Do Your Workouts Feel Like a Chore?

To Do ListEvolution tends to reinforce healthy, beneficial behaviors that improve the survival of members of a species by making them enjoyable. Sex, sleep, socializing, and animal fat either feel good, taste good, and sometimes feel and taste good at the same time not “just because” but because they are necessary components of a healthy, (re)productive lifestyle. And it’s not just the act that feels good. Evolution has also reinforced the anticipation of the behavior. At the prospect of sex, we become aroused, horny, randy, or whatever you want to call the pleasure of anticipation. Those long, delicious yawns that herald the surge of melatonin and promise excellent sleep as we slip beneath the cool covers with a good book? Nothing better. And I still get happy stomach butterflies when friends are coming for dinner and the scent of crackling pork skins fills the kitchen.

Okay, but what about exercise? There’s the endorphin and endocannabinoid high from exercising intensely, but that exists to keep us moving during an activity as we near the physiological breaking point. It doesn’t get us off our butts in the first place. If exercise is so good for us – and it is – why doesn’t everyone crave it? Why does it feel like a chore? Why do many people dread it so much?

Here’s the thing: exercise wasn’t always optional. If we didn’t chase down the antelope, we wouldn’t have dinner. If we didn’t climb that forty foot acacia tree, our glycogen-starved muscles wouldn’t get the honey. If we didn’t make the six mile walk to the spring, we wouldn’t have water to drink. We had to do these “exercises” if we wanted to survive on a day-to-day basis. There was no “Oh, I’ll just sit on this couch and eat microwaved pot pies and go to the gym some other time.” There was no selective pressure to evolve a love of exercise because we were gonna do it anyway.

Today, exercise is in a weird place. Exercise is optional, but it’s also not. Though being sedentary remains disastrous to our health, circumstance no longer compels us to move. There’s no trench-coated goon pointing a gun at us and nodding toward the treadmill, but plenty of “authorities” point their fingers and strongly recommend exercise on pain of disease. We’re buried in studies proclaiming the essentiality of exercise for good health. The message is clear and overwhelming: we’d better work out if we want to be healthy and live long. Just like they tell us we need to work the crappy soul-sucking job to pay the bills, they tell us we need to exercise for thirty minutes a day to stave off disease. For most people living in the first world…

Exercise is something you do to lose weight. It’s a mechanistic way to churn through the calories you’ve eaten and make room for the calories you want to eat.

Exercise is something you do even though it’s unpleasant. It’s like brushing your teeth, taking out the trash, and emptying the cat litter.

Exercise is about attaining a far-off goal.

Meanwhile, the journey – the actual experience of exercising, of moving your body through space and time, of challenging your physical capabilities – is forgotten. It’s not just forgotten, it’s willfully ignored. We actually try to shut it out, because the act of exercising is all pain and suffering and drudgery. It’s the goal that matters to us, the weight lost, the weight lifted, the miles logged, the calories burned, the beach body attained, the tickets to the gun show redeemed.

The evidence suggests that this paradigm doesn’t work all that well. A series of three recent studies illustrates this. In the first, researchers gave healthy adult women (most of them overweight) a map of a mile-long outdoor walking course and told them to walk it for half an hour. Half were told to treat the walk as exercise and monitor their exertion, half were told to enjoy the walk and listen to music. Both groups spent the same 30 minutes walking the same course, but only the exercising group felt grumpy and fatigued. And when they had lunch, the group who’d “exercised” consistently chose soda over water, pudding over applesauce, and ate far more calories than the “fun” group.

The second study placed a group of men on the same mile loop. Half “exercised,” half walked for fun. After the walk, they were given plastic baggies, access to an unlimited bowl of M&Ms, and instructions to fill the bags with as many as they desired. The exercise group filled their bags with twice as much candy as the fun group.

Finally, the researchers approached runners as they finished a relay marathon race and offered them a choice of snacks: a gooey chocolate bar or a “healthy” granola bar. Those who said the race had been difficult and unpleasant were more likely to choose the chocolate, while those who’d enjoyed the race usually chose the granola bar.

When working out feels like a chore, we demand compensation upon completion, often in the form of junk food. This can derail weight loss efforts, but it also perpetuates an abusive relationship with physical activity. There’s also evidence, at least in non-human animals, that voluntary exercise is less stressful than involuntary or forced exercise. If that’s the case, workouts that feel like chores heap additional systemic stress on top of the local stress the exercise already applies to the muscles. This could make it harder to recover from exercise and easier to recover from play – even if the total work done for each was identical.

How do we change our relationship with physical activity? How can we reframe exercise to make it less unpleasant and more effective? How can we train ourselves to appreciate the journey of movement?

