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How to Enjoy Exercise More

Would you like to love exercise? Would you settle for enjoying it a bit more, enough to do it regularly? To do so, you’ll have to erase the concept of “no pain, no gain” from your mind and follow the wisdom in “Maybe You’d Exercise More If It Didn’t Feel So Crappy” by Kathrine Hobson (538, 12/5/2017,, accessed 12/13/17). Here are some interesting highlights from this article.
“Research by David M. Williams, a clinical psychologist and professor at Brown University, and his colleagues has shown that how you feel during exercise predicts both current and future physical activity levels.” Most health coaches, trainers and therapists, including myself, try to motivate people to exercise by encouraging them to focus on how they’ll feel after exercise, not during it. Apparently, that’s not too helpful. Instead, researchers say that the goal is to find exercise more pleasurable as you do it.
Try using “the ‘peak-end’ rule, which holds that people judge events not by the overall experience but by some combination of how they feel at the most extreme part and at the end of the event.” So, rather than push yourself to finish at your peak, you might try going for the peak earlier, then decrease intensity as your near the end of exercising.” Another way is for you set your pace yourself because “there is some inherent pleasure in not being told what to do.” This meshes perfectly with why I encourage clients not to use words like “should” and “need” to pressure themselves into doing something, but to use neutral words like “want.” Humans like to feel as if we have choices and are more likely to take care of ourselves when we feel we’re making autonomous decisions.
“Research suggests that music and video can make lower-intensity running or cycling more enjoyable and feel easier. At higher intensities, it can at least reduce the unpleasantness…” For some folks, alternating high- with low-intensity training increases pleasure but, if it doesn’t, don’t go that route. I once had a trainer set up a program for me that was too hard and I hated it. After two days, I returned to my old program.
Lastly, researchers are “exploring whether people who have established exercise habits have a diminished sensitivity to the pleasure or displeasure of exercise. In other words, once you’re used to walking every morning for 20 minutes, maybe it’s less important whether you enjoy it. Once it’s a habit, it may become more like brushing your teeth.” Consider that you brush your teeth or clean your living space because it’s now habit—not because you expect to derive pleasure from it. However, if you believe that more pleasurable exercise will lead to being more active, by all means, ramp up the pleasure.