Training Doesn’t Have to (and Shouldn’t) Be Miserable

By Jen Comas

Fact: I haven’t been to the gym in four weeks.

I simply haven’t felt like it. Sometimes the gym really appeals to me, and other times it doesn’t.

However, just because I haven’t been to the gym doesn’t mean I’ve stopped exercising; far from it. I understand and value the importance of exercise and resistance training, and if the gym doesn’t seem fun then I feel a certain responsibility to myself and my health to find a way to move my body with intention in a way that feels good.

I’m a firm believer that the ways in which we move our bodies should not only enhance our lives and add to our health, but also feel really good to us—both, emotionally and physically.

Dragging myself to the gym when it doesn’t seem like something I would enjoy doesn’t feel authentic to me.

Long gone are the days that I thought a good workout meant that I had to be inside of a gym, or suffer my way through some torturous workout. In the past, if I didn’t go to the gym and put in at least 90 minutes of nausea-inducing work, I would deem myself a failure.

These days, I know better.

Great Exercise Doesn’t Have to Happen in the Gym

Countless people have told me that they don’t like the gym, and because of that, they just don’t exercise.

I’m here to tell you that the gym is not the end-all-be-all of great exercise!

I’ve spent the past four weeks getting really creative with my workouts, both at home and up in the mountains. I’ve done farmer carries up the hillside with full water tanks that I found in the garage. I’ve done kettlebell swings in the backyard and dragged a tire up the hillside. I’ve done yoga flows and dumbbell complexes in the living room. I’ve gone on countless snow hikes, and covered tons of ground snowshoeing with a fairly heavy pack.

The best part of this is that it has all felt amazing. Getting in some awesome workouts outside has made me so happy, and it’s been a really nice change of pace from going to the gym.

As a matter of fact, I think that pushing myself to think outside of the box has made me more well-rounded in my fitness.

If the gym doesn’t sound like a rockin’ good time, you can still get in a killer workout with a little creativity. We all have things around the house to carry, press, squat, lunge, or drag around.

You Should Enjoy Your Exercise

I often hear from people who are participating in certain exercise modalities that they despise, but they continue to do them because they think that’s what they are supposed to do.

“I hate running/Crossfit/Zumba/yoga but I do it anyways.”

If you take away nothing else from this article, please remember this important part:

Stop doing what you hate.

Of course, exercising is important and wildly beneficial, but there are countless ways to get that job done. If the thought of burpees makes your skin crawl, you do not have to do them.

If going for a jog ruins your day, by all means do something else for your cardio! There is nothing magical about burpees, jogging, or any other specific exercise for which you can’t find a more tolerable—or better yet, totally enjoyable!—substitution.

I have worked with hundreds of women to help them become healthier, stronger, and more fit. Many of them have told me they don’t like squatting or deadlifting, or they can’t stand doing cardio on machines. Because of this, we find work-arounds. Sure, sometimes you are going to need to do things that aren’t your absolute favorite in exchange for a strong, healthy, well-balanced body, but none of it should make you feel awful.

People stick with things that they enjoy, and while you may not love every aspect of exercise, you are much more likely to continue to do those things you enjoy, even if you only enjoy them a little bit. I like to think that people get better results from workouts that they like.

Your Training Should Lift You Up

Many years ago, I didn’t think that workouts counted unless they beat me into the ground. I didn’t feel like I’d had a good workout unless I was dripping with sweat, and crawling out of the gym, famished and foggy-headed.

My, how I’ve learned! These days my goal is to do just enough to challenge myself, and get the job done. Regardless of whether I have 20 minutes, or 60, my goal is to challenge myself and leave feeling accomplished and energized.

While a really tough workout once in a while can be fun and feel good, we simply do not need that all of the time.

It’s important to keep your stress under control, and this includes the stress from your workouts. Many people have high levels of stress and are operating in a chronic sleep deficit. The last thing that they need is a daily beat-down in the gym. Don’t sacrifice health for the sake of fitness.

There are tons of ways to effectively exercise, and it’s important to do things you enjoy. If you find that your training feels miserable, it’s time to step back and make some changes:

  • What type of strength training do you love to do? Barbells and dumbbells? Kettlebells? Bodyweight training? Powerlifting? Olympic weightlifting? Strongman?
  • How can you incorporate more of that?
  • What type of cardio activities get you excited?
  • How can you spice things up? Can you go hiking, biking, try a group fitness class, or go snowshoeing?

Stop doing exercise that you can’t stand and figure out what you do like—and if you need a little help figuring that out, reach out to a coach or personal trainer for some help finding alternatives.

Coaches’ Corner

As a coach or personal trainer, it’s important to include exercises and movements into your clients’ training that they love. Find out what their favorite exercises,movements, and activities are, and be sure to incorporate some of them regularly.

It’s equally important to find out which exercises that they can’t stand. If your client absolutely despises burpees, get creative to find an alternative for something that they can enjoy, or at least tolerate.

Set your client up for frequent wins. Include an exercise or two that your client likes, and let them be really good at those things while they also work on the areas that need some attention. For example, if your client loves to squat, but has a unilateral deficit, can you incorporate some single-leg work while letting them know that they get to crush some squats later in the session?

Put together an enjoyable session that challenges your client and helps them get closer to their goals, but also allows them to feel accomplished. Nobody likes to walk away from their session feeling defeated, or having to grind through an entire line-up of exercises that they dislike.

A client who enjoys her training will be happier, more consistent, and therefore, successful in the long run.

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About the author:  Jen Comas

Jen Comas is a Girls Gone Strong co-founder and GGS Coaching Head Coach, as well as a NASM Personal Trainer and USAW Level One Weightlifting coach. She has competed in figure and trained as a powerlifter, teaches and practices yoga, and is obsessed with motorcycles, dirt biking, and downhill mountain biking. Learn about Jen on her website and follow her adventures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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