Reframing our own activities and appreciating movement for movement’s sake can be tough. You won’t have a guy in a white coat wielding a clipboard and considerable amounts of authority telling you to “enjoy the walk” you’re about to take like the people in the studies.

You can’t expect to make everything fun and games. Few people think of hill sprints as “fun.” I can’t ever recall seeing a powerlifter rock a Cheshire grin in the power cage. But it has to be rewarding. You have to get something from it immediately. The activity must be its own compensation. The key, I think, is finding immediate value in the activity rather than relying on some far off goal, like weight loss, to motivate you. The weight loss, the hypertrophy, the fitness gains, all those “bigger” goals will happen anyway, but they’re not enough of a primary motivator for most people. I mean, everyone has those goals. They’re the reason most people decide they need to start exercising and why there are over 50 million gym memberships in this country. But by and large, they’re not reaching those goals. Something’s gotta give.

That’s easier said than done. Undoing a lifetime of acculturation isn’t easy. You have to willingly appreciate the flowers along the sidewalk, the birds in the trees above, the sunlight shining down, the refreshing sensations of unused muscles finally used. You have to realize that our bodies are built to move and need to move. We’ve got these shoulders that rotate almost 360 degrees. We can draw our knees up to our chins and touch our toes with straight legs and do the splits (in theory). It’s a crime not to use them – and you have to feel that. You have to find something of worth in the exercise as you’re doing it.

That could be a PR in the squat, or discovering that sprinting up the steep hill outside your place is getting a lot easier. It could be the the perfect high-five shared with a CrossFit bro after Fran that seems to make time stop and the universe shudder for a moment. Or maybe it’s the meditative flow state you reach when training, the peace of hiking through an ancient redwood forest, or chatting with your power-walking partner. It can also be the sheer joy we feel doing something we love to do, like play Ultimate Frisbee (winning doesn’t hurt).

It took me a long time to reach that place, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I suggest you try to do the same.

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

75 thoughts on “Do Your Workouts Feel Like a Chore?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Love this! So many people have a negative association with exercise and I the studies you cited prove how detrimental that can be. I know after I lost 50 pounds I realized I was going to keep it off for good when I started eating right & exercising because It was just what made me happy, and not because it was ‘exercise.’

  2. Use it while you’ve got it, kids–one day, an accident may befall you, you lose the use of a limb, and your world changes dramatically!

    1. This is exactly what my father told me. A month after he lost three fingers on his left hand to a factory machine at work 🙁

  3. Excellent points. For me, it took a lot of mind games where I somewhat tricked myself into wanting to exercise along with a principal I think Mark discussed a while back (could be wrong and read it on another site, but still a good idea). Basically, you find an amount of time you can devote to exercise that your brain doesn’t subconciously protest to. Even if you have to whittle it down to 5 minutes, that’s fine. You do 5 minutes of exercising everyday and once that’s established as a habit, you add on another minute or two and repeat the process.

    I utilized this technique to great success and now enjoy my workouts instead of seeing them as a chore. Short, sweet, and intense! Then, back to my daily routine.

    1. Even one minute can do it. I exercise 1 minute an hour, every hour that I’m at work. I can still see and feel the benefits.

      1. Very true. It’s amazing how much you can do in 60 seconds…can you say 1 minute of doing pushups as fast as you can? 🙂

      2. I love this approach too. I alternate stretches with more demanding breaks. I feel SO much better than if I just sit all day, & my focus lasts longer too!

  4. It always seemed to me that people who are diehard fans of exercising have a natural overabundance of energy that they don’t know what to do with. I have never been one of those people. Coincidentally, I’ve never enjoyed exercise for the sake of exercise, although I’ve belonged to a number of gyms over the years. I would diligently use the gym equipment and pool for about 3 months. Then I would become bored with it and start finding excuses not to go. Gyms love people like me. They get your money without having your attendance cluttering up their facility.

    It’s important, IMO, to understand that “working out” and “physical activity” aren’t at all the same thing, although they can both accomplish the same thing. These days the closest I come to working out is doing watered-down sprints on my exercise bike a couple times a week, or whenevery I feel like it, and usually a daily walk. The rest of my non-routine consists of daily household chores and yardwork. This works for me and, since it’s still physical activity, I don’t feel the least bit guilty about not having a formal exercise program.

