product designer, cyclist, armchair urbanist

How I Learned To Actually Enjoy Exercise

The allure of bulging muscles and a six pack has never been sufficient enticement to keep me in the gym. I've tried over the past five years to keep a regular gym schedule, but I've never been able to stick to it for more than a month or two.

I've finally discovered how to motivate myself to exercise. I've stopped exercising for physical health. Instead, I'm exercising for mental health. I've been keeping my gym schedule since I realized that the primary gains I receive from my gym visits are mental. I'm a remote worker, I just moved into a new (big) city, I'm decidedly introverted, and I battle tendencies toward overwork and depression—a deadly mixture that could send me spiralling into melancholy without diligent care.

Regular exercise has become a critical facet of that care. Here's what I'm doing:

  • I started reading nerdfitness.com, and adopted their approachable method to exercise.
  • I go to the gym just once or twice a week, in the morning.
  • I spend only 20-30 minutes doing a simple yet strenuous routine.
  • I reward myself with a delicious coffee on the way back to the train. I spend 30-40 minutes with my coffee, reading and thinking. This reward is powerful for me—it's what I think of in the morning when I want nothing more than to dive back into my sheets and ignore the alarm.

Inevitably, the train ride home and the day at work is filled with happiness and inspiration. This predictable boost to my mental health is something I've come to treasure. I've trained my brain to anticipate the mental payoffs, and let the physical payoffs, which rank a lower priority on my motivation scale, trickle in as a handy side effect.