Of all of the workout buddies I’ve had in my life, one of my favorites is my best friend Jess. We traveled around the world together for nearly 18 months, and though we didn’t always squeeze in time to work out, when we did, we served as each other’s accountability partners to stay on track and work up a sweat. Though we did manage to find common ground, we weren’t compatible on some of the moves. For instance, she hates lunges, while I can’t stand mountain climbers. I’m a runner, but she would rather do yoga. I adore complicated, compound movements, and she’s more of a stick-to-the-basics lady. As we moaned and groaned through our sweat sessions, we often chatted about what we disliked in terms of exercise, and wondered:
Should we really do exercises that we hate?
After all, if the goal is to create consistency, doing those workouts that don’t get your heart—and spirit—pumping are a waste of time, right? Not exactly, according to fitness experts who share the reasons that we probably should let go of the dislike—and lean into the discomfort.
So, should you?
Everyone has movements they’d prefer not to do—like burpees, jump squats, push-ups, you name it—and it’s different for each individual. If the reason you struggle with certain moves is due to injury or pain, experts say that it’s never recommended to continue. However, if you have a bad taste in your mouth for a workout because you’re not strong enough to do it (yet) or don’t want to push yourself, Exercise Physiologist and Author Jerry Snider says that it’s time to pony up and go for it. He explains that most of the time when a person isn’t a fan of a specific routine, it’s largely because they weren’t taught the correct form from the beginning, so it’s tough to execute.
Sometimes, when we aren’t schooled on proper mechanisms, these exercises feel like punishment, which is far from the reality, according to Physical Therapist Lauren Lobert, DPT, OMPT, CSCS. “It should be a celebration of what your body can do. It should motivate you to want to do more and get better,” she recommends. And, sometimes, this includes getting over the mental barrier blocking your judgement.
Bottom line? Unfortunately, yep, even if you dislike army crawls and kettlebell swings, you should still do them to meet your fitness goals. Here are some tips on how to make them more bearable—and dare we say it—eventually, fun.
Set a goal with each exercise.
Snider says that the first key to overcoming an exercise you don’t like is to focus on the end result—rather than the actual movement. Part of this is setting an endgame for yourself. Maybe you want to run easier and faster, or you want to be able to lift more weights. Whatever is propelling you to keep a schedule, always have that in the forefront of your workouts. “Putting a goal to an exercise helps create internal motivation to become better,” he continues. “Once you tell someone else that an exercise you hate is going to become an exercise you love, it takes on more importance. Not only will you reach your goal time, and reps, but you’ll do so with a smile on your face,” he shares.
Break up the movement.
There’s no way around it: sometimes, exercises are complicated. And, they take time to figure out. Some people become easily frustrated when they aren’t getting it right away, and Fitness Trainer Rocky Snyder, CSCS says that breaking a movement down into smaller components and building up can be beneficial. “Many people do not favor the push-up for one reason or another. Break it up! Begin with just a straight arm plank and work on getting the body to be straight and rigid from the head to the heels. Or, begin in the plank position and just slowly lower to the floor. Don’t worry about pushing back up,” he explains. The point here is that you’re gradually building strength that will make it easier for you to do a push-up—or whatever movement is on your no-go list.
Change your mindset.
While life is full of big milestones—your first job, promotion, getting hitched, buying a home, having a baby—there are countless little wins along the way, too. Lobert urges those who are struggling with a specific exercise to double-down on the small victories as you make progress. “Whether it’s less fatigue, increased range of motion, more reps or less soreness, focus on that. Think about where you’re feeling the exercise and the mind/body connection. Focus on form and squeezing specific muscles instead of how much it burns or how much you hate it,” she suggests.
Mix it up.
As you go through your workout, consider the compliment-sandwich approach to organization. As Fitness Expert Nikki Kimbrough shares, sometimes rewarding yourself with a movement you do like will make getting through the ones you don’t more digestible. “You can tell yourself, ‘Once I accomplish these push-ups, I can turn over and do my crunches,’” she explains. “You are doing the exercises you enjoy, as well as doing the exercise you dislike and that is in addition great for building your upper body and core strength. After a while, you will knock those push-ups out in no time.”
With most workout moves, there are several ways to execute and complete the exercise. And, hopefully, one of the modifications won’t be as cumbersome to you, making it seamless to improve. Lobert says, for example, you hate squatting—but what type of squats? “Is it back squats that you hate? Front squats? Goblet squats? Single leg squats?,” she continues. “There are so many different options to work on similar movement patterns and muscle groups. You can get stronger without putting weight on your back and squatting if you hate it. Find an exercise that works for you that you enjoy, or at least don’t hate as much.”