    1. “It always seemed to me that people who are diehard fans of exercising have a natural overabundance of energy that they don’t know what to do with”

      True that! I just got over the flu. No exercise for two days (Sunday and Monday). So what did I do this morning? 25 minutes of interval training on my spin bike. If the waves pick up on the tide push, I’ll surf later. Besides feeling great doing it, and surfing being about the funnest thing in the world, I really am trying to burn off excess energy. Maybe I’m projecting, but I swear I can feel excess glycogen buildup in my muscles and it feels good to use it up. Exercise acts like a flushing mechanism for me. It’s how I regulate my sleep, my mood, my energy levels, my stress lever…everything. So the drive to do it is always present and motivation has never been a problem. It’s just what I do instinctively.

      But I totally get, that if you aren’t wired that way, jumping on the spin bike at 6:30 am would be a herculean task. Why would you do something so ridiculous as to ride a bike to nowhere, to cycle through four sets of HIIT, if the payoff wasn’t huge?

    2. Yeah, exactly – the people living in cultures known for longevity don’t “exercise” and don’t kill themselves at the gym. They simply live their life in a way that requires physical activity.

      In the US, it’s a lot harder to do that. I’m currently stuck in the suburbs, and there’s simply nothing within walking distance, and walking anywhere is a traffic-dodging exercise. And formal “exercise” doesn’t take the place of daily movement – daily walking, daily activities such as gardening or whatever. The body is designed to move in a myriad ways and not just in the “exercise” patterns that you do at the gym.

  5. Great article. I’ve never had an aversion to exercise. In fact, I get off on the “burn”, and the feeling of blood bumping through my body. Sweating feels awesome. Pushing my limits is a thrill. Feeling some soreness the next day triggers found memories of yesterdays activities. But I know this is not common. A huge number of people hate to feel this way. And the truth is, if you’re a typical out of shape sedentary person, any exercising is going to make you feel like shit. And it will for a long time. So how do we convince the majority of the population, who really needs to start moving, to move, when it will make them feel like crap initially and they logically view it as a punishment or a chore.

    This post points to the solution – they need to be tricked.

    On some level I think the fitness movement bears some of the blame because they relentlessly push the “high” and other benefits that exercise brings without admitting that the high is only experienced by people who are already in shape. Beginners will be traumatized by intense exercise. If you’re out of shape, vigorous exercise is an awful feeling. But that won’t sell a lot of gym memberships, fitness book, and training devices.

    “Sign up now at 24 Hour fitness! You’ll feel like crap afterwards and you’ll think your heart is going to explode, but it will get better. Probably. If you stick with it long enough. Statistically speaking.”

    1. You’re so right. I had a convo with a coworker a few months back who said, “I’ve tried working out but I never get that ‘high’ people talk about… I just don’t enjoy it.” I tried to tell him that it doesn’t happen right away – you have to build up your strength and endurance first, and then as you start to push yourself you’ll experience it. He didn’t seem convinced – like the ‘work’ wasn’t worth the reward. Maybe I’ll send him this article…

      1. Good idea, Helena. Sadly, we’re becoming a society of that needs instant gratification in order to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Just keep telling him that it takes time to get that “high” from working out and that the end goal is well worth the effort invested.

    2. Clay, you make a good point. How do you get people going in the first place? It’s a mindset shift that’s individual to the person. I used to loathe exercise, but that’s because, I think, I didn’t see returns, I didn’t feel better in general.

      Only after I shifted to a primal diet, long after, actually, did I start to enjoy exercise because I felt better in general. If you already feel at ease, in the zone, then the high brought on by exercise is much easier to hit. In addition I’d shed a fair amount of body fat, so when I did work out my wife would point out the greater definition of my muscles, which is always a good feeling.

      Maybe if we start with the diet first, make people feel better about themselves because of the food they eat they will be more apt to start exercising?

      1. That’s the thing – don’t kill them right away with a Crossfit-style workout. Start gentle. Maybe just add a bit of walking. Maybe some very light weights. Exercise shouldn’t hurt. Start gentle and work your way up.

        1. I agree – I was very overweight about 5 years ago – 34 going on what felt like 64 and knew I had to do something. Working 80+ hours a week and eating crap was going to kill me. I started with 10 minutes of mild yoga on my bedroom floor each night because I knew if I tried to do more, I’d end up injured [which I had plenty of experience with during my various starts and stops over the years]. It was something I could build on and I found as my balance got better and I felt a little stronger I WANTED to do more and sought out more challenging exercises, and later, workouts, then outdoor activities. Now my favorite thing in the world is doing trail sprints up the rocky hills at the state park 6 miles from my house and I’m there every chance I can get! I also love lifting weights – I used to work at a barn and took my strength for granted as a kid, so as an adult, once I got a taste for it again, I was hooked.

      2. Sounds logical. I’ve always told people to just stop eating crap first. Then see how you feel. That alone may transform your entire life. It’s also fairly easy as the less crap you eat, generally the less you crave it.

