If you are one of the (not so many) people who loves to exercise, this article is not for you.
This is for people who are more on the lazy side – maybe a bit or a lot overweight, knowing they should exercise for their health and maybe to assist weight loss (and yes, you absolutely CAN lose weight without exercise – it is just harder).
But when they try to exercise, they just sweat and get exhausted and sore. The truth is: Some of us hate exercise. We seem to get nothing but dread out of it. The thought of sweating and going to the gym makes us cringe and we want to go to a sandy beach instead and just relax while listening to the soothing sound of ocean waves and dreaming…. (and certainly not of working out in a gym!)
Yet so-called “experts” tell us to just go to the gym and exercise. Our body needs exercise, they say. It’s easy, they say. Just get motivated and use your willpower. Do it long enough so it becomes a habit.
So we try. We have all the good intentions. This time, this year it will be different, and we will stick with it. We know we can do it, right?
Yet this willpower, this great motivation and all the good intentions don’t last long…
We fall off the bandwagon, and we fail…..again. We tell ourselves we are just “lazy,” “unfit,” maybe we even tell ourselves worse things like “we will always fail,” or even worse “I am a failure and can’t do anything right.”
If similar things happen frequently, maybe even in other areas of your life, it can lead to dysphoria, low mood and even depression and anxiety.
If that is you, you are not alone. And maybe, it is time to try a new approach?
Here is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “Stupidity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.”
Think about it: What if….there was a way to change our attitude and love exercising…
Not so easy, you say. I tried saying this to myself as a positive affirmation and this too, didn’t work!
Good point. And here is why: Because we never believed this affirmation. It just wasn’t our truth!
But one thing all experts say is true: Our body and mind does need movement to stay healthy. And in our modern world it is harder and harder to mix enough movement into our day. Yes, going up the stairs in the office, adding a power walk is great. A nature walk is wonderful (when the weather is okay).
But then – who really does this consistently? Not many. And enjoys it? Even less.
Then there are the gyms. They were invented in our modern time to give us a (relatively) safe place to get all the exercise we need. This is great – unless you, like so many of us, hate exercise!
And yet – here is the way to eat this cake and have it, too!
After studying neuroscience and brain health for many years, I came up with this 7-Step Strategy. Try it!
The No-Stress, No-Motivation 7 Step Strategy to Love Exercise
(or anything else you don’t like yet)
Step 1: Do NOT Start with the Thing You Hate:
Gym example: Do not start with exercise
Most people start with a lot of motivation and their new year’s resolution: This year I will… get healthy, get strong, lose weight. This is bound to fail.
Start with something you love. Like relaxing on a beach. Or something like a beach, but more easily available when the weather is bad or the traffic… How about the local Gym? Make it a place to relax, revitalize, and recharge. Sounds like fun?! You got it!
Step 2: Do What You Love:
Gym: Do something you already enjoy: How about relaxing where it is warm?
The trick here is to connect something you love with the thing you want to do.
I like the sauna. It is warm and cozy. A quiet place to relax for 15-20 min. Think of a beach, even if it’s snowing outside. And after the sauna, a refreshing cold shower will revitalize you. How about then sipping your water while relaxing again on one of the massage chairs. Sounds like a great place to hang out, right? It is!
Step 3: Make It a Fun Habit
Gym: Make relaxing in a local gym a habit (something enjoyable connected with the thing you want to do)
Okay. Here we are. We decided that it would be enjoyable to relax in the Gym we chose. Great. Now make it a habit to go to the Gym – just to relax – for, say, three times a week. Pick a time when it fits your schedule best. Enjoy every moment. Savour the ride, drive, or walk to the Gym. Listen to relaxing music or an inspirational audiobook…
Step 4: “Reframe” It:
Gym: Instead of: “I have to go to exercise for health and losing weight” say to yourself: “I want to go to the Gym to relax and enjoy myself” (Reframing)
This process trains your brain to think about the gym in a positive way. Going to the Gym is a bit like eating your favorite ice-cream… A deeply satisfying experience that recharges your batteries.
Step 5: Your New Enjoyable Routine
Gym: Just Relax (Literally). Do nothing else at the Gym but relax, go to the Sauna, enjoy the massage chair and look around…
Okay, now this is important. Why? You will feel driven to give in to your “should-sters” – like “I am paying for this, so I really should use all the machines and all that is there” or “I sure should work out like this woman there” Then you may start to compare yourself with others. That’s a no-no, especially if you are overweight like most of us.
Use the advice my mentor Dr. Joseph McClendon gives in one of his courses: “Compare yourself to yourself for progress. Compare yourself to others for possibilities” That’s it. You can do it. We all start somewhere. Wait to do any of the hard stuff until you love going to the Gym and have made it a routine that you are looking forward to. Don’t be discouraged if it takes 3 or 4 months. Sauna bathing and Relaxation alone have amazing health benefits. Enjoy those!
Step 6: Step it Up One:
Gym: Once you have been going to the Gym for at least 1-2 months like that with the intention to relax, de-stress and enjoy only, consider adding some light exercises.
The trick here is to add the thing you want to do to the new and fun habit. By now you are thoroughly looking forward to the Gym to relax and recharge, right? If not yet, stay with the previous steps UNTIL YOU ARE READY. Don’t add exercises too early or you will fail and get discouraged just like so many times before. So, you feel you are ready now? Great! You probably watched others exercise during your relaxation time in the Gym. Maybe you found some exercises you feel naturally drawn to. Maybe you even found a friend or two? So now you are 100% ready and longing to try doing something else with your relaxed, detoxified, recharged and revitalized body!
Step 7: Celebrate Your Success!
Gym: Find something related that you really enjoy. Go for a good (healthy) meal to a local restaurant, get some nice new gym clothes, a new towel, or just do your “power move” and tell your brain: “I did it!” This step will fixate the new habit in your brain and strengthen the correct neural circuits.
This 7-Step Process Works. But here is the thing: Do too much to start, and you will get tired (and sore) and give up early. Slow and steady wins the race.
Now you know how to successfully build – and maintain – pretty much any habit! If you try this approach, would you let us know how you made out? We’d love to hear your success story, too!
About the Author:
Dr. Christine Sauer MD ND is a retired physician and naturopath as well as a Certified Brain and Mental Health Professional (on the Teaching Team of Dr. Daniel Amen MD), a Licensed Neuroencoding Specialist (Dr. Joseph McClendon III), Havening Techniques® Practitioner and a “Mental Health Thriver”, a multiple bestselling author and engaging speaker. She is working as a Holistic Mental Health & Brain Health Trainer, Coach and Educator and is specializing in helping people to “sparkle” (to live their best life) – and to overcome depression and anxiety by using a combination of knowledge, science, nature, experience, fun, art, and love.
Facebook Group “Sparkles”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sparklesisters
Discover More: Check out this article on creating an efficient running stride.