‘As long as you frame exercise as punishment, you will always be fighting a losing battle to make lasting changes,’ says Luke Worthington, a qualified personal trainer, sports scientist and strength and conditioning specialist.
‘Humans were hunter-gatherers who had to run, climb and forage for food -eating was a reward for movement.
‘Now food is so plentiful we have started to see exercise as something to be done to burn off any excess we have consumed. It’s now seen as a punishment for food.
‘This negative framing of exercise can be seen as early as school years, with laps as punishment for talking in PE class, and travels through to adulthood with fitness studios talking about “smashing” clients and advertising “hell week”.
‘Nothing in that phrasing suggests a positive or rewarding experience for fitness.’
Here, Luke shares his top five ways to re-frame exercise as fun.
1. Remember to play
‘Children move for fun. As adults we can fall in love with movement again by incorporating activities that involve learning a new skill. Whether it’s dancing, climbing or using a skipping rope, bring an element of play back into movement.’
2. Make movement part of your self-care routine
‘The bare minimum (washing your face and brushing your teeth) are essential parts of your daily hygiene, the same way a minimal level of movement (taking the stairs instead of the lift) are essential parts of your movement hygiene. Something more indulgent like a face mask or a long bath may be a weekly occurrence and the same should be said for more intense workouts like hardcore gym sessions or a long run.’
3. Retrain your brain
Stop seeing exercise as a punishment to do after eating. Train in the mornings, says Luke, to ‘quantify workouts with how you feel before, during and after, not just in terms of calories burned’.
4. Rest when you’re tired
One missed workout won’t see your fitness levels drop. Changes to health, fitness, wellbeing and the percentage of fat, bone and muscle in the body happen as a result of sustained behaviour over time. ‘Forcing yourself through a workout when you should be resting, or dosing up on caffeine to get you through, reinforces that exercise is something to be endured, rather than enjoyed,’ says Luke.
5. Make your workouts social
‘There is so much more to working out than the workout itself. Making a date to train with friends (online, or in person after lockdown lifts), not only makes you accountable, it makes training part of your social life, something to look forward to rather than dread.’
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