        Sugar holds out this false promise. It tells you if you just eat this cookie, you feel much better and you’ll satisfy your cravings. Just one cookie, that’s all I’m asking. But in truth, it fuels the desire for additional cookies. I’m convinced that sugar works very similar to drugs like cocaine and heroin as far as how it messes with your normal perceptions of “need” and satiety.

        Of course telling someone that brings out the same eye rolling as telling them to start exercising. It’s a leap of faith to ditch the sugar and start moving as your current sugared out, sedentary condition wants to maintain things the way they are. Even if you do feel horrible in that state.

        Luckily, as a child, I was one of those kids who truly would ruin my appetite with sugar. One piece of bazooka gum before dinner would throw me off and make me fell yucky. So I was self regulating as a child because the negative feedback was immediate. I couldn’t eat too much sugar. Unfortunately my best friend didn’t get that yucky feeling. Like most people, eating sugar just fueled the desire for more. He continued to pour sugar into his daily diet into adult hood and it really messed him up. Metabolically he’s a wreck, but the desire for sugar is really strong.

        When I’m stressed and really hungry, that’s when the voices come out. I know they are mine but they feel like an external voice. Like someone whispering in my ear…grab that sugar, it will make you feel so much better. I have the experience to recognize them as what they are, primal brain stem urges to go for the quickest energy source on the planet. It’s a pure survival mode response that served us well for a million years when sugar was rare. In our current environment that evolutionary wiring is a disaster.

        To short circuit those messages all you need to do is grab some protein or fat and it stops it dead in its tracks. But if you don’t know that, it’s not intuitive to fry up an egg or grab and handful of almonds in that moment when the combo of stress and low blood sugar tells you something totally different.

        It’s really a bummer how ill equipped we are to handle the world we’ve created. We struggle to get enough sleep, to move enough, to keep our stress in check, to spend time with our family, and to eat whole unadulterated foods. It’s like one big sadistic experiment designed to see how many of us will fail.

        1. Giving up sugar for protein and a bit of fat helps so much! It was so hard to kick the sugar addiction that I wondered if it was possible and if the payoff really was what some claim it to be. Once I succeeded, I realized the hold it had on my hunger, mood, and digestive health.

  6. I’ve tried to work functional movement into my day — everything from a standing workstation (totally jury-rigged with the help of a cheap IKEA stepstool) to being conscious of what muscles I’m using when I unload the dishwasher, carry groceries into the house, scrub a floor, fold a load of laundry, etc. The only real workouts I do are bodyweight/dumbbells once every week to ten days. Something fun like sledgehammers or downward dog pushups that I actually enjoy and that make me feel like kind of a badass. Getting myself healthy has made me want to use my body more. I just have so much energy now. I do think it’s much harder for people just starting out who haven’t yet reached that place of feeling awesome and healthy most of the time. I know it was for me.

  7. Great article, Mark! This is so true. I’ve been realizing the same thing myself over the past year or so. If I enjoy the movement, I look forward to doing it. If I don’t, it’s a chore and I have to ‘force’ myself to workout. I used to rush through my workouts to get to the payoff of being done. Now the payoff is doing it, feeling stronger, moving faster, feeling younger. You’ve said it before – we all need to find activity that we enjoy. For some, that’s lifting weights, for others it’s running – or any combination in between. The best activity is one you like to do, so you do it often.

  8. I don’t even like the word exercise. Being a jock, I just love movement and being active. Maybe that’s a little trick. Calling exercise movement.

  9. In order to get a well rounded work out 2 days a week I have 45 minutes of exercise I don’t like. I consider it a test of my mental toughness as much as my body. The rest of the time I do what I enjoy for activities.
    On the topic of endorphins or runners high. I have never felt it ever and I was a professional athlete as a young adult. I think we should consider that everybody is put together slightly differently and my reality may not be yours.

    1. Agreed. It’s completely dependent on the person and what stage of life they are in. When I was in high school I ran long distance in Track & Field and I also ran Cross Country. For some reason I loved running and got that runner’s high. After high school I quit running and now I avoid long runs at all costs! I still enjoy sprints and long walks, but the idea of running 3-6 miles every day makes me shudder.

      1. I definitely used to get the runner’s high, but I also destroyed my knees in the process thanks to bad shoes & way too many heel strikes on pavement. I have just this past year retrained my walking stride to forefoot strikes, adopted minimalist shoes, & my knees feel much better. I hope perhaps I can return to short runs eventually. I won’t ever do it as much as I did then though.

