A few days ago I was in the health club using the rowing machine. Usually I can tolerate only about 10 to 15 minutes on this machine as I find it particularly boring. However, about a minute before I was going to stop, my iPod started playing an unfamiliar song that a relative had downloaded for me. The beat was strong and fast, and as I listened my rowing became faster and smoother. I closed my eyes and let myself row to the rhythm of the song. By the time it stopped, I had done three minutes more than I had planned. I felt so good I played the song again and kept rowing. By the time I hauled myself off the machine, I had rowed twenty minutes longer than I thought I could and felt invigorated. As I walked to the locker room, I realized that I now had my own antidote against exercise boredom.People who exercise regularly don’t have to be told how important it is for their health. They can recite all the benefits that include improved weight, stronger bones, better balance, decreased bad cholesterol and improved good cholesterol, more energy, and less stress. But knowing all these benefits doesn’t always make it less of a struggle to get to a gym, or on your home treadmill or out the door for an early morning run or walk. In addition to the predictable obstacles such as lack of time, bad weather, sickness, travel and work conflicts, the regular exerciser occasionally has to contend with simple boredom. Even a variety of health club options can become boring and predictable if done over and over again. And those who stick with only one type of exercise such as running or biking are likely to get bored even sooner. Although the regular exerciser will not stop working out because of boredom, the workouts may become shorter and less intense.The owners of health clubs know well the impact of boredom on their members and offer television, movies, magazines, and newspapers so people have something to do on the cardiovascular machines besides moving. Also new types of classes are always being offered for those who prefer to exercise in groups.I asked my friends and family members what they do to fight the boredom that comes with regular workouts. Here are some of their suggestions with relevant caveats.
Listen to music. Caution: Be sure that the beat is appropriate for your exercise level. If you are a slow runner don’t listen to something that will make you sprint. You might get injured.
Listen to books on tape or radio podcasts. Caution: The spoken word is a great way to relieve boredom but may be distracting and prevent you from paying attention to your posture and form.
Talk and exercise with a friend. Caution: Exercising with a friend or a group of companions works well unless and until talking takes precedence over the exercise. Make sure the rhythm and speed of your walk or moving on a machine is not slowed down or becomes erratic because of the topic you are discussing.
Watch movies borrowed from the library when you are on the treadmill or exercycle. Caution: Don’t watch a tearjerker. It is hard to run and cry at the same time.
Change your routine. This is a simple solution that takes away boredom immediately. There is nothing like trying to figure out the different moves of the instructor in a class or how to move on a new machine to stimulate you. Caution: New exercise routines may mean new muscle activity. Be prepared to be a bit achy the next day.
Become competitive with yourself. When you notice that you are becoming stronger, gaining stamina, improving balance and increasing flexibility, you become motivated to do even more. Caution: Be patient about the rate of improvement to prevent injury.
Train for an event. Check your local newspaper for lists of upcoming races, charity bike rides or walks, or even a mini-triathlon. Caution: If you are not sure how to train for an event, ask a trainer to help you.
Flattery. It is amazing how quickly boredom vanishes when someone tells you “you are looking really good.” Check it out yourself and notice how fit, toned, and slim you look from all those boring workouts. Caution: Use it or lose it, which means you better keep on with that exercise.
Make your exercise seasonal. Take advantage of seasonal sports to bring change to your exercise routine. Snowshoe or cross-country ski in the winter, hike in the warmer months after the mud dries, do water sports in the summer and go for long bike rides in the fall. Caution: Exercise the muscles needed for the seasonal workouts at least a month before you begin; otherwise you may find your stamina and muscle strength giving out too soon.
Visual stimulation. Not everyone can reproduce the experience of a friend when he went to his first yoga class. As the only male in a class of 40 or so women, he reported achieving inner and outer harmony instantly and signed up for a 12-week course. Caution: Not every yoga class can reproduce his experience; women may want to try kick boxing instead.