If you are still working on your New Year’s fitness goals, then congratulations, you are in a minority. Many people give up weight loss resolutions by February and most go back to old habits by March. In previous articles, I have made recommendations for changing up the fitness routine and increasing exercise intensity. Now it’s time to think about the mental aspect of exercise.
If exercise is just boring and monotonous, then you are expending mental energy doing it. If you are not enjoying your exercise session, it is obviously harder to remain dedicated. A good rule of thumb for cardiovascular exercise is to incorporate enjoyable activities for at least one of your weekly sessions. It will help you avoid mental burn out and also give you a reason to look forward to getting up and moving around for an hour. Making cardio fun can mean trying different activities or even doing the same activities, but with a friend. Below are some ways to make your cardio-vascular sessions more enjoyable and more sustainable.
Sign up for a team – If you are in school, this is easy. There are usually intramural teams for just about every sport. If you don’t have friends that are interested, sign up as a free agent and be assigned to a team. For those who are not in a college atmosphere, community recreation centers also have leagues for basketball, soccer, football, volleyball and sometimes swimming. Don’t be intimidated to join because of being unfamiliar to a sport. Recreational facilities do a good job of running multiple leagues separated by athletic experience. Usually, there will be 1-2 days a week for games and however many practice sessions with the team. This is a great way to get the heart rate up and move the body without a structured exercise session.
Consider joining a dance class for a fun, effective weight loss workout.
Learn to dance – The popularity of dance classes has really risen in the past decade. With classes like Zumba and Cardio Hip-hop, exercise is very nicely incorporated into dancing. You can burn between 400-700 calories in an hour of dance exercise. If the fast paced classes aren’t for you, ballroom dancing is an alternative option. Many community centers and dance studios offer classes like ballroom dancing and ballet for all ages and backgrounds.
Learn to defend yourself – Another fun and popular form of cardio exercise that is found in many gyms is cardio kickboxing. Kickboxing allows you to burn a large amount of calories in a short period of time. You could even take it one step further and sign up for martial arts classes or karate. Many people have found martial arts to be a good release of negative energy as well as a great way to get fit.
Go out for scenic hikes – Grab a friend and hit the trails. If you are lucky enough to live near areas of nature or parks, take advantage of it. Block out an afternoon to go hiking in the hills. If you want to increase the challenge, pack a bag with some extra weight and throw it on your back.
Join a running club – Many groups will meet up during the week for outside runs. From those attempting their first 5k to seasoned marathon runners, most running clubs divide off based on experience level. You can inquire about running groups in your area on various meet-up websites, at the community recreation center or even the local running shoe store. When I say running shoe store, I mean a store that specializes in selling running shoes and gear, not a sporting goods store. If you can’t find a group in your town, then start your own with friends.
Get out the skates - Of course, it takes balance and coordination to successfully roller-skate, but once you develop those skills, skating can be a lot of fun. Skating can be done outside or at a skating rink. The skills from roller skating also carry over into ice skating. If you are teaching yourself how to skate or rollerblade, start off in an empty parking lot or on a slow side street. Slowly work up to skating in areas with hills and curvy pathways.
Commit to a goal – Make it a 5k, a swim for diabetes or a biking trip. If you have a specific goal to work towards, the light at the end of the tunnel is enough to keep you moving. The best thing to do is to sign up without thinking twice about it. After you are signed up for something, it is time to make a training plan. Find something at least 2-3 months away that is realistic to complete and sign up!
The bottom line is that not everyone enjoys going to a gym and spending a half hour on the same treadmill 6 days a week. If you are one of the few that looks forward to walking into the gym, then keep doing what you are doing. If you struggle to make it into the gym, try to find at least one activity that is enjoyable. Your chances of reaching your goals will be much better. Consider an adult weight loss program or fitness retreat, such as Shane Diet Resorts, which offers the vacation atmosphere combined with a healthy lifestyle. It’s a fun, effective way to lose weight!