CNN – Most people know that exercising is good for you, both physically and mentally. But staying motivated, especially in the long run, can be a struggle. Sure, you can be excited to train for a 5K or 10K, but once you’re done running, your interest in running can quickly wane. Or you can be crazy about your new spin class, only to get bored of it after a few weeks.
Getting bored with exercise is normal. A recent study from the National Institutes of Health found that boredom with sports activities is a prevalent emotion among amateur, college and even professional athletes.
People tire of their exercise routines because the body-mind unit is like a Jack Russell terrier, said Dr. Dan O’Neill, sports psychologist and orthopedic surgeon based in Plymouth, New Hampshire. “You always have to give him new challenges, new ideas, new ideas, new toys, new training clothes – new, new, new.”
That means varying your workouts is key to staying motivated, O’Neill said. And now that the calendar has moved on to a whole new year, now is a great time to inject some creativity into your exercise regimen. Here are six ways to get started.
Important Note: Before starting any new exercise program, consult your physician. Stop immediately if you experience pain.
Create a word or image with your exercise route
Runners often plot routes through city streets that create a word or picture, then use a GPS device to “draw” it as they run. You can do the same whether your favorite exercise is running, walking or cycling.
First, download a fitness app on your mobile phone, smartwatch, or fitness tracker. A few options are Nike + Run Club, Strava Training, and Runtastic. Then sketch out your message (HOPE!) Or favorite image (e.g. a heart or a dog) online, using a mapping tool such as Map My Run. This way you will know exactly where to go. When you’re ready to go, don’t forget to start your device’s GPS tracker. Then make sure to stop your tracker and save your artwork so you can share it with others.
You do not know which image or which message to create? You can still follow artistic routes that others have created and shared in the apps. Some are of impressive complexity and may require several excursions. But that’s part of the fun.
Join a free fitness group
Many communities offer free exercise opportunities. Fitness in the Park is a summer activity that has been around New York State for a decade. Everyone is welcome to visit one of the 18 different parks and participate in Pilates, Zumba, kickboxing and more. In Washington, DC, the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District hosts TriFit during the warmer months, a series of free evening workouts held in Farragut Square. And in 53 locations around the world, an average of 4,200 people per week participate in the November project training sessions throughout the year.
The November Project’s workouts include running, climbing stairs, jumping, bodyweight exercises and circuits, as well as wacky antics. A Halloween workout with the November Project group in Madison, Wisconsin involved throwing pumpkins back and forth with a partner; another specific exercise related to the Uno cards you have selected. Participants ranged from around 10 to over 70, said co-leader Aaron Cahn, with 40 to 100 people showing up regularly for the group sessions on Wednesday and Friday mornings.
The camaraderie of the group has kept Austin Frion, 38, coming for about seven years now. “The best part is catching a partner you don’t know or getting together with the one you know,” Frion said. “It’s always inclusive and so much fun.”
Dancing doesn’t seem like an exercise for many people, which is why it is still a popular option. It is also something that you can do anywhere, with any type of music. Salsa, jazz, hip-hop, everything works.
Monica Monfre, a certified yoga teacher based in Scantlebury, Massachusetts, studied dance at the university. To keep her yoga students engaged, she created Dance to Flow, a class that begins with 25 minutes of choreographed dance, upgrading to 25 minutes of hip-opening yoga flow.
“The training allows for a creative aspect and a meditation at the same time,” she said. “A lot of people come because it’s an opportunity to try something different, as well as to dance in a non-judgmental space.”
Register for an event new to you
Of course, you can run a 5K. But why not try orienteering? This timed boating sport requires you to use detailed maps to find orange and white flags hidden in parks or remote terrain. The event is timed, so people often run or walk from one flag to another. Races such as Tough Mudder involve obstacle-strewn racing courses, where teamwork is encouraged so that everyone ends up victorious. And adventure racing combines orienteering with several sports – usually trekking, cycling, and canoeing – and sometimes a surprise obstacle, like a ropes course or a climbing wall.
Take parkour lessons
Parkour is partly a non-competitive sport, partly artistic and partly a training discipline. Created in France in the 1980s, it aims to help people overcome obstacles encountered in urban or natural environments through jumps, jumps, balances and other movements. Consider walking on top of a low retaining wall or crossing a stream, jumping from rock to rock. Such movements are often intuitive. But add a little speed and creativity, and your next walk may find you jumping over a bench, going down the steps two at a time, and running along the curb. While the flashier parkour moves are best attempted after instruction and a lot of practice, there are many easy moves most people can master.
Take the road
If traveling motivates you, book a retreat or training camp in a fascinating location. Nike operates a high-altitude cross-country ski camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., While a luxury hiking and wellness retreat awaits you in the scenic Canadian province of British Columbia. You can also look for interesting classes when you’re out of town, like goat yoga and flying trapeze classes.
No matter what you choose to do, O’Neill said it’s important to remember these four basic principles of sports psychology: No negative talk; just showing up is important; you will feel better after exercising; and go outside.
“All the time with Mother Nature is well spent,” said O’Neill. “And she’s easily the greatest motivator of all time.”
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