  10. Thank you – I do think that Americans have a deeply dysfunctional relationship with their bodies, and the “exercise” fad is simply a symptom of it. It astonishes me how cheerless and joyless some people are about “exercise” – it’s basically simply a punishment for being fat, or a daily unpleasant self-flagellation ritual to prevent fatness. If you wake up at 4:30am to do it, so much the better – then you suffer even more. All of this is sustained by willpower, and when the willpower runs out (as it inevitably does, especially on insufficient sleep) the person hates themselves even more. Whether or not this results in a body that looks good naked is kind of irrelevant – the occupant of that body is miserable.

    Though I do have to confess that what I really enjoy about exercise is the increased energy and strength I feel throughout the day. I’m okay with the exercise itself – I don’t hate it or anything – but I know that when I lift weights regularly, I feel much happier, much more energetic, and much stronger, and I love that feeling. I find myself bounding up the stairs two at a time, walking faster, standing up straighter. So I kinda view exercise as “self-maintenance” – like brushing my teeth. I try to make it a reasonably unobtrusive part of my day, get through it, and enjoy the increased energy and vigor.

  11. My cousin and I walk outside every saturday for about an hour (baring illness/rain/etc). We enjoy it for the walk, for the time outdoors and for the company. It never feels like drudgery.

  12. Fantastic article! The relationship we have with food and exercise has changed tremendously with time and technology. We can’t forget our genetic needs for quality food and movement. Awareness and motivation are vital to bridge the gap, thanks for providing both!

  13. My three big activities are walking/hiking, dancing, and yoga. All three provide very different kinds of joy, all in themselves. My favorite workout is stair climbing “in the wild” (Brooklyn/Manhattan). I enjoy that, a little weight lifting and an occasional run just because I like to know I can do it. I also like the whispers around my 6th floor workplace when the others realize I’m not taking the elevator. There’s as much to be said for a life of the body as a life of the mind.

  14. I liked this post a lot. I’ve never really loved exercise or hated it (but I did hate P.E. in school- does that count?) However, when I started “exercising” on a regular basis it became a time for me to think about what I wanted to think about and listen to the music I wanted to listen to. Trust me, that’s motivation when you have a 4 year old and a 6 year old in the house (one can only listen to “Let it Go” so many times before their brain threatens to implode). So, I’ve gotten to the point where exercise has become one of the few parts of my day where I can do something for me in the way that I want to do it and listen to whatever the heck I want to.

    I go to the gym about 4 times a week for a half hour (2 for strength training, 2 for stationary bike/elliptical) and I make a point to walk trails that are local with my girls the other days. It’s never fast walking- they are 4 and 6 after all, but it does get us out and about. And I have never thought about those trail walks as exercise, but I am one of those people that has to get out of the house every day. I have to. If I go to the mall I spend money (which I generally don’t have) and if I go to a park or a trail, we get physical benefit and I don’t go crazy. That’s it.

    I am insulin resistant and fat moves off of me very slowly, but even those slow walks make a difference. Combined with my ever increasing attempts to do pull-ups (I can now do 12 assisted pullups on the machine on the highest setting- about to bump to less assistance for the first time ever! So psyched. But I digress), push ups, planks, squats, etc. it definitely works even though I feel like I barely ever exercise. I always wondered how it was working- maybe this is why.

    Anyway, thanks for the article.

  15. I agreed with most of the article, but I don’t think focusing on enjoying movement is a fix. While looking at the more immediate benefits my increase how long I’m willing to keep up the dreaded evil chore. Um, well that statement says it all.

    I would have liked it if Mark and focused more on playing. In the past, he’s commented that we don’t focus on play enough. How perfect would it be to stop “exercising” and start playing during all of the exercise time?

  16. From the beginning I was intrigued by Marks’ promise that following the PB would result in reaching 95% of your genetic potential. I had never considered health and fitness from this perspective. What were my limits? I really had no idea.

    It’s been 5 years (now aged 64) and the process has been immensely rewarding. Weekly sprint sessions, EATING LIKE A KING, lifting weights, walking, biking, body weight training are the tools I have used.

    Thank’s Mark!

  17. I’ve been getting a lot of enjoyable exercise lately because I’ve been wearing slip-on shoes that are practically minimalist, a backpack, and I got a bike and sometimes I hang another backpack or environmental bag off the handlebars.I spent the last two days biking around and I did a recent sit-up and chin-up park workout on the monkey bars and swinging handles. I also did some climbing the other day to stash clothes and food in a tree.

  18. Nodding the whole time I read this. I think everyone can relate. The compensation has to be intrinsicly part of the activity to make you want to continue and to make it meaningful. I cringe when I hear people talking about exercise with the goal of a different appearance in mind. I don’t see how that goal can take you very far or help you make movement a satisfying part of your life.

