I was out with a friend for an after-work drink this week when we got onto the topic of exercise and gyms. Her goal, like so many, is to lose fat and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. However, there was one thing standing in her way. She told me, “I hate working out.”
Wait a second.
I immediately asked, “But what do you hate about working out? Because ‘working out’ is a pretty broad concept.” That’s like saying “I hate lunch.” There are so many different ways to eat and enjoy lunch, and you always have the choice to eat the meals and choose the lunch spots that make you happy. So how could you say you hate lunch? (Unless your friend is choosing the restaurant and they tend to choose terrible places. But even then you can choose to not go.)
Exercise and movement are a lot like lunch. There is such a wide variety of ways to move your body and increase your heart rate, you can surely find something that you enjoy. You can exercise in a gym, at home, or outside. You can take a Zumba class with 30 people, join a running group with 5 friends, or lift weights by yourself. You can do an intense Crossfit workout or a calm but challenging yoga class. If regular exercise is your goal, you have lots of options.*
We tried to break down exactly what she did and didn’t like about her workouts to pinpoint the root of these strong feelings. Here’s what we learned:
- She liked seeing a personal trainer who created workouts for her, and she liked that each scheduled session made her feel accountable to someone else.
- She did not like using the stationary weight machines and strongly disliked cardio equipment, such as the treadmill. (I am with her there. More on that below.)
- She did like using free weights.
- She did not like HIIT workouts (high intensity interval training that combines quick, intense bursts of exercise with short periods of rest) because the intense cardio portions of the workout left her too exhausted for any strength sections.
As we pondered these reasons, she suddenly said, “Oh my god, I don’t like cardio!”
It was a light bulb moment, one that I was so excited to be a part of. It was a moment of true personal insight. She realized that she doesn’t dislike the gym or working out, she only dislikes one way of working out. She still has lots of options!
Sometimes we tell ourselves that we don’t like something, but we’ve forgotten – or never even stopped to ask ourselves – why we don’t like it. It’s easier to simply say “no thanks” than to dig a little deeper and know the reasons why we’re saying no. We all do it. But exposing what you don’t like often helps illuminate what you do like. And that’s good stuff to know.
Like my friend, I am not huge fan of cardio – at least not cardio in the traditional sense. I can tolerate a treadmill for a few minutes, but I find it exhausting and boring and the non-stop pounding is hard on the ol’ knees. I’d much rather be lifting dumbbells and barbells, thanks.
Which is why I experienced my own light bulb moment when I came across Jen Sinkler, a fitness author, personal trainer, and fellow traditional-cardio hater, on social media a few years ago. As the story goes, Jen was once asked, “What do you do for cardio?” Her response: “I lift weights faster!” From that phrase Jen developed an entire program aptly
titled Lift Weights Faster that lets spin-class-loathers like me get a heart-pumping workout without mounting a single stationary bike. That reframing of something I didn’t like into something I loved was a huge shift in mindset for me. I didn’t hate cardio, per se, I just disliked traditional cardio.
What do you say no to on a regular basis? Do you know why you say no? If something you don’t want to do is standing in the way of your goals, whether they’re health related or otherwise, can you step back and revisit what it is you don’t like about it? What can you change about that thing you don’t like? If you take the time to consider why you’re saying “no,” who knows, maybe you’ll have a light bulb moment too.
*For some really interesting options, check out Participaction’s 150 Play List, a collection of 150 different activities to help Canadians get moving to celebrate of our nation’s 150th birthday. Pillow fight, anyone?