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When was the last time you described your workout as ‘fun’? This isn’t a word most people associate with exercise. Grueling? Yes. Arduous? Yes. Necessary? Yes. Definitely not fun! If loving exercise doesn’t come naturally to you, this article aims to help you find ways to inject a dose of excitement and enjoyment into your routine.
By getting creative and taking a step (or two) outside of your comfort zone, you can transform yourself into someone who can’t wait to workout.
While what you do as exercise is certainly a big determinant of whether it’s fun or not, where you do it, with whom, and with what attitude are equally important variables as well. A 2016 study examining the role emotions play in exercise suggested focusing on the following four emotional motivators: 
The more skilled you are at a form of exercise, and the more progress you see over time, the more likely are to enjoy the exercise. This might mean refining your weight lifting technique and gradually increasing the amount you can lift as you get stronger. It might mean choosing a challenging yoga posture to work towards and tracking your progress with pictures.
It might mean training for a 10K instead of going on an aimless run. It might mean joining an adult rec league and playing soccer, volleyball, or ultimate frisbee, all of which mimic the cardiovascular effects of HIIT (high intensity interval training).
The flip side of this principle is that if you’ve never exercised, it will be that much harder to get into because you’ll probably be bad at it at first. If you can power through the awkward beginner phase and keep showing up until you begin to gain skills, you will find that exercise becomes more fun.
Try to find a form of exercise that allows you to feel like you’re a part of something social - a team, a gym, an online forum, even just a weekly 6 PM kickboxing class. Anything where you can learn people’s names, develop relationships and inside jokes, and become expected as a regular attendee will be much easier to stick to. Affirmation and sense of belonging are great sources of emotional motivation.
Humans are designed to crave novelty. This is exploited in a negative way by food manufacturers, who create fifteen different kinds of cookies for us to buy. We can exploit it in a positive way in our fitness routines by seeking out new workout formats, training plans, pieces of equipment, workout buddies, playlists, running trails, and other fun options.
While too much novelty can keep you from making progress, be sure to switch things up often enough to avoid boredom. Even something as simple as a new workout shirt can be enough novelty to stay engaged.
Interestingly, we’re more likely to enjoy workouts in which we feel like we made an effort. If you aren’t pushing yourself and can’t see progress you’re likely to become uninterested. Figure out what you need to do to challenge yourself. Cycle with someone who’s more advanced than you, hire a personal trainer, or pursue a far-reaching goal. The satisfaction that comes from pushing yourself is closely linked to enjoyment of exercise.
You’ve probably already thought of ways you can apply these four principles to your current workouts. Keep in mind that small tweaks make a difference.
If you want further inspiration and direction, here’s a list of ten fun workouts, each employing a different format or piece of equipment:
Add some fartleks to your runs for a dose of spontaneity. This humorous Swedish word means “speed play” and it’s an informal training technique you can introduce into your run no matter where you are. It entails picking arbitrary intervals based on a variety of cues - scenery, changes in music, even challenges from running partners - to introduce periods of higher intensity into your run. Part of the fun of this style of workout is the randomness and creativity it requires.  Here a few examples of how this might play out:
Outdoor run: Select a tree, mailbox, or house to sprint to; return to a moderate pace afterwards until heart rate recovers. Repeat at random.
Treadmill run: Sprint for the duration of a song, the choruses of a particular song, or until another nearby gym attendee finishes their set or changes their pace. Recover after each interval with jogging or slower running, but introduce another unique interval as soon as you do!
Trail run: Sprint up (or down) every other hill, or until the trail turns and you can see the next stretch, or for sixty seconds every time you see a dog. Kids are great at this style of training - much of their play naturally mimics fartleks.
Slam balls, or large, heavy, soft exercise balls that don’t bounce when thrown (allowing users to ‘slam’ them to the ground or against a wall without risk of injury) are popular in the CrossFit world, and increasingly available at larger gyms. Most of the exercises performed with a slam ball require a great deal of core stability, but try this workout to really work your abs:
Slam ball lateral passes 3 x 10 each side
Slam ball sit ups 3 x 12
Slam ball mountain climbers 3 x 30 sec
Water aerobics are popular at many gyms for older members, or people recovering from injuries or dealing with joint limitations, but sometimes the classes can be a little sleepy. Call around and see if any of the gyms in your area offer water Zumba. With upbeat Latin-inspired music, enthusiastic instructors, and dance-inspired movements, it’s a fun way to introduce some excitement into your water aerobics routine.
If you have a group of adults who want to get a playful, high-intensity cardio workout in, try revisiting some favorite kids’ games. Capture the Flag, Red Rover, Dodgeball, Simon Says, and Red Light Green Light are all fun options if you have a basketball court or field available.
While you might feel a little silly at first, the nostalgia and competitiveness will take over soon enough and you’ll be out of breath and laughing before you know it.
Try pairing exercises that are counted for reps with timed exercises for a unique partner workout. Partner 1 has to complete 15 squats and Partner 2 has to hold a plank for the amount of time that it takes Partner 1 to finish their reps - then partners switch places. Some great candidates for counted rep exercises are pull-downs, push-ups, deadlifts, and burpees, while planks, wall sits, and sprints make great timed exercises.
If you work from home or are home with kids, creating an “all day” workout is a fun way to keep yourself moving and track your progress.
Pick five different exercises (push-ups, squats, lunges, pull-ups, and planks are all great options) and set a goal of completing 25-100 reps of each exercise over the course of an entire day, depending on your fitness level. This is easy to modify or progress as needed. Post your workout on your fridge or whiteboard and cross off reps as you complete them.
Try a countdown style burpee workout: Complete a set of 10 burpees, then 9, then 8, and so on all the way down to 2. Rest for 15 seconds between each set.
Feel free to substitute a different exercise, like push-ups, jump squats, pull-ups, 100 meters on a rowing machine, or one minute of cardio (complete 10 minutes the first round, 9 the second round, and so-on). The best thing about this workout is that it gets easier as you go!
Try to put together a full-body workout using only resistance machines that you’ve never tried before. If you have questions, ask a personal trainer or gym employee for pointers and suggestions. Try to include at least one leg exercise, one core exercise, one upper body push exercise, and one upper body pull exercise.
Create a fun family circuit workout by having each family member pick an exercise. The workout will be shorter or longer depending on the size of your family (each person can pick 2-3 exercises each if that makes more sense for you). String the exercises together in a circuit, completing 10 reps of each one, and do the circuit three times. You can rest between rounds, but try not to rest between exercises.
While yoga can have a reputation for being something of a snoozefest, many class formats require a great deal of athleticism and daring. See if any studios in your community offer classes or workshops that focus on arm balances or inversions, or look for aerial yoga, goat yoga, and laughing yoga classes. Each is a fun way to improve your mobility, balance, and presence.
1. Donnelly, J. E., Honas, J. J., Smith, B. K., Mayo, M. S., Gibson, C. A., Sullivan, D. K., … Washburn, R. A. (2013, April 16). Aerobic exercise alone results in clinically significant weight loss for men and women: Midwest exercise trial 2. Retrieved March 26, 2020, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.20145
2. Anderson, N. (2004, February 17). Fartlek training can boost your running speed, endurance. Retrieved from https://www.active.com/articles/fartlek-training-can-boost-your-running-speed-endurance