Working out does not have to be boring. Here’s how you can jazz up your workout routine.

There are three kinds of people. The first absolutely loathe exercise, cannot be bothered with it, claim to have “no time” for it and, essentially, do anything to avoid it.

The second accept grudgingly that they absolutely need to exercise and do so, cursing all the while. They often find excuses not to, probably research all the ill effects of fitness and claim that exercise makes them ill, or gives them a headache. They are convinced they will gain weight when they stop, (which of course they will! Simple mathematics: stop exercising, stop burning extra calories and gain fat, so why blame the exercise?) and reason that perhaps they really shouldn't start at all. Then there is the third kind of person who appears to love exercise.

Lucky ones, you say? Well, they were not necessarily born that way but managed to develop a love and respect for exercise understanding the benefits it poses. They are the ones that have intelligently ingrained exercise as a fundamental part of their lives by training their bodies to enjoy what they do and doing what they enjoy.

How can anyone enjoy the breathlessness, early mornings, struggling with a piece of metal or machines, contorting into pretzel shapes or struggling with choreography? It is all a question of attitude.

As Kahlil Gibran said: “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life. Not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” Here are some ways to start enjoying your fitness routine:

Find something you actually like doing: Not everyone can wake up early in the morning to run out of the door in their trainers; not everyone enjoys an aerobic class. You have to find what suits you. Take time to understand yourself, your personality and your needs. With the numerous options available today it should not be difficult to identify a specific activity that you can at least tolerate, if not enjoy. After a certain point in time, when an action is rehearsed often enough, you begin to excel in it. This is when you begin to enjoy it, improve on it, modify it to suit you better and effectively, stick with it.

Find a workout-buddy: When you exercise with people you like and enjoy spending time with, it is highly possible that you will endure it. Make friends at your gym or aerobic class. Persuade your co-worker or friends to join you in your fitness venture. Start a walking/running group. Share your activity with friends so you are not waiting for the dreaded hour to end. It becomes a crucial part of your social agenda; an hour you look forward to.

Change your activity from time to time: Walking the same route, running at the same speed, performing the same routine everyday at the gym will not only lead to boredom, but will also set the stage for a plateau in your fitness and weight. Even a gym routine needs to be reviewed every six weeks. Exercises, sets, reps and intensity changed. Challenge yourself and cross-train, or try more than one activity.

Change your intensity: Intermediate to advanced exercisers, if you can sustain at 60 per cent intensity, challenge yourself to 70-80 per cent every few days for at least a few minutes during your workout. Beginners need to stay with the 50-60 per cent but can modify their activity. This challenge, even if brief, alters body chemistry, giving you a new ‘high'.

Participate in Interval Training: Follow “Challenge and Recovery” cycles. Instead of heaving yourself through a long, low intensity routine, challenge yourself for a minute or two and spend the next few minutes recovering (not resting) by lowering your intensity. Repeat these cycles several times to achieve extraordinary results that also to keep you involved and motivated.

Create opportunities to burn calories and have fun: A Sunday morning walk with friends, a dance party, an energetic physical game with the kids, squats in the kitchen while waiting for the milk to boil, push-ups on the park bench, sit ups during the commercial break of a TV serial. There are numerous opportunities to stay active. You just have to discover them.

Set Goals: Setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound goals keeps one focused. Having no goals is like setting sail without a destination. Review goals every few weeks and determine if they need to be reassessed.

You have choices

Ask yourself some pertinent questions when you choose your options for Cardio

Do you enjoy dancing/exercising to music?

Do you enjoy exercising with other people and an instructor?

Can you commit to a specific time every day?

If you answered yes to the above questions, then a group aerobic class like dancercise/jazzercise/zumba should work for you.

Do you prefer going solo? The outdoors? Are you able to commit to a specific time every day? A personal trainer in a gym setting, biking/walking/running/swimming would be your options

Are you more athletic? Dislike dance (or have two left feet), but like group classes?

Perhaps kick-boxing, step class or spinning would suit you.

Most important

Include weight training and flexibility to your fitness routine. Most people focus only on the “cardio” aspect of fitness and wonder why they don't see progress.

To obtain the benefits of a holistic fitness routine, you need to include strength and flexibility. This challenges the body in new ways and maintains interest levels. You also see results that you will not be evident when only doing cardio.

A more toned, shapely body, stronger muscles that make even daily tasks easier, more flexibility and better quality muscles so you not are plagued with that low back pain, and are not prone to injury.

Dr. Sheela Nambiar M.D., is Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, Fitness and Lifestyle Consultant NAFC (US) and Director, TFL Fitness Studio, Chennai. E-mail: drsheela@tfl-inc.com

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Sunday MagazineJune 28, 2012