Between the sweat and sore muscles, you can’t blame a person for dreading daily workouts. I’ve been working out regularly for most of my life, but there are still times when it takes an incredible amount of self discipline and motivation to lace up my sneaks and get moving. Part of the problem is that it’s easy to view working out as a chore. It’s no different than washing the dishes or mowing the lawn—we know we’ll regret not doing it, but that doesn’t mean we want to do it.
If you’re like me, you have two options when it comes to working out. You can deal with the misery and always view exercising as something worth dreading, or you can change things up and make working out more fun.
When I find myself in a motivation slump, these are my favorite hacks to make working out more fun.
1. Take a class with friends (or make new friends).
Exercise classes are great for motivation and accountability. You have a specific time when you need to show up, and if you’re paying for the classes, you want to make sure you get your money’s worth. It’s even better if you have friends taking the class with you. Workout partners help hold you accountable, and even on the worst days, at least you know you’re not alone in your misery.
If none of your friends are into getting fit, that’s okay. You’ll likely make new friends if you join an exercise class, and combining workout time with social time is a great way to get motivated.
2. Take your yoga mat on an adventure.
Who wants to stare at a dirty gym wall and breath in a stranger’s B.O. while working out? No one, that’s who. Gyms are fine for when you need to lift weights or use equipment you don’t have at home, but I personally avoid public gyms at all costs (at least for solo sessions). I prefer exercising in open air surrounded by relaxing scenery.
One of my favorite things to do when I need to mix up my workouts is grab my yoga mat and go on an adventure. Yoga is something you can do practically anywhere, and that includes the beach, a park, campground, grassy riverbank, goat pasture—basically anywhere that you won’t get arrested for trespassing. You’ll enjoy being outdoors and experiencing a new area all while working out.
3. Listen to audiobooks or a killer playlist.
Listening to music while you workout isn’t new advice, but I encourage you to make those workout playlists extra special. I listen to music all the time, so simply putting in my headphones isn’t special enough to motivate my workout. To make it work, I reserve only the best playlists for when I’m exercising.
If there’s a new album I really want to listen to for the first time, I only allow myself to listen to it while I work out. The same goes for my all-time favorite audiobooks. The only reason I survived marathon training is because I looked forward to my long runs solely because it was the only time I was allowed to listen to my newly downloaded Harry Potter audiobooks.
4. Go on a run to a favorite destination.
When I rank my runs, treadmill runs are the worst, running outside is better, and the best is running outside toward a favorite destination. It completely changes my perception of working out when I’m using exercise as a means of transportation to get me somewhere I actually want to go.
My favorite running route is going a few miles to a friend’s house (who also owns a pool). I get my workout in on the way to her house, we hang by the pool, and then she gives me a ride back home. You can also make this work by running to a restaurant, bar, or park. If you don’t live near anything worth running to, drive somewhere to safely park your car and use that as your starting point.
5. Create a reward system.
I’ve tried plenty of food-based reward systems, but letting myself eat a donut or go to McDonald’s usually ends up backfiring. Either I don’t actually enjoy the food because of guilt, or I enjoy it too much and it makes it harder to get back on track with my nutrition. Instead of this kind of cheat-day reward, why not try a workout money jar?
It’s like a swear jar but way better. Every time you successfully complete a workout, put a dollar into the jar. After a few weeks, count up your stash and use that money to reward yourself with something you really want. Maybe it’s a new pair of jeans or tickets to a concert—whatever it is, thinking about your reward will definitely make working out more fun.
6. Choose a creative activity.
There’s nothing wrong with lifting weights or running, but if you’re feeling like working out is a chore, these go-to exercises might be part of the problem. They get more boring the longer you do them, and monotonous workouts are hardly fun or motivating.
My advice is to ditch those types of exercises for a day or two each week and instead choose an activity that’s actually fun. You can rollerblade, ride bike, play volleyball, kickball, Frisbee, go on a hike, dominate your spouse in tennis—as long as you’re moving, it counts as exercise.
7. Workout while you watch TV.
This trick is perfect for when you don’t want to leave the living room but still need to get a workout in. Turn on the TV and commit yourself to the type of workout you don’t need equipment for. I usually choose to do an ab workout because I can still see the TV while I’m busy crunching and planking. I’ll try and plank during an entire commercial and switch up my movements every time the show comes back on.
8. Include your kids.
Working out when you’re a mom isn’t easy. But instead of feeling frustrated that your kids are getting in the way, you can include them in your exercises. A four-year-old will love sitting on your back while you do push ups, and it’s impossible to feel down when your littles are squealing with glee. If your kids are a little older, ask them if they want to ride their bikes or scooters down the sidewalk while you run. You’ll enjoy the company, and getting your kids outside and exercising is a major mom win.
9. Include your dog.
Maybe your kids are too old to find working out with mom fun, but there’s another family member who’d never turn you down. Dogs are perfect workout partners if you’re into running, jogging, biking, or hiking. They never complain, and they’re always enthusiastic. I love taking my two dogs on runs, and I know they love it even more than I do. It makes me feel good having that time to bond with them and knowing I’m doing something to make them healthier and happier.
10. Sign up for a fun competition or race.
I wouldn’t say running a marathon is “fun,” but there are other types of races and competitions that will get you excited to start working out. There are color runs and bubbles runs, runs where you traverse an obstacle course of inflatable equipment and even runs where you get a different type of beer at every mile marker. If running isn’t your thing, sign up for a recreational sports tournament like kickball or softball. If you look hard enough, there’s bound to be some kind of fun exercise-based activity in your area.