6 Tips to Help You Change the Way You Think About Exercise

smiling woman on elliptical machine at Planet Fitness
If you change the way you think about exercising, hitting the gym will be easier and more fun.

by Autumn Jones

We've all been there: Sitting on the couch, struggling to find motivation, wondering "why exercise?!" Fortunately, there are a number of ways to change your mindset and get excited about your next workout. For starters, simply making it to the gym should be counted as an accomplishment!

The thing is, exercising can be fun. Even if finding the motivation is a struggle, you're taking time to improve your health — and that's something to celebrate. If you set realistic expectations and adopt a forgiving, positive mindset the first day you walk into the gym, you'll be more likely to maintain your motivation and enthusiasm for getting fit.

To stay focused on why exercise is worth your time, consider these six tips for changing the way you think about working out.

1. Celebrate the Small Stuff

There are many milestones on the road to health that deserve a big high-five (even if you're high-fiving yourself). Set small goals — like making it to the gym twice a week or trying a new machine — and then honor your accomplishment with a little reward. Treat yourself to a smoothie or go see a movie once you've met your goal.

Celebrating your accomplishments can keep you motivated. In fact, Planet Fitness has an online community that exists solely to celebrate fitness successes, both big and small. Post to Planet of Triumphs and enjoy the support of your fellow gym-goers!

2. Ditch Perfectionism

When you think about why exercise is important, adopt this motto: Don't sacrifice good for perfect. On those days, weeks or months when your schedule is bursting with line items, don't forego the gym because you can't dedicate an hour or more to a workout.

Fitting in 20 or 30 minutes when you can is far better than skipping exercise altogether. The fact that you're putting effort into improving your health is what matters most, not how long or intense you're going when you do.

3. Embrace the Mood Boost

Working out is more than just burning calories. Getting your sweat on is loaded with benefits for your whole body. As Michael Otto, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Boston University, told the American Psychological Association, "Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect." Meaning all that stress you carried into the gym with you starts to melt away within just a few minutes of working out. On those days when it's harder than usual to lace up your gym shoes, remind yourself of the mood-boosting goodness that's only a few squats or a short jog away.

4. Build a Community

It's obvious that regular trips to the gym will strengthen your muscles and improve your health, but keeping up your fitness routine also helps you build a gym community you can rely on for support and encouragement. Familiar faces often turn into friendships when you're lifting and stretching alongside one another each week. Finding gym buddies can make your workout time more meaningful and foster relationships that go beyond the treadmill.

5. Stay Open

Working out doesn't always have to happen in a gym. One reason why exercise is so appealing to people with diverse interests is that there are numerous ways — and places — to do it. Outdoor activities like hiking, biking, surfing and rock climbing are great ways to mix up your workouts when you're not in the mood for the gym. Keeping an open mind about new ways to experience fitness will keep you energized (and excited) about exercising.

6. Put Yourself First

The gym is one place you can put yourself first and not feel bad about it. On days when you wonder "why exercise?" it's important to remind yourself that it's because you deserve to feel healthy. Feeling healthy not only benefits you physically, but it can also improve other aspects of your life, such as your social life. Don't underestimate the power of endorphins in a crowded room!

Investing in your health is about giving yourself what you need, even if that's just some rest. When you walk into the gym, leave all judgement behind. Simply complete your workout and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing you've done something positive.

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.