By Josie Rubio
For 2015, though, we thought, who better to give advice for sticking with a workout routine than people who once hated exercise — and now can’t imagine their lives without it?
The stories of these six people are different. Some cried in gym class and were picked very last for teams. Others were athletes as teenagers, but found themselves overweight, sedentary adults. But they all have one thing in common: Once they started moving, they found workouts that they actually enjoyed, and now, they honestly look forward to hitting the running trail, unrolling yoga mats, clipping into cycling shoes or entering the boxing ring. Exercise even had surprising benefits outside of physical fitness, whether it’s getting through anxiety issues, dealing with cancer treatment or keeping up with an energetic 3-year-old.
To read the full stories about how these exercise haters became fitness lovers, click on their names. If these former exercise haters changed their attitude about working out, you can too!
As a teenager, Javier Leiva played tournament tennis. By the time he reached his 30s, he says, “I was spending my days in front of a computer, I barely left home and my longest walk was from the office to the kitchen.” Overweight and depressed, he started with simple daily walks at the urging of his wife. Now he runs charity races. His advice to exercise-haters: “Just start to do it and do not push yourself too much. Go step by step, and enjoy yourself.”
Josie Rubio was always the very last kid picked for teams in gym class. Once she no longer had to take P.E and could work out on her own terms, she turned her attitude around with a step and a VHS tape. Recently sidelined for more than a year by a cancer diagnosis, she credits lessons she learned from working out for helping her to get through treatment, and she now has a new appreciation for being able to exercise. Her advice to exercise-haters: “It’s tough to find the motivation to do something, especially when you don’t like it. But I really feel like anyone could learn to enjoy working out, as long as you find the right thing. I’m still no good at team sports. I was on a softball team in college, and I would use the mitt to shield my head every time the ball got near me. I would still be last-picked for any team sport. I don’t enjoy running. But I found so many things that I do enjoy doing — the elliptical while listening to music, yoga, boot camp classes. I didn’t hate exercise, but I had hated the exercise that I had been forced to do in phys ed classes. Just get out there and get moving and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you find something that you like, and you start to experience the physical and mental changes that come along with it.”
Mike Meyers still has the Presidential Physical Fitness Award he won when he was 11 years old. Physical activity was fun, until he was 14 and lost interest in exercise and sports. Naturally athletic, he felt like he didn’t need to put in any effort. After college, he was stressed out, 50 pounds heavier and dealing with panic attacks and anxiety issues. One day, he decided to take a walk that would be the first steps to changing his life. His advice to exercise-haters: “Search for an exercise routine that feels more like an escape than a burden. And focus on developing good health rather than the perfect abs.”
Pam Slater had tried to work out on and off for years to lose weight, but she says exercise was “a secret thing I was doing to get skinny.” Once she changed her mindset and made working out a part of her life, she discovered that she loves indoor cycling and participates in challenges to raise money for charity. Working out helps her to be an energetic, fun mom to her 3-year-old. Her advice to exercise-haters: "Start with something you like. Never skip a day and do something for at least 20 minutes."
Once Mark Gilleran joined the workforce in his 20s, his physical activity—which included cycling, swimming and rugby—ground to a halt. When he stepped on the scales 14 years later, he realized he’d gone from 180 pounds at 22 to more than 300 pounds at 35. He started running and cycling again, and he says, “I now can't imagine my life without exercise.” His advice to exercise-haters: “One: Pick something other than weight loss or shape change as a goal. Progress becomes much easier to track and motivation tends not to wane as quickly. Two: Once you start exercising, don't try to eliminate all the ‘bad’ stuff from your life at the same time. Phase them out over the days weeks and months. Despite what we may tell ourselves, we are creatures of habit. Too many simultaneous changes sees us quickly revert to the old routine which, more often than not, does not include exercise.”
As a child, Kiesha Jenkins-Duffy cried in gym class, because she was discouraged and would have rather been reading a book. Several years ago, she decided to join some friends at their boxing classes and realized she had a natural skill and found hitting things cathartic. To exercise-haters, she says: “I feel you. Exercise sucks when you don’t feel like you're good at anything, especially if you have perfectionist tendencies like me. But if you have the means, I'd recommend trying every sort of activity you can. There's no shame in trying something out and deciding it's not for you. Hopefully you can find something that you just really enjoy, and that thing might be something you never thought you'd like. I’m a big ol’ pacifist who’s never hit anyone in my life. I never thought I’d enjoy attempting to punch people, but in the context of sport, I love it so much that I can’t believe it. Get out of your comfort zone. You never know what crazy thing may turn out to be a perfect match for you.”
What might help you overcome a dislike of exercise? What would make it more fun, interesting, and motivating?
2015 photo by Sondem