How to start exercising even when you hate it

Posted on 20th September 2022

Exercise motivation

I’m one of those girls who really enjoys exercise. I look forward to doing it and I really notice when I don’t make time for it. You’re probably thinking ‘well it’s easy for you then! You clearly have loads of exercise motivation!’

But I want you to know it hasn’t always been like this.

In school and pretty much throughout my teens and 20s I despised exercise! It was torturous, difficult and in no way fun!  I did it because I told myself I had to. You know, to make up for those chips I had eaten, or because summer was coming and I needed to be beach body ready (just so we’re clear, everybody is always beach body ready!). I forced myself to attend hardcore classes and go on boring runs because if I didn’t, I felt guilty as hell! Plus I thought it was pretty much the only way to get the body I wanted.

So what changed?

Well a lot of things! Once I started working on my relationship with food and changing that I wanted to know how to exercise without it being such a big deal too. I wanted to be one of those people who liked exercise, had exercise motivation and was just able to do it without all the mental back and forth in my mind.

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So the first thing I did?

I changed my why around exercise. I changed the motivation. The reasons I used to exercise were always lead by a mentality of ‘making up for’ or ‘so that I can’.

If I ate too much the day before I’d exercise to make up for it. Or if I knew I had a big occasion coming up I’d do some ‘damage control’ and exercise to earn myself some extra drinks, food or to fit in that dress. The drive and why behind exercise, the exercise motivation was totally in the wrong place.

It was always how to exercise to lose weight or burn a certain number of calories, when what I really needed to focus on was shifting the reason for exercising towards feeling good, not looking a certain way.

If you want to get motivated to exercise, even when you currently hate it, here are 5 things you can do:

Change your exercise motivation and driving force

You need to look at why behind exercise and the driving force that is making you do it. What are the current reasons you exercise now? Is it:

To lose weight?

To punish yourself for eating too much?

To shrink your body?

None of these reasons are going to help make you feel better; none of them show your body love and respect. Start shifting the reason you exercise to a place of wanting to feel better. Consider the benefits you get from exercise that have nothing to do with the way you look or what you ate/plan to eat. Exercising means you have more energy, it can take you out of a slump, help you sleep better and fill you with endorphins that create a natural high. Start to pay attention to how much better exercise makes you feel and what you get from it, particularly on the day you do it. Once you change the reason from ‘I want to weigh less’ to ‘I want to feel good’ your whole mindset around exercise will begin to change. You’ll find you naturally want to do it more and more.

Choose exercise you enjoy

Isn’t it strange that more often than not women choose exercise based on the amount of calories they think it will burn or how much sweat they can get to pour off of them? Very rarely exercise is chosen with the reason being ‘because I enjoy it’. But think about it, the more you enjoy something the more often and more likely you are to do it.  Plus exercise should be fun! It shouldn’t be a chore you feel you ‘have’ to do, it should be something you really love, that makes you feel alive and free. Dancing, swimming, yoga, running, zumba, netball – whatever it is you find fun and enjoyable is what you need to be doing. There is no right exercise to do, you have to choose for you and by doing this you can move from a mindset of ‘have to’ to ‘want to’.

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Get rid of the number goal

We all have numbers that we think make our exercise ‘enough’ or ‘worthy’. Stories we tell ourselves like, I need to exercise for 30 minutes every day or it’s just not worth it. We put so much unnecessary pressure on ourselves and end up feeling so overwhelmed that we give up at the first hurdle. We do nothing at all because we can’t reach the number goal we set ourselves and we think what we can do isn’t enough. Take the pressure off and take numbers off. You don’t need to set times, weight goals, distances or anything, you just need to tune into your body and do what feels right for you. Start with what feels good. If that is 5 minutes of walking each morning then do that. You don’t need to be working towards huge challenges or big goals, you just need to be moving in a way you enjoy for however long feels good to you.

Don’t force yourself

This goes in line with removing the pressure. Think about when someone tells you you have to do something, you immediately don’t want to do it. Well that works the same with you too. Forcing yourself to do something you really don’t want to do isn’t showing yourself any kind of compassion or kindness. Remove the ‘should’ – I should go for a run, I should attend dance class , and replace it with a ‘could’. ‘I could go for a run or I could stay watching T.V.’ ‘I could hit up dance class or I could stay home’ . This allows you to make a choice without putting pressure on yourself. It’s a much softer, kinder way of approaching exercise, especially if you are trying to change your mindset around it.

Don’t let your past define your future

So you’ve always hated exercise I get that. You’ve had some bad experiences and you’ve just never gelled with exercise. But this doesn’t mean it has to stay this way. If you change your exercise motivation, find movement you enjoy and show yourself compassion and kindness than you can definitely change this. What has happened in your past doesn’t need to be your future. Let go of everything you think about exercise up until this point and start to see it in a new way. A way to make you feel alive, free, energized and badass. Staying stuck in the past won’t help you live better in the future.

Ultimately exercising is a way of taking care of your body. Showing it love and respect by moving it in ways that feel enjoyable. There should be no torture, punishment, should or have to. Exercise is a tool to make your body feel better as it is right now and your exercise motivation should always be I want to feel amazing!

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