What To Do if You Dislike Exercise
Updated: Jan 19
A common frustration I hear from people is they don’t like exercise.
Just hearing the word transports people to feelings of physical discomfort...and emotional tension.
Besides the soreness that follows, people wrestle with having no drive to do exercise.
They know they “need” exercise, but the experience, not to mentioned the discipline, is so unenjoyable that the whole idea of making it a regular habit feels like wrestling with unwanted duty, fighting an un-winnable willpower battle, or maybe just as bad, inevitable boredom.
It’s true, being active is one of the best things you can do to enjoy a high-quality long life. Life requires movement. Yet, if exercise garners a giant “Ugh” when you think about it, how do we break inertia, let alone make exercise sustainable?
A DIFFERENT WAY TO THINK ABOUT IT
If the above sounds like you, I would bet…
It’s not “exercise” you don’t like, it’s what comes to mind when you think of exercise, that you don’t like.
I doubt you like the idea of sitting on a couch all day for 30 days and not moving.
Let me put it this way, think back to the last time you traveled and were forced to sit for hours and hours and how terrible it made your body feel. No, that doesn’t sound like a great idea either does it?
You don’t dislike moving, you just don’t have a positive association with exercise.
LET’S APPROACH THIS WHOLE IDEA OF “EXERCISE” DIFFERENTLY
If you’ve spent any time around kids, you know kids like to move. They climb, crawl, run, jump, skip, and spend time playing on the floor. They get themselves in all sorts of awkward
positions (to us adults anyway) all day.
I’m a regular exerciser, yet, my kids get way more movement in a day than I typically do. Funny thing is, I’ve never heard my two or four-year-old complain about not liking exercise.
Think back to when you were a kid.
Did you ever do something active—play tag, build a fort, climb a tree, play sports, jump on a trampoline (or a bed), ride a bike, run through hoses, or any number of backyard games—and actually enjoy yourself?
I’ll bet you did. Well, what if exercise could be more like that? What if “exercise” was just a sub-category of movement?
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “EXERCISE” AND “MOVEMENT”
The way I explain the difference to people is that “exercise” is time set aside to move with intention, to challenge our bodies in strategic ways to help them adapt in a desirable fashion.
Movement on the other hand, is life.
To get anything done in life we have to move. And, to move more frequently and thoughtfully is how we humans stay younger, maintain capability, push off disease, and find ourselves somehow loving life more.
Movement is a requirement. Exercise is not.
WHAT IF YOUR FOCUS WAS TO ENGINEER A MOVEMENT-RICH LIFE?
In case you missed it, there is a groundswell of thought leaders and organizations popping up teaching people that movement (not just exercise) is the point--check out MovNat, Katy Bowman, and Ido Portal to name a few.
Truth is, it’s the exercise specialists that are the easiest to kill. It’s the movement generalists that thrive…and have the most fun.
One such thought leader (Katy Bowman) has talked about the idea of having such a movement-rich life that we don’t need to exercise. While I’m not ready to give up my exercise time (it’s good “me time), her idea is intriguing to me.
What would it mean to create a movement rich life…and how fit could that really make me? Would I get more done, or less? Would I feel like I got to play more? Hmm.
A SIMPLE PLACE TO START: RECLAIMING OUTSOURCED MOVEMENT
Think about it for a second. You can sit at a computer, push a few buttons, and food will show up at your door. The only movement you have to do…is walk to your front door.
Whatever device you’re reading this on, someone had to go outside and do manual labor to harvest the materials your electronics were built with.
An so it is with so many of our modern conveniences.
Every automation, every improved system, every effort to make things more accessible has the unintended consequence of slowly chipping away at our basic need to move.
SO, WHERE CAN YOU STOP OUTSOURCING MOVEMENT?
Once you see this paradigm of how your movement has been outsourced, you’ll start to see all sorts of new possibilities to get moving again. Here are some ideas to get your gears turning.
Examples of Where You Can Reclaim Outsourced Movement:
Manually grind your own coffee beans
Use a manual can opener
Whip your own cream
Walk somewhere vs drive
Grab a basket at the grocery store instead of a cart
Carry your luggage instead of using the wheels
Get down on the floor to put your socks and shoes on (don’t buy slip-ons)
Wear a backpack
Skip the stroller and give kids a piggy back ride
Carry your kids for longer than you like (use both sides of your body)
Fetch the TV remote yourself (or better yet don’t use it if you watch TV)
Clean your own floors
Vacuum your own car
Renovate your own home
Do your own landscaping
Turn around instead of using the back-up camera
Put the toilet paper on the tank behind you so you have to rotate to get it
Put items you use frequently in low cupboards and less frequently used items higher
Take the stairs vs the elevator
Walk up the escalator or on the moving sidewalk
Wrestle with Nature
Trim trees (extra credit if you use a hand saw)
Push a lawnmower
Work on a farm
Swim in a natural body of water
Walk on uneven terrain
Ride your bike or mountain bike
Go roller blading
Use a skateboard
Stand when you could be sitting
Sit on the floor (guaranteed to get you shifting around more)
DON’T pre-board, walk around the airport instead
Cook and do your own dishes
Wrestle with kids
Go to playground
Play games in your backyard
Climb a tree or retaining wall
YOU GET THE IDEA?
I realize I may never turn you into a “lover of exercise” but I bet I could help you be a lover of movement, and I'll bet you saw something in the lists above that you could be doing.
I’d even go so far as to say that if you start dreaming again, if you start seeing how a more active body opens the possibility for more adventure, better romance, and how everyday tasks get easier—exercise won’t be such a bad word.
And your waypoint into being a regular exerciser might just be you looking to engineer a more movement-filled life.
If you can see exercise as an engine to a better you, exercise might start to be something you look forward to and appreciate.
You may never like squats or push-ups, but you might start to see how much better life can be when you move with intention.
You might even practice moving in new ways just for the sheer joy of seeing what you can do.
The wrong exercise for you is the kind you won’t do. If you “don’t have the time,” instead of shooting for an hour, talk yourself into walking for five minutes. Start somewhere.
In summary, move more often, and move with more variety. Finally, get around people who inspire you. If you’re not friends with anyone active. Make new friends. Do that, and this whole idea of “exercise” gets a lot easier.
You know if you don’t use it you’ll lose it. So, get moving, and if I can help you, feel free to reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
YOU GOT THIS,
PS. Want to see how we account for all the moving parts of your life and put together a personalized plan? Check this out.