    And how interesting is it that ones approach (work versus play) to exercise actually affects the degree of stress the exercise puts on the body. Incredible stuff!

    1. Amen! I have sent many years feeling the “vanity” portion of exercise. Done. I now move because it feels good to know I was”selfish” enough to use my time on myself to become stronger and healthier for all of those I love (myself, finally included.) Keep on Grokette 🙂

  19. Not everybody who gets up at 4:30am is suffering. I have to be at work at 6:45am, so I’m just exercising before work, like lots of other people do. I like starting my day with exercise, it gets the blood flowing, gives me time to think through my day, and I know it won’t get superseded by things that come up during the day. Just like everything else, we are all different, with different needs, tolerances and goals.

    When I was younger, exercising WAS a chore, but now that I have the time, energy and focus to really apply myself, I find great satisfaction in getting a good sweat on!

    And as wenchypoo commented, use it while you got it; I am VERY aware that the ability to incorporate daily movement into my life is a gift, and it can go away in the blink of an eye.

    1. If you’re a morning person and you naturally get up at 4:30 anyway (and there are people like that), then sure, you’re not suffering. But most of us aren’t morning people, and it takes a lot of slamming the snooze button to get out of bed.

      Personally speaking, the 4 months that I was getting up at 6am every day for work were the most miserable months of my life.

      1. I know, just like the 6 months I was working nights at a bar – I was mentally shutting down by 10pm. If I had needed to workout after my shift? Not gonna happen!

  20. Yep, I totally agree with this… I hate going to the gym and I almost always reluctantly go to the tennis club. However give me a beautiful set of mountains with lots of nature and I can hike for hours without even minding that I get sweaty…
    Sadly no mountain in Holland so the hiking here has become something of a chore as well…

  21. I like going to the gym, it’s become part of my routine on weekdays. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment that when seven a.m. comes I’ve already gotten in my workout. As emmaclaire notes it gets my blood pumping and I’m ready to face the day. I’ve noticed that since getting into the gym habit again I don’t have the “four p.m. fadeaway” at work as I did before. I live in a national historic district so on the weekends I do “urban hikes” and sightsee, and on my work breaks I do three laps around the office, which has become known as “Trish on patrol.” Combined with good healthy food, I’m feeling good these days.

  22. What a inspiring post, once again! I was about to give my divine body rest but after reading I had to go for some sprinting. Every word in that piece makes 110% sense.

    1. Personal Record ( or PB – Personal Best) in doing squats – eg amount of weight or reps.

  23. When I go backpacking I really enjoy walking from 6AM to 6PM. There’s something about wanting to see what’s around the next bend, and the next. It feels good to reach the summit and go back down again. I don’t feel that kind of fun with something like going for a jog. I also like weight lifting because if I set a new PR I get to write it down in my little notebook and feel good about myself for it.

  24. “Personal record I believe”

    “Personal Record ( or PB – Personal Best) in doing squats – eg amount of weight or reps.”

    Thank you both!

  25. I am blessed to have the opportunity and motivation to hunt regularly. Some may find it difficult to understand, but the enjoyment is in being hunting, not in killing per se.

    The long walk, the shared enthusiasm ( with your fellow-hunters or with a couple of good dogs ) the focus on something completely “other” than the daily grind and the participation in (not merely observation of) nature….. all are rewarding.

    The walk, the climb, the (hopefully) heavy carry-out have meaning in the immediate term.

  26. Just spent the afternoon gardening– & whenever I do, I always think how much physical “torment” I go through while gardening, & yet how much I love it! It was crazy hot & humid, I was digging, squatting, & tugging deep-rooted weeds, my heart was racing & I was pouring sweat… but there were so many small rewards along the way (& always something more that needed doing), I had a hard time making myself come inside.

    I also find that I can hoop dance until I’m ready to drop & enjoy every moment.

    “Normal” exercise never makes me feel like I don’t want to stop. 🙂

  27. Man that’s the truth. Think about how many people wouldn’t need antidepressants if they got out and moved around more. I was about 24 when I decided to take control of my life and my figure. 6 months later I wasn’t just thinner and lighter on my feet, but I was weaning off of some pretty powerful drugs in the psychiatric genre. Now at 29, the only drug I want or need is fresh air and a path in front of me!

  28. The best thing I ever did was work at a large park maintaining hiking and biking trails which involved walking, sprinting, picking up logs etc.. and I got paid for it!!

    That’s my #1 recommendation, find a slightly physical job that doesn’t kill you.

