Of course you love exercise.
But right now, it sure doesn’t feel like it.
You’re tired. You’re worn out.
Part of you wants to stop training. But you don’t let yourself.
You’re an athlete, and you’ve been training hard for months, even years. You don’t want to lose all of your hard earned progress. You don’t want to turn into a sedentary “blerch.”
If you don’t change something soon, you’re going to crack. You won’t be able to drag yourself out of bed every morning to complete another boring, miserable workout.
Here’s how to stay active and fit when the very word “exercise” makes you want to crawl into bed.
1. Try a new sport.
When you get really obsessed with one kind of exercise you get tunnel vision. You view yourself as a “runner”, or “weightlifter” or “football player.”
It’s hard to imagine yourself doing anything else.
But you can, and you should if you’re tired of your primary sport.
If you’re a runner, try cycling.
Kayaker? Try stand up paddleboarding.
Wrestler? Try football.
Basketball player? Try ultimate frisbee.
Triathlete? Try bodybuilding.
You can still be your obsessive, driven, passionate self, you’ll just be applying your talent to a new sport. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels.
One of the other benefits is that because you’re a beginner, you’ll make rapid progress.
Sometimes, however, you need to take all of your sports less seriously.
2. Try a sport for fun, instead of performance.
You want to get outside and stay active, but you’re tired of pushing yourself to the limit in every workout.
You’re tired of meticulously tracking your workouts, trying to improve every time.
Here’s the solution: Take a break from competitive sports, even ones where you only compete against yourself like recreational bodybuilding. Try something for fun.
Play ultimate frisbee with your friends.
Play a game of pickup soccer or basketball.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Here’s an example: For years I thought the only fun part about volleyball was that it generally involved hot tall girls.
In the past few months, however, I’ve devoted almost every Saturday to all-day pickup volleyball. It’s one of the best parts of my life right now, because a) watching drunk people try to hit a ball is funny, and b) there’s no pressure to do well — we’re all just having fun.
Of course, there’s no reason you need use sports to stay active.
3. Stay active without formal sports.
When you train for a single sport, you almost forget that there are other ways to exercise. Or, you don’t forget, but you don’t have the time or energy to focus on other things.
Here are a few ways to stay active without training for a formal sport:
It’s a lot harder than you think, and even funner than it looks.
Dancing also gives you an excuse to get out of the house and have fun with other people. Dance classes are also usually cheap, so you can take them for a while, get pretty good, and not spend that much.
Seriously, doesn’t this look awesome?
Take long walks.
Easily one of the best kinds of exercise on earth. Walking is easy, so you can do it when you’re tired, sore, or unmotivated. You don’t need any equipment, so you can do it when you’re traveling or any time of day.
You can also talk to other people while you’re walking, which makes the time go by much faster.
Hiking doesn’t feel like a “workout.”
It’s an adventure and an experience, which makes it more enjoyable.
Every time you go on a hike, even if it’s through the same area, you’ll find something new. Hiking is usually free, requires no training, and is even better with friends. It’s also a great way to get away from your computer and people in general, except for the ones you take with you.
And sometimes you find rope swings over dried up river beds, which become endlessly entertaining.
Take yoga classes.
Like dancing, yoga is harder than it looks.
Like walking, you can do it almost anywhere, and it’s fun to do with someone else. Even if you’re not really into meditation (I’m not), yoga is a nice way to relax.
There are countless other ways to stay active without participating in a formal sport. Get creative.
Sometimes, however, even a walk is more than you can handle, and that’s fine.
4. Stop working out.
You make yourself train when most people are home.
You don’t let yourself take breaks, and that’s a problem.
Everyone, including Olympic athletes, takes breaks from their training. When you’re completely unmotivated to workout, you’re not going to make much progress anyway. Over the long-term, you’re better off taking a break from exercise and focusing on something else.
There’s a reason the best child athletes always don’t become the best adult athletes — they burn out.1,2
The key to taking time off is to find other that make you happy and fulfilled, instead of vegging. (Though some of that’s fine too).
I get it, you’re worried that if you take a break you’ll get out of shape and won’t have the motivation to get started again.
You won’t let that happen. You love working out, and when you’re ready, you’ll come back stronger than before.
If you’re still not convinced, which of these two situations would you prefer?
1. Take three months off, and then have three months of consistent progress and fun workouts.
2. Force yourself to train through miserable workouts, making almost no progress or even regressing, for six months.
You’re smart, which is why you’ll choose the former.
5. Find a training partner.
You like to workout alone. You come to the gym to train, not to talk.
But you also get bored. You have days when all it would take to make going to the gym fun, is someone to go with.
As someone who’s gone months without a workout buddy, I can tell you that one of the best ways to get back into your routine is to find someone to train with.
Just like you, your friends might cringe at the idea of having to match their schedules with a training partner.
However, as long as you’re upfront and you tell them that you just want some accountability, and you don’t want to talk to the whole time, they’ll probably be happy to join you.
Staying active should be fun, so don’t make it miserable.
Exercise is important, and everyone should do it.
However, you should also enjoy it. It’s understandable that you’re tired of training. You’re sick of going through the same routine every week, and you’re ready for something new. You would, except you feel trapped.
You feel like if you stop your normal workout program, you’ll get completely out of shape, get fat, and it will be that much harder to get fit again.
The fact is that you’ll be able to stay much healthier, happier, and leaner in the long-term by taking a break from your normal routine, or making it slightly different.
You love exercise, so do what’s necessary to make it fun.
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1. Baker J. Early Specialization in Youth Sport: a requirement for adult expertise? The Journal of High Ability Studies. 2003;14.
2. Côté J, Baker J, Abernethy B. Practice and Play in the Development of Sport Expertise. In: Handbook of Sport Psychology. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 2007:184–202. doi:10.1002/9781118270011.ch8.