Fitness Magazine

Gain Without the Pain: How to Actually Enjoy Exercise

By Carolyn @CarolynHeintz





No pain no gain

We’ve heard these mantras time and time again. Yes, they can fire you up and give you the incentive to run just a little bit longer. And yes, they are well-intentioned—no one can argue with the fact that it’s important to push yourself in exercise. But they also cultivate negative associations with fitness; essentially, they equate exercise with punishment.

First of all, you should definitely not be in pain when you exercise and it’s important to not confuse fatigue or soreness with an actual injury. But besides that, this self-punishing mindset is not doing your body any favors. For example, if you force yourself to run when you hate it, you will begin to see exercise as a chore and not an opportunity for self-improvement.

I speak from experience: I used to force myself to run miles and miles on the treadmill even though I absolutely despised it. As a result, I developed an animosity against exercise and would come up with excuses to skip it. This is the trap you risk falling into with these negative, pain-focused incentives; it’s human nature to avoid things that make you unhappy.

Also, this attitude can perpetuate negative body image. If you exercise to simply burn calories and cater to the punishment mentality, you can subconsciously connect eating with some kind of failure and you have to punish yourself at the gym to undo the damage. This is a dangerous mentality.

And so, I propose an alternative: work to cultivate positive associations with physical activity. That is, equate exercise with reward! This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised at how many people ignore this advice. There are a million different (healthy!) options out there: hula-hooping, dancing, rock climbing, jump roping, the list goes on and on!

In my case, I’ve embraced yoga. I do it every morning and night and (can you believe it) I actually look forward to doing it. As a result, my attitude toward fitness has totally changed and I’m physically and mentally healthier than I’ve ever been before.

I’m not saying that there isn’t merit in difficult workouts, they certainly have their time and place. But if you want to reap all the benefits of fitness—mentally, physically, spiritually—it has to be through physical activities that make you happy.

So next time you are looking for an incentive, try this mantra instead:

Love what you do.

Love your body.

Love yourself.


Peace, love, and health,


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