  29. I think that one way of reframing the “exercise” thing is just to arrange your life to live in a “fitness bubble” – i.e. working more activity into your day naturally. For example, living in a place where you can walk to the grocery store or to work. Working at a standing desk or a treadmill workstation or a balance board workstation (I want to get a balance board for mine), or simply working a physical job that requires a normal amount of movement. Gardening. Walking the dog. Carrying a baby around. That sort of thing. Then it doesn’t really feel like a chore – it just feels like normal life.

    I used to live in a very walkable neighborhood within about a 10 min walk of the local grocery store. Every couple of days, I’d walk down 3 flights of stairs, then down the hill to the grocery store, then up the hill with a bag of groceries, then up 3 flights of stairs. It wasn’t exercise, but it definitely got me moving. Now I live in the suburbs and can’t walk anywhere useful, so that source of activity is gone.

    1. I agree. I do almost no formal exercise, because I loathe it so much. But as a stay at home mom, I find my life to be very physical. I walk the kids to and from school each day and am on my feet at least 80% of every day, right up until bedtime. The Fitbit my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday shows that I walk 5-7 miles just about every day, and a huge amount of that is in my kitchen! When the kids are bigger, I plan to cash in on the fact that we purposely bought a house with a terrific walk score.

  30. This is a great post! I spent over a decade helping ppl with exactly this and I couldn’t agree more with the fact that the results are not only better when ppl enjoy their exercise…this is the only way to ensure that the results that are achieved end up being permanent.

    I’ve found that getting outside and, in particular, reconnecting with the outdoors and nature in a way that connects us to the way our primal ancestors lived really has a way of doing this.

    Hiking, backpacking, camping, hunting and fishing are all primal things that can provide a lot of great “Exercise” in an enjoyable and fun way.

    Thanks for the resources also. I always enjoy seeing science that backs up what I’ve seen and experienced in everyday life.

  31. This is a great post! I used to hate exercise and I still don’t enjoy dragging through hardcore traditional cardio and the like. But, by virtue of eating the primal way, I have more energy to just do more in general. My husband and I have added hiking to our weekends and long walks to our daily routine. I did weights yesterday because I feel stronger as a person and I want my body to respond and mimic the way I feel. Another new feeling for me isn’t that I’m sore today but that I love it! It reminds me how I’m improving myself. Yes, I’m trying to lose weight, but since starting this lifestyle, it has become about so much more than that! I just do things that make me feel good and the results will come when they come. I’m no longer in a hurry to lose the weight (although I am excited that its slowly disappearing!)

  32. I just CANNOT force myself to do gym-type exercise, but every day I can get out to the barn, clean paddocks for 4 horses, groom and ride at least one and often two, walk all over, push the cart, carry/lift tack, feed, etc., and then come home and do some gardening–weeding, digging, mowing, etc. Seeing the results of my energy expenditure in something other than sweat-soaked clothing is greatly rewarding. A couple of years ago, while temporarily horse-less, I made a commitment to fill my large yard waste recycling container every week, which meant at least an hour a day doing something productive outside.

  33. Perfect explanation of what can make us want to move but not to exercise.

    My great-grandma, 98 this month :), was still pruning olive trees 6 years ago.

    Every year she would look at us vacationing ‘youngsters’ strapping on our running shoes (“the devil’s foot cages!”) to do hill training along the terraced farms and she’d bend over laughing, tears streaming.

    “Come here sweetheart, grab this branch, why you waste strength beating up the air, hmmm? ”

    I was modern, what did the oldies know?

    Finally, after finding your site, I learned to grab the branch. Still in time for her to show me, too 🙂

    Thank you Mark, always.

  34. I’ve found brazilian jiu jitsu to be my fun activity. Wanting to not get your ass kicked all the time is a pretty strong primary motivator!

    1. Good point Elisa! That’s why you see so many women taking dance classes at gyms which ends up being a great motivator for me who appreciates the female body in movement.

  35. Remember when Paleo was the caveman diet and you couldn’t watch a youtube video without having your gender insulted? Or couldn’t join Crossfit without feeling like you just signed up to be yelled at by an army sergeant until you dropped from exhaustion? I’m glad we’re growing out of the bullying years. Only a few months ago I was reading this article in a Paleo oriented magazine about how it was important to teach kids that some people were winners and others losers. I was like, “yeah, and then you can teach them how to identify the losers (gays, women, minorities…), then gang up and make them squeal.” Needless to say, I did not buy the magazine. This playcation idea is still marketing, but I find it infinitely more palatable.

