Taking the “work” out of the workout

February 18, 2009

When I saw 10 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Exercise posted over at A Merry Life, I began thinking about all of the different ways that we trick ourselves into exercise on the days when we really don’t want to do it. It’s an excellent post and I recommend you hop on over for a moment to read through the list.

We’ve all got plenty of reasons for working out and inspiration can come from anywhere to motivate us to just do it. Health and vanity are probably the biggest ones (not necessarily in that order). Family is another one that you hear cropping up a lot; to be able to be around to see kids grow up and to be fit enough to play with them.

Watching a good adventure/action flick can motivate me if I’m not so much in the mood for exercising. Adrenaline rush aside from sitting on the edge of your seat as you’re watching the film, it’s the characters that motivate me. They’re all crazy fit and doing all kinds of fun stunts which just makes me want to be able to do the same (hello, career as a stunt double!)

The most interesting and amusing reason for exercising that I’ve heard recently is in case of an apocalypse. If we enter another Stone Age or zombies start attacking, you want to be ready for it! (Maybe I should take up pole dancing in case my leg needs to be replaced with a gun a la Rose McGowan in Planet Terror. Ah! The motivation I need to do yoga! Gotta be flexible, you know).

When it come to exercise, little kids are way better at keeping at it than adults, as a general rule. I think that the reason for that is because they don’t think of it as exercise; instead, it’s all just a game. It’s fun and it’s silly. So those days when I don’t feel like picking up the weights, I’m going to think of those epic adventures and inject a little silliness into my workout.

As my sensei said last night when we were testing our balance to work on principle rather than technique (by literally pushing and pulling on each other), “there is no right and wrong way to do it, there is just play”.

What do you like to do to relieve the boredom and bring the play into your exercising? And would you please let your contacts in Hollywood know that I’m ready to make my debut as stunt double for any cute blonde 5’0 ft tall actress?


  1. I try to do things that I don’t have to prepare for – with walking, I just put on flip-flops/sneakers/whatever and go. For yoga I just get on my mat (I pretty much live in stretchy pants, so I don’t have to change). I can’t motivate myself to run anymore because running means that I have to get socks, shoes, shorts, a running bra, and THEN I have to have time to shower afterwards, and properly hydrate. I guess I treat it like kids do – just a part of daily life 🙂

  2. I try and remember how good I feel when I’ve finished exercising. Plus I know when I exercise regularly I am less likely to feel lethargic or get tension headaches which is quite good motivation.

    Or else I have a DVD I really want to watch but I wont allow myself to watch it unless I’m sitting on the exercise bike at the same time…

  3. SO TRUE.
    I did a video a few weeks back for FatFighterTV all about how I do PLAYouts.
    no mo’ workouts around here.

  4. I play lots with the dog! I make up rules for myself so I don’t have an unfair advantage, as the pooch is only about a foot tall you know ha, so when we are wrestling I’ll lay flat on the ground which is hard work! we also go to the park and play keep away where I throw the ball and he gets it and runs in the opposite direction. Lots of fun!


  5. Hi Sagan,
    Reminds me of a time when we set up an obstacle course in our backyard. Everything we did was pretty silly (including bobbing for carrots) – lots of running around, lots of jumping, etc. And it was a very good workout – the thing was though, we did it just to have some fun! And fun it was! Reading here reminds me I need to do this more often…

    A stunt double – that sounds like exciting stuff (I wanna tag along when you get there!!!) So keep working at it Sagan …. you’ll be famous (well, as famous as a stunt double is…) and I’ll get to hang out and watch some crazy stunts!!

  6. What a great idea! I must say that having children helps a lot with this. There isn’t much they can’t turn into a game! Now if I can just turn off my “grown-up” mind and join in with them, then we’re all set.

  7. When I can’t find any available kids, I just pretend I’m with Charlotte’s 😉

    For sure, if I can find fun ways to work out, I do!

    However, I think what has made it easier for me is just doing it on a regular basis, and not expecting to like it.

    Thoughtful post, Thank you!!

  8. My favorite motivator is Cake Day. One piece (or slab) of cake for every 2,500 minutes exercised. I’m thinking of changing it into Cheese Dip Day, because I seem to be having a small piece of cake every month or so anyway. 🙂

  9. Constantly change it up! I love to include all kind of challenges! Hey! If I knew someone in Hollywood I would send them your way! 🙂

  10. I must say music has SUCH a great effect on my workouts. Now…this can be good and bad. I hate that I pretty much rely on it to workout (besides swimming), but when I’ve downloaded new songs? Watch out! I run faster and with a smile on my face the whole time. 🙂 Also a way to make workouts fun is finding a workout partner….but it’s hard for me to find someone willing to wake up before 6 a.m.

  11. Every so often I’ll try to change it up and go to a new class at a gym or workout with someone I haven’t exercised with before. It’s nice to get into a routine where you know what to expect, but that can also breed boredom and eventually lead to half-assed workouts.

