How to Work Out When You're Lazy - Advice From Someone Who Has NO Desire to Work Out, But Does All The Time
Whether for your health, your fitness, or your looks, many of us want to want to work out... but we don't.
I have the opposite problem (err, "problem"): I have no interest or motivation to work out... yet I do it all the time.
Like, enough that it's kind of a vice. I "should" be working, but here I am getting the greatest upper body workout ever. I "should" be cleaning the house, but here I am increasing my cardio fitness.
And, in spite of eating massive amounts of Chinese food and burritos and sausages, I stay pretty thin.
1. Non-exercise activities.
According to revolutionary research by Dr. James Levine, this is probably one of the biggest factors contributing to both my health and weight.
When it comes to your health -- and even your weight -- daily exercise doesn't matter nearly as much as non-exercise calorie expenditure, or NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). This is why, even when I'm too injured to play sports, I don't get fatter.
As Levine writes in Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, your blood sugar spikes after you eat a meal. However, if you stroll (as in, leisurely -- not a power walk) for fifteen minutes after eating, the spike is halved. This means you are much less likely to have issues with diabetes and other health problems.
But Levine has shown that walking, fidgeting, and otherwise increasing your daily calorie burn in a non-exercise way can have just as much of an impact on weight loss/maintenance as hardcore exercise.
Knowing this, I would recommend making time to walk (or skateboard) for fifteen minutes after eating. That's all. Maybe you work out later, maybe you don't. But sitting less and walking more will do wonders for your health.
Personally, I tend not to drive anywhere that's less than a mile away. Skateboarding, biking or walking are so much more fun -- and it's great for my dog. You probably won't even break a sweat.
So, yes, this isn't technically "working out while lazy." But it's just as important, and much easier, so do it.
For more, read Levine's book, Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It. It totally changed my life.
2. Find exercise activities that you love -- and ideally, that are social, rather than solitary.
Probably no one in the history of ever has stuck to an exercise routine they thought was boring. So maybe the problem isn't that you're lazy -- it's that you're bored.
Get inspired! Think about the sports and games you used to play as a kid. Did you love basketball? Find a good pickup game near you. It's not that hard -- just call a few gyms and ask. If you see someone with a ball, stop them and ask where they play. (See also: Travel Hack: Do What You Do At Home While You Travel.)
I'm definitely "lazy" in that I have no desire to go for a run or lift weights 99% of the time. Yet I still play ball and climb and hike and bike several times per week because it's fun and I love it.
A lot of women run into trouble with this. They are much more likely to try to do exercise for the sake of getting a better body than they are to pursue a physical activity because they enjoy it.
Which is why they think they're "lazy" -- because doing something that is hard but not enjoyable... is hard. Of course they don't want to go to the gym.
Look into dance classes -- actual dance classes, where you build new skills, rather than following an exercise routine. Look into frisbee, volleyball, basketball or kickball games near you. See how much it would cost to get a membership at a rock wall. Buy a mountain or road bike (you can get a good one for a few hundred dollars, which is less than an annual gym membership).
To learn more, check out Women Rarely Play Ball Sports After High School. Here's Why That Matters.
3. Add a challenge to an activity you used to enjoy.
I used to love running. Like genuinely love it. Then, one day, I didn't.
I used to love weight lifting -- it was like meditation to me. But then, one day, I didn't.
This happens all the time, for a number of reasons. One is that, in order to achieve flow, you need the right level of challenge and mastery. When you start a new activity, it's hard -- you're working new muscles and using your brain to figure out new strategies and movements. But you're also improving a lot!
But eventually you run into the problem of diminishing returns. It's much easier to turn a ten-minute mile into an eight-minute mile than it is to turn a seven-minute mile into a 6:50 mile. Eventually, if you want to keep improving, you're going to be working your ass off several times per week to shave off a second -- maybe even less.
Most people don't have the passion to become Olympic runners. So eventually running is going to get either frustrating (if there's too little mastery) or boring (if there's too little challenge).
Adding challenge or variety can solve this problem. For example, running in new places. Driving ten minutes to run in a beautiful park instead of through your neighborhood.
Adding a physical or mental challenge can spice up a "boring" activity, too. Running can turn into obstacle racing or orienteering. Yoga or pilates can turn into rock climbing or aerial fabrics. Snorkeling or swimming can turn into underwater hunting or spearfishing -- as well as a tasty meal! (I'm getting my Lionfish Hunter certification at VIP Divers in Bonaire tomorrow -- so stoked!).
This keeps your body and mind stimulated, without running into problems with diminishing returns or boredom. Which keeps you intrinsically interested in the activity, which means you're more likely to do it.
4. Buy workout clothes you love wearing.
This might be the girliest thing I've ever said -- but working out in clothes you feel and look good in is going to make working out more fun. This is definitely more true for activities that happen in rooms full of mirrors than on courts or grassy fields...
But even then! Everyone -- women and men -- loves dressing up and looking good. When I bought my Billabong 2mm wetsuit, it made me like surfing even more than I already did.
It's definitely way cuter (and easier to put on) (and easier for your buddies to identify you with) than my old wetsuit -- which I still use, on colder days.
This advice is probably a moot point by now -- exercise clothes used to be ugly, but now they're so cute that we wear them as street clothes.
But in case you missed the memo: buy cute gym clothes, and you'll be more excited about working out. You may be lazy -- but you're allowed to be a little vain, too. I mean, #ChooseBeautiful, right?
5. Buy workout clothes that are appropriate for the activity you want to do.
You're not going to go running if you're too cold the whole time. You're not going to get in the water if you don't have a warm enough wetsuit. You're not going to go climbing if your shoes are too tight.
Exercise is uncomfortable enough without wearing clothes that makes us even more uncomfortable.
That's why I went with a less aggressive climbing shoe (the La Sportivia Nago), and I didn't buy a pair that were as small as possible. If climbing hurt in a bad way, I wouldn't want to do it as much -- and I definitely wouldn't have more fun.
And when you're looking for excuses not to work out, always remember this:
It's not too cold out. You're just not dressed right.
6. Be more mindful, silly and playful.
Part of the reason I burn so many non-exercise calories is because I am playful and mindful -- which often results in me moving around more than I would otherwise (i.e., NEAT activity).
For example, if I see fruit growing in a tree -- I climb the tree and eat the fruit. If I see a big log, I pick it up and see how far I can throw it.
If I see a trailhead, I hike in a few minutes to check out -- maybe I don't have time now, but I can definitely try the hike later!
But I also pay attention to the signs, activities and people around me. Recall my earlier suggestion: "If you see someone with a basketball, ask them where they play." You'd be surprised how many 3x3 tournaments and pickup games I've hopped into just by doing that.
I've tried parkour, gymnastics, synchronized swimming, golf and ballet -- all from keeping my eyes open to different opportunities around me, and talking to others about their interests. I don't always stick with the new activities... but it's like I always say: love is a numbers game. If you want to find an exercise activity you truly enjoy, you need to try a lot of different options until you find a fit.
Did I miss any suggestions? Share them in the comments. Or, if you want to learn more, check out:
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Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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