I used to lift weights really hard. Heavy weights, light weights, five-to-six days per week for years. I loved it. I got big and strong, and it was basically all I wanted to do with my time. Everyone at the gym knew me and I knew them. These days, however, things aren’t quite the same. Three moderate workouts per week is the new protocol and people don’t even recognize me anymore.
For a little while, I really started to hate it. Maybe you can relate. The exercise just wasn’t as enjoyable. My body was getting smaller and softer, I was getting weaker and losing confidence in my ability to lift. Then I changed my attitude about why I was working out and how I was going to do it, and the enjoyment started to seep back in.
Only about 1/5th of Americans are hitting the national recommended guidelines for aerobics and strength training. Part of the reason is that they just don’t enjoy it because of how it makes them feel physically and mentally. But altering the approach and outlook has the potential to change that.
A recent study in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that overweight women did not enjoy 15-minute high-intensity interval workouts. These workouts are designed to deliver fast results in the short-term while being essentially unsustainable in the long-term for most people. The women did, however, report enjoying a slow and steady approach to exercise. This approach was met with optimism and excitement about the next workout.
A separate study found that mental engagement and confidence can play a big role. So, when considering an exercise modality, try to avoid picking something you’re not very good at. Instead, opt for something that can re-enforce your confidence. If you don’t like how you look in exercise clothes, for example, hold off on joining a group class. Wait until you’re feeling a bit better about yourself before getting involved.
Understanding what you want out of exercise can help you establish realistic goals and pick something that’s enjoyable. Doing so can help boost adherence, which is the most important component of a strength training program—or any exercise program. And remember, your goals might not be what the used to be. Recognizing and adjusting can help you get back to living a healthier lifestyle.