    I recently read about local Y’s or communities hosting something like a “gym class” night where adults can sign up for a night of playing dodgeball, kickball, steal the bacon, etc. I couldn’t find any around here (central NJ), but it sounded like so much fun!

  12. Delaying the decay is my motivation. But it helps to walk the dog and listent to the radio.

    I do like the apocalypse idea.

  13. Great post! I definitely try to act like a little kid when I exercise. If it’s not fun, I don’t do it. A while back, I wrote a post all about the strange imagination-games I play to make running fun:


  14. Maggie- I like your way of thinking. And living in stretchy pants is also good; sometimes I’m actually too lazy to go that extra step to just change out of my jeans so I don’t bother doing yoga (isn’t that ridiculous?!)

    Jellybean- the dvd thing is a good idea. I do something similar by reading a novel only when I’m pacing around my room… am wearing a hole through the floorboards 😉

    MizFit- “playouts”, I love that!

    Rupal- that’s fun! I wonder if I can get my cat to start doing that… think she’d rather sleep on my bed or watch ME move about.

    Lance- hehe oh an obstacle course would be a great time. Blogger meet-up playdate? 😀

    Charlotte- I found the same thing when I was a nanny; looking after kids is all the exercise you need!

    Dr. J- getting into a habit of it works well too.

    Cammy- I love your notion of cake day. Maybe there could be a cheese dip day after doing a certain amount of minutes for a specific type of exercise?

    Mark- change is good:)

    Holly- music can be a great motivator. And agreed about the workout buddy, I rarely have one this past weekend my friend and I did some exercises together. It was so much fun! Also I love doing aikido with friends… just adds to the enjoyment of it.

    Kristen- I adore the Y. They’ve got it right! And it’s very important to alleviate the boredom and not fall into a rut.

    James- “delaying the decay”… yep, that will do it.

    Chocolatecoveredvegan- thanks for the link! Games are great.

  15. Great post! I don’t often worry about having to outrun zombies – hopefully I will be faster then they are. 🙂
    Looking at the calendar and seeing summer approaching is a great motivator..plus seeing my age go up, as it always does, every year. I still get mistaken for being much younger – talk about a motivator!!!

  16. I am on it. I will have their people call your people. 🙂

  17. I gotta try the Zombie Motivation program and prepare for the apocalypse! Sounds more inspirational than “gotta get to the gym ’cause it’s good for me…” zzzzzzzz.

  18. go play with a friend’s kid 🙂 or a different friend’s dog. until i moved… i guess now i need new friends! or different ways to have fun

  19. Hooray for the apocalypse! I seem to be having far too much influence on your blog-o-life lately.

    So far I’ve climbed three trees and up one one cliff… a good start, I feel.

  20. Funny, I joke that I moved to California because if there was an apocalypse, I would have starved to death in the winter in the Northeast.

    Anywho, I make my workouts into a mini competition with myself. Little things like trying to get ready two minutes faster, or push for one more rep than I did last time. Some days I win, some days I lose 🙂

  21. Missicat- that’s awesome that people mistake you for being younger… such a good motivator.

    FatFighterTV- knew I could count on you.

    Crabby- exactly. “Because it’s good for me”, pshaw.

    ttfn300- ooh get a puppy get a puppy!!

    Westwood- fun fun. Any time you suggest a blog post idea, be warned… I’m bound to incorporate it somehow 🙂

    Rachel- I like your mini competitions! Also I think I’m going to use your excuse and move somewhere warm. Goodbye, cold weather!

  22. Great post, Sagan!
    Now, if you could just find time to come on out to the ranch, we could have a play date!! 🙂

    Wrastle some calves or somethin’


  23. The apocalypse is the best reason I’ve heard so far 🙂 I like to stay just a wee bit fitter then the people I hang out with, ie. “I don’t have to outrun the (insert scary creature) just you”.

  24. Sometimes the best motivation comes from within, that desire and determination to finally do something to change your life. Ipods help, too.


  25. Motivation can be really hard. My favorite ways to keep myself motivated are to (1) take a class so other people are watching and (2) to turn it into a game (like run 2 minutes, jog 1 minute, repeat). I can’t wait to see your first stunt movie, btw!! 🙂

  26. Bag Lady- I am THERE!

    Dee- hehe absolutely. Gotta be able to outrun everyone else!

    Mike- ha yes, iPods do. But that deep-down desire and determination are a huge huge part of it.

    Juliet24- taking the class is a big one for me too. A little healthy competition and knowing that other people can see you help lots!

  27. Thanks for the link and I’m glad you liked the post. Finding motivation is a hard thing for everyone at some point. We’ve all got to figure out the things that will work for us and make us get out there and do it.

  28. […] we have addressed this question before here and here and here, I found the for so long part of the question to be particularly interesting. […]

  29. I am glad I’m not the only one who has thought the apocalypse type scenario was motivation to exercise. When I was young and on swim team, I used to tell myself to swim faster and harder so that if it ever came down to out-swimming a hungry shark, I’d be prepared. 🙂 Great post. Fun stuff. thanks.

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