How I Finally Stopped Seeing Exercise As A Chore

Photo: Jamie Hess Krauss

We all get an occasional case of the workout blahs. For a long time, I played out the same scenario over and over each day: I'd make a plan for an after-work sweat session, but then around 4 p.m. I'd start this incessant stare-down with my sneakers.

There they sat, in the corner of my office, mocking me, taunting me: "You don't really want to lace us up and push yourself. Your couch is so comfy. You work too hard; just go home and relax. You deserve it."

Working out means energy exertion, panting breath, and yes, maybe even a little pain. The couch started to sound like a much better plan, and thus I'd self-sabotage yet again by taking the easy way out. Later on, I'd find myself feeling frustrated and disappointed, wondering what happened to my great resolve from the morning when I packed up my gym bag with running shorts, a water bottle, and great intentions.

Over time, I discovered the perception change needed to reframe fitness from a "chore" to an "opportunity." It is a small but seismic shift that helped light my fitness fire in those moments of weakness.

Here are some tips and tricks for battling the blahs and finding motivation:

1. Get grounded in gratitude.

Sometimes when I'm running, I get stuck in my head, thinking things like This is awful! or When the hell will this be over?!

While these are normal thoughts, I'm able to push past them by thinking instead How lucky am I to have two legs on which to run? or How lucky am I to live in a place where I have the freedom to participate in leisure sports?

I think of all the people who don't have the same capabilities and liberties, and I very quickly reframe my negative thinking into gratitude. The ability to move about freely and engage our bodies in positive, healthy, joyful movement is a gift and should be regarded as such.

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2. Inspire someone.

Any time you turn your attention from inward to outward, you have a better chance at happiness. I like to say that enthusiasm is contagious.

That's why, when I'm running a 5k, I'm that girl on the racecourse high-fiving strangers on the sidelines and yelling words of encouragement to my fellow racers who may be struggling. Why? Because by sharing the enthusiasm of the moment, I boost my own morale.

3. "Play the tape through to the end."

Rather than focusing on how hard the workout is going to be, focus on the pride you'll feel at the end. Think back to other times you've completed something challenging and felt proud and excited at your accomplishment. Recognize that it will take some effort to get there, but that the destination is worth the journey.

4. Fake it 'til you make it.

Body language is everything. When you feel your weaker self wanting to creep in, sit up tall, take three slow breaths in and out, and get centered.

It's a simple 30-second meditation technique that can reframe everything and help you tap into your own inner power. Afterward, own that power. How? Simply throw your shoulders back and insist on being amazing.

Find a positive affirmation to repeat in your head to pump yourself up. "I can" and "I will" are simple and can be repeated in a rhythmic fashion to help move you along.

Keep this positive cadence as you move through the motions toward your workout. When you walk into the gym, smile broadly at the front desk clerk and say hello rather than dragging yourself sheepishly toward the locker rooms. Wink at yourself in the gym mirror. KNOW that this workout is going to be amazing, and before you know it, it is.

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5. When all else fails, trick yourself.

If you know you're one of those people who tends to get wishy-washy toward the days' end, let your morning self guide your evening self into right-acting.

Here's a favorite trick of mine: On your way to work, stop at the gym and place your gym bag with your house keys in a locker. That way, you have no choice but to stop there on the way home. Once you're there, you may as well just sweat!

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