People grow tired of their exercise routines because the body-mind unit is like a Jack Russell terrier, said Dr. Dan O’Neill, a sports psychologist and orthopaedic surgeon based in Plymouth, New Hampshire. “You need to always give it new challenges, new input, new ideas, new toys, new workout clothes — new, new, new.”
This means varying your workouts is vital to staying motivated, O’Neill said. And now that the calendar has flipped to a brand-new year, it’s the perfect time to inject some creativity into your exercise regimen. Here are six ways to get started.
Important note: Before beginning any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you experience pain.
Create a word or image with your exercise route
Runners often map routes through city streets that create a word or image, then use a GPS device to “draw” it as they run. You can do the same, whether your favored exercise is running, walking or biking.
First, download a fitness app onto your mobile phone, smartwatch or fitness tracker. A few options are Nike+ Run Club, Strava Training and Runtastic. Then sketch out your message (HOPE!) or favored image (e.g., a heart or dog) online, using a mapping tool such as Map My Run. This way you’ll know exactly where to go. When you’re ready to head out, don’t forget to start your device’s GPS tracker. Afterward, make sure to stop your tracker and save your artwork so you can share it with others.
Not sure what image or message to create? You can always follow artistic routes others have created and shared in the apps. Some are impressively complex and may take several excursions to complete. But that’s part of the fun.
Join a free fitness group
November Project workouts incorporate running, stair-climbing, jumping, bodyweight exercises and circuits, along with zany antics. A Halloween workout with the November Project group in Madison, Wisconsin, involved tossing pumpkins back and forth with a partner; another linked specific exercises with the Uno cards you selected. Participants have ranged in age from about 10 to over 70, said co-leader Aaron Cahn, with 40 to 100 people regularly showing up for the group’s Wednesday and Friday morning sessions.
The group’s camaraderie has kept Austin Frion, 38, coming for about seven years now. “The best part is grabbing a partner that you don’t know, or getting together with one that you do,” Frion said. “It’s always inclusive and so much fun.”
Dancing doesn’t seem like exercise to a lot of people, which is why it’s always a popular option. It’s also something you can do anywhere, to any kind of music. Salsa, jazz, hip-hop — it all works.
Monica Monfre, a certified yoga teacher based in Scantlebury, Massachusetts, studied dance in college. To keep her yoga students engaged, she created Dance to Flow, a class that begins with 25 minutes of choreographed dance, transitioning to 25 minutes of a hip-opening yoga flow.
“The workout allows for a creative aspect and meditation at the same time,” she said. “Many people come because it is an opportunity to try something different, as well as to dance in a nonjudgmental space.”
Sign up for a new-to-you event
Take parkour lessons
Hit the road
If travel motivates you, book a retreat or training camp in an intriguing locale. Nike operates a high-altitude cross-country camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, while a luxury hiking and wellness retreat awaits in Canada’s scenic British Columbia province. You can also scout out interesting classes whenever you’re out of town, like goat yoga and lessons on the flying trapeze.
No matter what you choose to do, O’Neill said it’s important to remember these four sport psychology basics: No negative talk; just showing up is important; you’ll feel better after exercising; and get outside.
“Any time with Mother Nature is well spent,” O’Neill said. “And she is easily the greatest motivator ever.”