How to choose a sport or exercise routine that works for you

Sure, exercise is great for us, but how do we stay motivated? The secret is to find an activity we love to do.

We all know by now that exercise is not only good for us, it is critical for our health and well-being. Regular exercise helps protect against all the big life-threatening killers — heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. It also helps manage stress, reduce body pain, and improve mood, stamina, and sex life.

But even when we understand that exercise is about more than getting skinny thighs or nice biceps, it can be difficult to get motivated. The trick is to find an exercise or sport that you enjoy doing so much that you don’t have to push yourself to do it. Here are some ideas of where to start.

Know your Personality

Determine your level of social need, competitive tendencies, and indoor/outdoor preferences and match those to an exercise or sport. This makes a big difference in sticking with a program. I used to be intimidated by gyms because I was self-conscious about my body and my complete lack of coordination. When I finally pushed myself to try group classes, I found that I love the interaction. I can’t stop halfway through and sit on the couch like I did with home DVDs. I have a competitive nature, so I push myself harder with other people around, and I attend more regularly when I know that my friends will ask why I missed if I slack off. My husband, on the other hand, loves to run solo. He works with people all day and enjoys the solitary time to work out alone outdoors.

Know your Body

There’s a reason so many workout programs warn you to consult a doctor before starting any exercise regimen. Forcing yourself into a workout style just because it is popular or looks glamorous can result in injury. Only doing exercises that are within your own personal range of ability will increase the likelihood of you sticking with the program.

Face your Fears

Most of us fear the unknown, but in order to find something we enjoy, we need to try it out first. There is nothing quite like the awkward, terrified feeling of walking into an exercise or sport class for the first time, alone, knowing no one, never having done that activity before, and most of the time dressed incorrectly (at least in my case). But I’ve never regretted trying. Facing my fear has led me from lazily working out to a DVD a couple times a month, to a fit lifestyle with activities six days a week!

Don’t Count Anything Out

Even if you’ve never taken a dance class before, try Zumba or ballet for fitness at least once. And if you think that water aerobics is just for physical therapy patients or little old ladies, let me tell you just how wrong you are! Look for exercise in places you might not expect, and you may find a whole new and exciting lifestyle!

So get moving! The world is full of exciting and varied activities, and if you can’t afford a gym membership, there are rec centers and community centers that offer exercise classes, and even libraries where you can checkout workout and instructional DVDs. Don’t think that if you don’t like pumping weights or doing aerobics then you must not be an active person — your niche is out there, and once you find it, you’ll love your life so much more. You’ll wonder why you waited so long!

Tamara Webb

Tamara Webb has an MA in British and American Literature and also taught writing as an Adjunct Professor. She is a mother of five.