Fitness: Bring joy to your workouts with some of these tips

Finding the pleasure in exercise can transform how you feel about working up a sweat and may even make your fitness routine more regular.

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Are your workouts a grind? Get with the program. Gone are the days when the goal of any given exercise session is to push your body to the max. So unless you’re preparing for this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris, it’s time to change your outlook on what it means to work out.

Finding the pleasure in exercise can transform how you feel about working up a sweat and may even make your fitness routine more regular. When exercise goes from being something you do out of a sense of duty to something you do for pleasure, the more likely you are to pull on your workout gear.

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To help you make the transition from results-based workouts to pleasure-based exercise, here are a few tips designed to bring more joy to your fitness routine.

Turn up the tunes

There’s plenty of science backing the mood-boosting properties of music during a bout of exercise. But beyond providing a melodic distraction from physical effort, music has the power to improve athletic performance by lessening the feeling of fatigue. It also synchs well with the rhythm of movement, which helps runners, walkers, swimmers, skiers and other athletes find their flow.

Create a variety of playlists designed to match up with your workout, keeping in mind that what you enjoy listening to during a run may not provide the same joy when you’re lifting weights. Music preferences vary according to your mood and the amount of motivation you need, so know when to choose classic rock and when pop karaoke will do a better job at busting your exercise funk. And in case you’re wondering, podcasts and audiobooks offer a great substitute should music not fit the vibe.

Get outside

Green exercise doesn’t just refer to workouts with minimal environmental impact but also to exercise performed in the presence of nature. Naturally-built environments produce more mood-boosting endorphins than built environments like indoor gyms, pools, ice rinks and courts. The smells and sounds of spring, the welcome cool of the fall, the sun shining on the snow in winter and the warm sunshine of summer are just some of the reasons why getting outside makes workouts feel more pleasurable. No matter how you look at it, blue sky beats fluorescent lighting every time.

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And you’re not imagining it, outdoor workouts feel less strenuous than those done in the gym. Maybe it’s the birds singing or the gentle breeze cooling the sweat off your brow, but a tough workout goes by faster and takes less effort when the spoils of nature are doing their best to distract you from the labours of exercise.

Lock in a happy medium

Not all workouts need to be challenging. Fitness and health benefits are acquired at a variety of intensity levels, so go ahead and mix up your workouts to include hard, not-so-hard and easy efforts. The main advantage of allowing yourself to dial it down a few times a week is that when you do up the intensity, you’ve got the energy to really dig in. As for those easier days, there’s nothing better than finding that sweet spot between hard and easy. When you land in that pocket, your body moves through space with minimal effort and your mind is free of negative self-talk.

There’s no one perfect ratio of hard and easy workouts, but most elite runners follow an 80/20 rule, with only 20 per cent of their runs done at medium-hard to hard efforts. Give the 80/20 rule a try, whether you work out in the pool, weight room, on your bike or power walk around the neighbourhood. Make small tweaks if you need to, but make sure your easy days outnumber your hard days.

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Also worthy of note is that light intensity also means substituting your regular workout for a less strenuous activity like yoga, paddling or an easy swim. Just don’t fall into the trap of mistaking moderate intensity for light intensity. Easy should feel easy, not just less hard.

Find your people

There’s a gym in my neighbourhood that has the coolest group of morning exercisers. Not only do they work out together several times a week, greet each other with high five’s and offer words of encouragement when the going gets tough, several of them head to the local coffee shop after class to share stories and catch up on each other’s lives. In the fitness world, that’s the perfect example of finding your people.

Having someone to push when you need pushing, hold you accountable when you’re not feeling it and acknowledging your efforts when you go above and beyond makes all the difference when it comes to improving your exercise experience.

But it’s not just having your people by your side that makes sweating more pleasurable. Fitness buddies are always up for adventure. Surfing lessons, training for a marathon, cycling vacations, yoga retreats and pickleball training camps are more fun in the company of like-minded exercise enthusiasts. Nothing annihilates the grind of working out better than a workout buddy, or buddies, who know how to put fun back into fitness.

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