If you’re trying to figure out how to stop hating exercise, I’ve got your back.
For the first 24 years of my life, I hated any and every type of physical exertion. And yes, that even includes needing to get up off of the sofa.
Fast forward a few years and now I hate not exercising.
I’ll go through the common reasons you might hate exercise, and how to overcome them.
Why You Currently Hate Exercise
The super-broad, unhelpful reason why we hate exercise is because of something in our past.
As young kids, we tend to be active, and energetic and nothing really slows us down. Then as we get older – this does include during childhood – we experience more things in life, both good, and bad.
And that can cause our relationship with exercise and physical activity to change – often, for worse.
I realised recently that one of the reasons it took me so long to fall in love with working out is because of my experiences at school.
I was an overweight and unhealthy child anyway.
But then PE lessons at school made me feel defeated, humiliated, and a little bit scarred. I couldn’t run, or play football, or rugby. And there were no other options available.
If I look back at it now, if someone had given me a little bit more support and encouragement and tried to meet me at my level, I may have started exercising regularly 10-12 years earlier than I did.
I have vivid memories of the annual 3 mile cross country run when I was 12. One of the teachers stopped me because of how heavily I was breathing, and I never finished it. These days I can run 3 miles in around 22 minutes fairly at a fairly easy pace.
I get that schools do need to have rules and tough love isn’t always a bad thing. But health, fitness, and weight are not quick fixes.
Shouting at someone for 45 minutes once a week to get them to move a bit quicker is almost never going to have a positive outcome.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why you might currently hate exercise.
It’s Too Hard
Yeah, it’s physically challenging. It’s supposed to be.
And sometimes, we go too hard too soon. This leaves us feeling tired, burnt out, and like a failure. Because we think exercise will always be like that.
It’s Not Fun
One of the best things about exercise is the choices you have.
Is it true that all exercise isn’t fun? Or maybe you haven’t found the right exercise for you yet?
There’s more to exercise than just feeling uncomfortable in a gym, running on a treadmill, or lifting weights.
We build up this image in our heads that gyms, fitness, and exercise are things to be feared. That is just not true.
Certain activities and certain environments might seem scary. Gym intimidation is a very real thing.
But you have options, and you can start within your safety zone.
Exercise is Punishment
If you’ve ever told yourself you “have” to exercise, then your relationship with fitness is in need of repair.
Exercise can (and in my opinion should) be an act of therapy and self-care, and something that empowers you.
If you see exercise as a chore or a punishment, you’re missing out on all of the benefits which it can give you.
If you are able to make some time for some physical activity just for yourself, that means you don’t have to exercise, you get to.
So How To Stop Hating Exercise?
This could just read like a list of opposites to what I just wrote, but I am trying to avoid that. Here are a few practical tips for how to stop hating exercise.
Start slower than you want to. At this stage we just want to build the habit of exercising, so we’re not going for maximum intensity.
Whatever form of exercise you choose (more on that below), start cautiously.
A good rule of thumb I use for newbies I work with is to try to hit that level of intensity where you feel like you have worked out BUT you have more in the tank.
That will set you up for longer-term endurance, and make fitness a habit.
A slow build-up which sets you up for years will serve you better than a fast burn-out which crashes you in a month.
Try Different Things
There is no one way to exercise and different people prefer different things.
Open yourself up to new possibilities. This goes back to my own experience in school. I hated running and all sports because I was awful at them. And I thought exercise would always be like that.
When I started walking a bit more, that led to longer walks, and hiking, and running, and weights, and so on.
The great thing is that you get to choose.
Don’t want to run? How about swimming, or cycling, or walking, or hiking?
Don’t want to lift weights? I still encourage at least some strength training so maybe some body weight or calisthenics or suspension training might be better.
Find the gym boring? Get outdoors and enjoy nature. Maybe, try a sport? Or classes instead?
My point is there are plenty of options, and you don’t have to put yourself in a box.
I mean, one of my 1 to 1 clients started to fall in love with strength training after she found a new hobby in axe-throwing.
I only really started to appreciate this when gyms closed during Covid. I was a little bit obsessive with my weights and strength routine so gyms closing was a body blow.
But I realised I was lifting weights for years without making much progress and was never really enjoying it.
When I started strength training at home instead, and I had to learn, and adapt, it became a completely different experience and I started to love calisthenics and my TRX.
Gyms are open again but I haven’t needed to go back.
Have A Goal And Structure
We can easily get put off because we do a little bit of everything in every workout, don’t see results, and feel like it’s all one big waster of time.
Get a structured training plan, with a clear goal in mind. Make sure you have measures in place to track your progress to those goals.
Also, this is your call, but ideally DO NOT make your goals about weight or appearance. Make them about something you are doing rather than something you are appearing to be.
Allow Yourself Recovery
This ties in with starting slow.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been at that point where you decided to start a new health kick, went to the gym 6 days in a row, and on the 7th day couldn’t get out of bed.
Am I right?
Understand that exercise, building fitness, and building strength involve allowing our body and muscles to adapt. This process usually happens in our downtime, while we’re recovering.
If you’re going hard everyday, you’re going to slow down your progress and risk injury.
Plus the inevitable burnout putting you off, which we already talked about.
Change Your Mindset
If you’re at this point and still seeing exercise as a punishment or something you have to do, we need to flick that switch.
You get to exercise and challenge yourself. You get to empower and energise yourself. Not everyone’s that lucky.
Find the form of exercise or workout that you enjoy, and created some dedicated time for it. It becomes that act of self-care that helps set you up for success throughout the week.
It might be regular yoga, it might be long walks, it might be weights. Something that will give you that endorphin release.
If you’re still hating exercise, it means you haven’t found that right thing yet.
Find A Tribe
Being part of a group can help too.
There will be people who are on the same journey, or using the same tools, or doing the same thing as you.
And having the same struggles as you.
Don’t underestimate the power of finding a group or a tribe to use as your support and accountability network.
They can help you appreciate what you’re doing more, avoid pitfalls, and pick you up when you’re struggling.
If you’re a fitness app user, both Peloton and Les Mills On Demand for example, have absolutely huge online communities on Facebook.
That’s How To Stop Hating Exercise
I hope this helps set you up with how to stop hating exercise. I know that my mental and physical health have improved immensely as I started to appreciate working out and exercising more and more.
I would love to see you get the same benefits.
If you do have any questions or would like any help on finding a better relationship with exercise, please do reach out to me.
It is a journey I have been on and am more than happy to help out. The best place to find me is on Instagram.