  36. Thank you for this! It was the spunk I needed to get out of bed and move around this morning. When I’m in a good headspace I think exercise is a fun activity I enjoy, but when I’m feeling sad/bored/lazy I think it’s just “one more thing” I have to cram into my day. I needed the reminder that I enjoy moving, I enjoy lifting the heavy bar, running until my lungs burst to a good song, securing a good yoga pose and feeling all my muscles release all the pent-up stress and tension. These are the things that keep me happy and feeling alive. My only goal should be to move my body in a way that makes me happy and energized every day.

  37. Enjoying exercise is so important! I find that thinking of it as exercise makes me less eager to do it, but if I’m playing tennis or ultimate, etc. then I love it. Also, mixing up the type of exercise helps keep me motivated. I try to bike, walk, run and play tennis each week so that I don’t get bored of one kind of activity.

  38. I must say I think I’m fortunate. I tend to enjoy the feelings I have during a workout and I enjoy challenging myself with “unusual” exercises. I never used to go the gym. A workout here and there with dad when I was a kid and maybe into high school, but by no means a regular activity. It was after I tore my ACL that I wanted to be sure that didn’t happen again. While I haven’t always been consistent keeping with workout, I know that my enjoyment of them seemed to come pretty quick. Even more so when I didn’t have to plan the workouts.

    Exercise can be a chore, too, if we need to structure our own workout. I have ADD and the more things are planned for me, the more likely I am to go through with it. This is probably because ADDers are notorious for bad time management skills. I am NO exception there! Now, I have gone to the gym and spontaneously chosen exercises, but this will sometimes lead to “overdoing it” because I might not be watching the time; I frequently exercised for an hour when I wanted to keep it to 20-30 minutes.

    For anyone who find exercise at a gym to be a chore, I personally suggest finding a class run at your gym that you enjoy; something that is laid out for you and *all* you have to do is show up. This took the stress off me to plan a workout in advance. Of course, doing things outside is wonderful as well, but I’m guessing few gyms plan outdoor activities, so you may be more on your own there! Good luck everyone. And let’s get out there!

  39. This article is a great read and presents an interesting look at the road blocks people experience while attempting to establish a regular fitness routine. We as a society are so focused on instantaneous results and gratification.

    Along with listening to music to enhance the workout mood & performance, we also suggest working out with a friend for two reasons: Not only is the companionship nice, but friendly competition is always a motivating factor.

    Also, another suggestion for learning to love the movement and appreciate time spent exercising is to place “getting a pump” over numbers once in a while. Don’t treat exercises as successes and failures based just on numbers alone. If you can learn to love the feeling of getting a pump, like doing slow, isolated bicep curls, that in itself can be a rewarding “instantaneous” feeling and can be something to look forward to with each muscle group.

  40. Immediate value is very important to keep you going. It can keep you going far longer than just exercising for the sake of weight loss or some goal that you have no real connection to.

  41. The connection we have with food and workout has changed greatly as time passes and technology. We can’t forget our hereditary needs for quality food and movement.

    1. Always keep exercising. This is the only way to keep our 7 hormones active. If they are active, no disease can attack you.. This is the only reason why doctors suggest every individual to keep exercising..

    2. I’ll admit I realize how much hereditary and genetics play a part in workout gains. And like this article points out there are many ways to get out of the “Chore” mindset. Just because we are naturally a certain body type from genetics does not keep us from making gains.

  42. Appreciate the flowers, the sun etc. Problem is, when you live in a shitty neighborhood with used diapers littering the ground, ankle-biting dogs that chase you everywhere, dust that constantly kicks up in your face, while a hot sun UV index 10 scorches your skin, it’s pretty much impossible to enjoy any aspect the outside world has on display.

    I use music to get by. I’m too busy the rest of my day to really listen to music, so it’s at least an opportunity for that. But it’s a small thing. I think as people, instead of trying to make everything fun, that we lose the spoiled brat syndrome, suck it up, learn to deny ourselves pleasure, for the sake of discipline and character if not for longer term goals. Learn to suffer, be proud to suffer while other people let themselves go to shit.

  43. I think you made a good point, we see exercise as a chore beacause it’s so easy to be lazy now with tv dinners and technology that we have to consciously think of exercise and it becomes a chore, rather than think of it as a pleasant activity. For some, sports, dancing or walks in nature is a pleasant activity but it becomes a chores when they become obsessed with the ” perfect body” that society tries to make us think we need in order to be happy. But striving for the ” perfect body” makes working out feel like a chore as opposed to a pleasant activity or a time to let loose, destress ect… Those very things make us much happier than a superficial goal like having the “perfect body”. What exactly is a “perfect body” anyway? A body that’s healthy, that enjoys moving,, well nourished and a mind that’s well. That’s what we should all strive for.