A lot of people struggle with motivating themselves to get to the gym. But the solution isn’t finding some untapped source of willpower. It’s to quit the gym and do something else that doesn’t require willpower.
If you can find an activity you connect with, you’ll get to fill your weeks with something exciting you love to do instead of something you hate but feel like you have to do. You’ll be more motivated to work out, and your day-to-day life will be a lot more fun.
Don’t worry whether what you’re doing is “tough” enough. Yes, CrossFit is tough, but be honest with yourself: if you hardly ever go because it feels like torture, you’re not getting any of the benefits. The best workout is the one you can keep doing consistently over time, and that’s going to be the one you enjoy the most, whether it’s triathlon or bocce ball. And if you’re really into it, you’ll naturally find ways to challenge yourself.
Some people genuinely love the gym, but others need some other element to stay engaged: a supportive community, a connection with nature, or even inspiring music. Here are some jumping-off points for activities you can try out to get in shape and have a great time doing it. When you find the right one for you, you can get a killer workout, you just won’t notice because you’ll be having so much fun.
If you love hitting the club and always have a song in your head, make it a lifestyle. There are a ton of different styles, each with its own soundtrack and attitude. Many, like ballet and hip hop dance, are surprisingly athletic.
Get started: Sample different types of dance classes until you find one that feels right. Most cities offer lessons through the local ballet company, community organizations, private studios, and even bars. And don’t forget to hit up cultural organizations for traditional dancing like baile folklorico or square dance.
Yoga is so peaceful and meditative that it doesn’t feel like a workout, even when you’re shaking and covered in sweat. If you typically slog through cardio sessions to settle your mind, give yoga a shot for its calming effects. The great thing about it is that, like dancing, there are different styles with different intensities, so you can choose your own adventure depending on your energy level du jour.
Yoga culture is also super non-judgmental — it’s ultimately more about breathing and concentration than physical performance — so it’s very welcoming for beginners or those dealing with body issues.
Get started: Try some classes at a local studio. Call ahead to find out how challenging each class is. If you’re a first timer, consider avoiding anything with “power” or “heated” in the title. Many studios offer free or inexpensive passes for newbies to try out unlimited classes for a couple weeks. You can also find a huge range of yoga videos online and do it at home.
A sport that connects you to the natural environment while requiring total concentration is the ultimate habit-forming combination. Surfing in particular is easy to fall in love with thanks to the beauty of the ocean, and it builds unrivaled tone and balance.
Get started: It’s definitely best to take a lesson if you’ve never surfed before or tag along with friends who know how to surf. Since you’ll be in an unpredictable environment and navigating around other surfers, there are a few principles new surfers should keep in mind, so get acquainted with etiquette and gear requirements before you hit the beach.
Like surfing, hiking connects you to the natural world, but it’s much more accessible since there’s no special gear or skills required. Almost anybody can start hiking regardless of ability level, and once you get stronger, you can challenge yourself with steeper, more challenging terrain, or work up to longer day hikes or overnight backpacking trips.
Get started: Search online for trails in your area. If you’re unsure of your ability level, do out-and-back hikes so you can simply turn around if you feel like you’re getting in over your head. Don’t feel obligated to be the next Cheryl Strayed; even a 30-minute hike can be a great workout. Short hikes on easy terrain can be done in pretty much any clothing and footwear, but if you plan to do a lot of hiking, invest in a good pair of trail running or hiking shoes.