Exercise is often prescriptive. You must do this, or, have to do that. People often have a lot of “shoulds”… I should run more. I should do deadlifts. I should lose weight. etc, etc
Here’s a secret. Pretty much anyone (including me) who is preaching the benefits of exercise has found an approach they enjoy.
Us enthusiasts naturally experiment with activities to find what comes alive for us. Then they often tell everyone else to just follow their approach because it's best.
Don’t blindly follow someone else's recipe. Follow what they did to discover it. Explore. Experiment. Discover what you actually like.
If you don't enjoy it, it's not sustainable. Sometimes the fun takes time. An activity that is scary, uncomfortable, or simply unenjoyable is suddenly satisfying.
Give yourself the space and time for the aliveness to emerge. But don’t be afraid to simply decide you don’t enjoy something.
The essential piece is cultivating curiosity of your physical activities to find the collection of them that is most enjoyable to you.
An evolving exploration to discover things you truly enjoy might look like:
You want to gain some strength or muscle, so you learn the basics of weight training and a few foundational exercises. You start light and bring awareness to how each exercise feels. You slowly progress the weight until all of a sudden you realize how much more you can lift. You recognize that there are zero exercises you have to do so you stop doing any that you don’t enjoy. You begin to feel confident in the gym and discover that confidence is blending into the rest of your life. Now when you do a deadlift or a press you feel powerful. Surprisingly, you actually enjoy lifting weights and look forward to your workouts.
You now want to introduce some cardio. You’ve heard of all the health benefits and this magical runners high that you can’t even fathom. Instead of forcing yourself to go for runs or beginning a grueling Peleton routine, you commit to trying a variety of activities. You experiment with slow jogging, rucking (weighted walking), trail biking, swimming, and incline treadmill workouts. Any of these can be tailored to unlock the benefits of cardio. You pace yourself so your body isn’t overwhelmed and see if enjoyment emerges in any of them.
Let’s pretend it doesn’t for one last example. Despite your efforts, you’re just not into any of them. Cool! Don’t force it. Life is too short and we have other options. Instead, maybe you need a social element. Or, perhaps a bit of light competition will make it more satisfying. You could play tennis, join a frisbee team, or explore any of the other numerous activities that combine cardio, connection, and play into exercise.
Just keep exploring!