How To Avoid a Suffer-Fest With Exercise (But Still Get Fit)


Do you feel like if you aren’t hurtin’ you’re not workin’ with exercise? That soreness and pushing yourself to the max How To Enjoy Exercise But Still Get Fitare necessary to get fit?

If not – kudos!

If so – you aren’t alone. Many people think that the fastest way to get in shape is to push the body to the brink with each workout – and that if you aren’t sore and exhausted afterwards then you didn’t do ‘enough’ to get results.

And results are typically measured and motivated by weight loss, then with fitness second, and health – a distant third.

All-Or-Nothing Exercise & Dieting to Lose Weight

I used to approach exercise this way. After my freshman year in college and weight gain from unhealthy habits (*cough* unlimited dorm buffets, late night Taco Bell and beer…) I found myself – an athlete at heart – grappling with having to buy bigger sized clothes, struggling to do my normal workouts (so avoiding them altogether), and hiding from my friends and family at home until I lost the weight I gained.

Desperation reigned – I was ashamed that I let myself let go of my healthy habits of exercise and eating well.

Related Article: Healthy Weight Attitudes: Exercise That Feels Good

Or were they healthy habits?

I went from exercising intensely for 1 – 2 hours every day to not exercising at all. Since our exercise patterns tend to mirror our eating patterns, I also realized that I went from being obsessed with healthy eating to eating unhealthy foods most the time and typically at night. Hm.

I was enmeshed in an All-or-Nothing pattern with exercise and my eating behavior. I was all ‘good’ or all ‘bad’ – there was no middle ground. I was super active or super sedentary and I went from being super obsessed with eating only healthy foods to eating super unhealthy.

When I Moved Away From Trying to Control My Weight

When I look back to that time in my life – even though it was 20 years ago – I remember clearly my motivation to move for the joy of being active turned into moving my body to look a certain way and to control my weight in college.

Related Article: How I Stopped Using Exercise as Another Diet

I became unmotivated pretty quickly by the idea of moving my body only for weight management, because it was typically the no pain/no gain approach which equated to no fun.

I lost my way for several years, but fortunately, I stumbled upon a personal trainer who taught me how to honor my body with movement – not punish it – and achieved a healthy weight and the best level of fitness I had ever experienced by working with not against my body.

Finding enjoyable exerciseThis personal trainer taught me how to use the concept of RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion).

I learned about this training tool in my exercise physiology classes in college, and worked on research regarding this concept – but always from a scientific perspective regarding what type of energy source was being used in the body with different intensities.

I had no understanding of the psychological impact RPE has on the enjoyment – or loathing of – exercise.

Using RPE and learning to tune into and honor my body’s cues with different types of movement and exercise intensities transformed not only my relationship to exercise – but it transformed my relationship to my body in general.

I learned how to feel and honor what my body needed and for me RPE served as the catalyst for helping me to learn how to find that middle ground with movement – and also with eating.

I found my middle ground and haven’t looked back.

Shift Your Relationship With Yourself

Today – I always choose movement I enjoy, I stay mostly within my middle ground regarding intensity, and I don’t go to the suffer-fest place because I know it’s a detour, not a short cut for creating optimal health and fitness.

So – think about your own choices with movement.

Do you dread it or do you look forward to it?

Do you appreciate exercise during or only afterwards because you checked it off on your ‘I should’ list?

What is motivating you to exercise? What is stopping you from exercising?

Often it’s the approach or source of motivation that is un-motivating – so ask yourself these questions, start tuning into your body with movement and you might be surprised at how your relationship to Self begins to shift for the better.


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About the Author

Erin Risius, MA, LPC

Erin Risius, MA, LPC, is a former program director of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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