helpful. Thank you to everyone who has been sharing and following the blog, it really means a lot to me. You guys are great! If you haven’t done so already, it would really help me if you spread the word about fitnesswithjules.