How To Learn To Love Exercise In 2020, Not Just Suffer Through It

From ditching self-consciousness to working out with friends, the steps you need to take.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t always easy to keep – and the idea of failing can put you off having a go in the first place. Instead, for 2020, HuffPost UK is looking at the good intentions we’ll try to focus on, from greener living and better money management to looking after our bodies and minds, with small achievable steps from the experts and inspiring tips from our readers.

We all know regular exercise is key to boosting physical and mental health, but sometimes, the idea of actually doing it feels too much like hard work.

But reframing your mindset around working out, shaking up your routine or establishing a new one, can transform exercise from chore to treat (yes, really).

If you’re not smiling, you’re doing it wrong. Here’s how to discover the joy of working out in 2020:

1. Shake off self-consciousness.

It’s not unusual to feel self-conscious when exercising, in fact, over a third of people say it’s stopped them from signing up to a gym in the past. Take comfort from that fact, by remembering most people are too worried about themselves to be looking at you.

HuffPost UK previously asked readers for their tried-and-tested methods to overcome self-consciousness. Tips included avoiding peak gym times until you gain confidence, wearing clothes you feel good in, avoiding looking in mirrors and making a banging playlist to distract you. Getting over that first session is the hardest part.

2. Gamify your workout.

Exercise is always more enjoyable if you make it a game, according to personal trainer Dom Thorpe: “Not necessarily a sport, but something that you can win or take to the next level.”

It could be as simple as monitoring your performance and trying to beat your last workout.

“Whether it’s beating your last performance, beating a friend or beating an opposing team, if you can win at it, it’ll be more enjoyable,” says Thorpe. “Any achievements, big or small, will make you feel better about it.”

3. Ease yourself into it.

Nothing is more off-putting than a workout that leaves you feeling broken, so remember not to push too hard, too quickly.

“The experience itself won’t be enjoyable and there’s very little chance of you coming back for round two,” says Thorpe. “Start at an intensity which is tolerable and increase over time. This way you won’t notice it getting harder and you’ll gradually become used to working at higher intensities.”

Before long, you’ll almost instinctively push harder, dance for longer, jump higher or run further – and nothing is more likely to get you enjoying exercise than that sweet satisfaction.

4. Find something you love doing

Find the idea of hitting the gym mind-numbingly boring? Don’t do it then. There are hundreds of ways to get fit and if exercise fills you with dread, the chances are, you haven’t found your groove yet.

It might be mindful running, wild swimming, Jiu Jitsu or boxing that sparks the shift. Or perhaps it’s bouncing on a trampoline, learning a new dance style or even engaging in some fitness drumming.

The possibilities are (almost) endless and many taster classes are free, particularly in January. Go forth and experiment!

5. Make exercise a social event.

Using exercise as an excuse to catch up with friends is always better than riding solo – unless you’re training for an event, says Thorpe.

“Granted, you may lower the intensity of the workout because you’ll be having a natter, but a friend in the gym is one form of accountability which will ensure that you get out of bed for it in the morning,” he says. “And if gyms don’t suit you, try a class with a good social aspect. Plenty of small gyms or classes meet with their members for regular socials.”

Still unconvinced? Two HuffPost UK readers tells us how they learned to love exercise this year.

‘Create a mental picture of the healthier you’

Shiri Atsmon, 43, from London, runs a business called Helpful Kids and appointed her own daughter, Ella, 13, as her ‘personal trainer’ in 2019.

Ella rose to the challenge, pushing her mum to her limits with Pilates and dumbbell drills at home before the pair graduated onto running. “I started with five minutes and didn’t even manage to make it all the way to the park, but slowly increased the time spent. Now I run 20 minutes almost every day and can even run 5km on the weekends,” Shiri says.

Shiri Atsmon
Shiri Atsmon

“It’s Ella’s encouragement and training, and my wish to lead by example, that have led me to take on this wonderful new habit that I was longing for.”

Shiri’s top tip for getting into exercise into 2020: “Create a detailed mental picture of the healthier you – looking fab, feeling strong and vital, having a huge smile, wearing something you always wanted to wear, whatever works for you. Whenever you don’t feel like exercising, focus on that image and have her invite you for a workout.”

‘Schedule exercise as self-care, me time’

Mayameen Meftahi, 36, from Manchester, says her fitness level at the start of 2019 “was simply non existent”.

“I had no motivation, nor interest in fitness,” says the founder of the She Can Consultancy In 2018, Mayameen had waived her right to lifelong anonymity as a child sexual abuse survivor to share her story and help others. A friend then recommended exercise as a way to release her anxiety. “She booked me on a Rebounding class and reluctantly off I went,” explains Mayameen.

Mayameen Meftahi
Mayameen Meftahi

The class is a cross between aerobics and trampolining and despite her initial reluctance, Mayameen was soon sold. “It is a therapy and the physical and emotional benefits are huge,” she says. “There is nothing better than hitting that mini trampoline and getting rid of built up tension.”

Her top tip for enjoying exercise: “Schedule it as self-care, ‘me time’. That way, you will start to feel that it’s serving you, rather than a chore or challenge.”