VGstockstudio/Shutterstock“There’s no time.” “I’m too tired.” “My back hurts.” No matter what excuse you have for skipping your workout, there’s really one underlying reason you didn’t make it to the gym: It’s not fun.
Even though you’re well aware that a workout can boost your body image and pack in these 14 other health benefits, the gym tends to be the last place you want to go. It feels like the only way to stop dreading the treadmill is to avoid it entirely. (If you’ve been avoiding the gym, steal these 18 secrets of women who work out every day.) But there’s one easy way to make your workouts more enjoyable, without giving up any intensity or time, according to a study in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.
Researchers had 46 adults between 18 and 40 do a 15-minute recumbent bike workout. Almost half of the exercisers ramped up their intensity during the workout, while the rest started strong and then dialed back. Both had the same amount of time at each intensity (just at opposite times), but the researchers were more interested in which was more enjoyable.
There was one clear winner when it came to a fun workout. Volunteers who went from vigorous to easy said they enjoyed their workouts more as it went along. On the other hand, those who’d gone from easy to hard felt worse as they exercised.
Ending on a good note seems to have resonated with the gym-goers. Even seven days later, participants who decreased intensity remembered it as a good workout and said they expected future sweat sessions would feel good, too. Those who ramped up the intensity, though, remembered an unpleasant workout and didn’t think they’d enjoy future ones either. (Here are 17 more gym hacks to make workouts less of a chore.)
Planning workouts that you don’t dread is key to sticking with an exercise program, says study co-author Panteleimon “Paddy” Ekkekakis, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University. “We want to break down the association of exercise as punishment, as something unpleasant, something to tolerate or a bitter pill you have to swallow,” he says in a statement. Creating good memories during a workout means you’ll remember it as less of a chore. And when you don’t dread it, you’ll stop looking for excuses. (Check out this other trick to stop dreading workouts.)
Next time you’re at the gym, try putting the most effort into the beginning of your workout instead of working your way into that high intensity. You might find that by the end you feel strong and happy instead of sweaty and miserable. Still prefer a quick and dirty HIIT session? Stick with that! The key is to find what works for you so you’re more likely to follow through.
“The only objective that makes sense is to adopt a type and amount of exercise that will help you incorporate exercise into your daily life so you can be active for the rest of your life,” Ekkekakis says. When you really don’t have time for a full gym session, use these 12 ways to sneak in a workout.